2002. Grandmother’s Sabotage


I’m unsure how typical this is, but it needs a loud broadcast. A mother’s home can be plagued by her mother’s visits. Sounds impossible, so watch as I report and comment on one wife’s situation. Remember it when you become a grandmother.

EDITOR’S NOTE: I RESPOND IN CAPS TO Her Highness Anon’s comment in lower case WITH PARAGRAPHS BROKEN FOR EASE OF READING.

GUY

——

Sir Guy,

You cite the need of a woman to make herself feel “more important for those to whom she is vital.” I would love your opinion of the scenario I find myself in. I’m a stay-at-home mom to three (ages 4, 2, and newborn). [CONGRATULATIONS]

My mother (who lives close by) [YOU’RE FORTUNATE] visits our family a couple times per week [GREAT!], to spend an hour or so with the grandchildren (my kids). She always shows up with an expensive toy, sugary treat, etc. [FOR THAT AND OTHER REASONS ADDED BELOW, IT’S NOT GREAT BUT UNDESIRABLE. HER MANNER OF GIVING TAKES DIGNITY FROM YOU AS THE MOTHER. IT MAKES BOYS DEPENDENT RATHER THAN INDEPENDENT AND TEACHES DAUGHTERS SOME WRONG THINGS. IT ALSO PUTS YOU AND GRANDMOTHER INTO COMPETITIVE ROLES FOR KIDS’ AFFECTION AND THE KIDS LEARN TO PLAY YOU AGAINST GRANDMOTHER. CHILDREN ARE SELF-DEVELOPERS AND THEY LEARN QUICKLY HOW TO GET THE ‘MOSTEST’ FROM THE BEST HOSTESS AND EXPECT THE ‘LEASTEST’ FROM THE NEXT BEST HOSTESS, WHICH ADD IMPORTANCE TO ONE AND SUBTRACTS IMPORTANCE FROM THE OTHER.]

At first I enjoyed seeing my children enjoy her treats. Lately, however, she has begun undermining my authority [UNDERMINING AUTHORITY IS THE WORST THING AN ADULT CAN DO TO A PARENT, THE DAMAGE LASTS FOR LIFE.] and even saying I’m “too strict for the kids to need to obey me” [WHICH IS WORSE THAN INDIRECTLY UNDERMINING AUTHORITY. IT’S A CONDEMNATION OF YOU AS PARENT.] (she says this in front of the children and I know my four-year-old understands what she is saying). [MUCH DAMAGE HAS ALREADY BEEN DONE. HE’S BEEN PROGRAMMED TO BE A DISCIPLINE PROBLEM BECAUSE YOU HAVE BEEN DISCREDITED BY HIGHER AUTHORITY.]

Most recently I was concerned when she told me that “isn’t it funny how kids always hate their moms?! But grandparents! these are the ones that they are supposed to love!!” [IT SHOULD BUT THIS WON’T MAKE YOU FEEL ANY BETTER. SHE’S PROBABLY JEALOUS THAT YOU’RE A DIFFERENT KIND OF MOTHER. YOUR EXAMPLE BRINGS TO MIND HER REGRETS AND GUILT, AND SHE FEELS COMPELLED TO COMPENSATE BY OVERDOING IT WITH YOUR KIDS. IOW, SHE SACRIFICED HERSELF RAISING YOU EVEN THOUGH SHE NOW KNOWS SHE DIDN’T DESERVE YOUR LOVE COMPARED TO HOW YOU DO THE MOM THING.]

I told her I never felt this way about her, and I wondered why she made the remark. [IT’S EXPLAINED JUST ABOVE.] Since then, my kids have begun saying they wish they lived at Grandma’s house & that they love Grandma more than me, their mom. [THAT’S TYPICAL AND EXPECTED FROM GRANDMOTHER’S WELL-INTENTIONED BUT WRONGFUL PROGRAMMING.]

I was hurt by this and my husband told the children they were never to speak that way again. [WHAT A GREAT HUSBAND. YOU MAY HAVE MARRIED OVER YOUR HEAD.]

But I already feel cut down in size by my mom [AND WELL YOU SHOULD FEEL], who seems to want to create a sense of her own importance by making me less-important in my kids’ eyes. [JEALOUSY WORKS THAT WAY.]

Do you think I’m reading too much into my mom’s actions? [YOU’RE READING TOO LITTLE, TAKING TOO LITTLE OFFENSE, SHE’S CONTAMINATING YOUR NEST.

To put it in some perspective, my mom raised two kids, but my brother made a lot of bad choices [RESULT OF LESS THAN OPTIMAL PARENTING] (he’s since settled down) and I did not choose the career path they hoped [ROOM FOR ANGER BEFORE AND JEALOUSY NOW].

(I’m a stay-at-home-mom), so I suppose mom may not feel “fulfilled” by us. She once said she had “only regrets” [SHE CAN’T OR WON’T FORGIVE HERSELF, AND YOUR HOME KEEPS HER ON THAT KNIFE EDGE.] when she looked back on her years of raising kids, which shocks me because I thought I had a pretty good childhood!! [IT WAS GOOD ENOUGH. YOU FELT FREE ENOUGH THAT SELF-DEVELOPMENT LED YOU TO BE A SUCCESSFUL WIFE AND MOTHER. BUT YOU DID IT CONTRARY TO PARENTAL EXPECTATIONS THAT NOW GENERATE REMINDERS OF HER GUILT, REGRET, AND JEALOUSY. SHE LACKED CONTROL OVER YOUR LIFE THAT SHE EXPECTED TO HAVE. HER CAREER OUTSIDE THE HOME SHAPED HER THINKING THAT WAY.]

WITH NATURAL AND NORMAL OBLIGATIONS OF DAUGHTER TO MOTHER, YOUR HANDS ARE EFFECTIVELY TIED. YOUR HUSBAND MIGHT REACH HER. GRANDPA MIGHT TOO. BUT BOTH ARE UNLIKELY TO CONVERT HER LOYALTY TO HERSELF INTO TRUE GRANDMOTHERLY LOYALTY. THE KIND THAT MORPHS GOOD WOMEN INTO MATRIARCHS.

THE ROOT OF RECOVERY WILL START TO GROW WHEN YOUR MOTHER FORGIVES HERSELF FOR HER OWN PARENTING RECORD, FORGIVES HERSELF FOR TRESPASSING YOUR HOME’S SPIRIT, AND FORGIVES YOU FOR DOING DIFFERENTLY THAN SHE WISHED. UNLESS SHE CAN DO THAT, DISRUPTION, DEPRESSION, AND DISCIPLINE PROBLEMS WILL PLAGUE YOUR HOME AND WORSEN OVER TIME WITH HER PRESENCE.

Thoughts, Sir Guy?

IT’S YOUR NEST. KICK OBSTRUCTIONS OUT OF THE WAY. SHOW MOM THE DOOR EACH TIME SHE DISPLEASES YOU REGARDING THE KIDS. AS A DISRUPTER, SHE DOESN’T DESERVE YOUR COMPANY. KEEP YOUR MORALE UP AS BEING A GRATEFUL MOM. ADMIRE HUBBY AS GOOD LEADER, FATHER FIGURE, AND FOR HIS STRONG CHARACTER IN BACKING YOU.

YOUR MIGHT WANT TO CONSIDER THIS. LET ME BE THE HEAVY. LET YOUR MOTHER READ IN PRIVATE WHAT YOU AND I HAVE WRITTEN ABOVE. SHE WILL TAKE OFFENSE AND TAKE IT BIG TIME DEPENDING ON WHETHER SHE ACCEPTS OR DENIES IT. SHE MAY DEPART YOUR LIFE FOR SOME UNDETERMINED TIME. BUT SOONER OR LATER SHE WILL PROBABLY ACKNOWLEDGE THAT SHE WAS WRONG AND RETURN TO YOUR EMBRACE. THE MAGIC WORD OF RECOVERY IS FORGIVENESS FOR EVERYONE INVOLVED AND EVERY THING DONE IN THE PAST.

12 Comments

Filed under Dear daughter

12 responses to “2002. Grandmother’s Sabotage

  1. Sounds like good sound advice. It’s a difficult place to be – between a rock and a hard place.

  2. surfercajun

    oh wow…in some ways, this sounds like my situation when the kids were younger. She did not however live close but sent things. I am wondering Anom if you have a hard time standing up to her. I know I did my mom. In fact, she did not like what I am doing (homeschool) and would try, like Guy said, and undermine it (my responsibility) in almost every way, word, or email. It made me feel bad as a mother. But however, it made me wonder if her mother did the same thing to her (my mom changed religions) and she hated that! Forgiveness was key here for me. Sadly, she hardly comes around any more but stress seems to come and stay when she does. We can only come to her house now. …to that I am grateful and still continue to try and be a loving daughter to her. :o)

    …and try to remember such things when it will be my turn in the future. The difference is… I will ASK my children what their (my grandchildren) limits are and adhere to them. That is the best I can do.

    • anon

      Until I read your post, I thought I did not have any problem standing up to her — we’ve had more arguments than I can count & I hold my own. But REALLY I am all bark and much more hit-or-miss on the bites. I guess I need to improve that. On another note… wow, its sad to talk about barking and biting your own mom. 😦

      • surfercajun

        @ talk about barking and biting your own mom…. I second that, anon. 😦 Here for support.

        ~surfer

  3. anon

    Thank you MUCH, Sir Guy. My takaways are as follows

    1) Step one is to forgive myself for getting this deep into this situation in the first place. (So that I can become energized to get out of it & not just depair!)

    2) I need to wipe out from within myself a spirit of “competing” with my mom for the kids’ affection and respect. As you said, its MY nest.

    3) I need to get a better vision of what I expect in my nest — I admit to not feeling entirely clear on that. From watching my parents I have a pretty good idea of what I DON’T want. And I confess to reading too many “parenting how-to” books and not relying enough on my own intuition. I suppose mirror time is the best place to re-start here, yes?

    4) If my mom disrespects me in front of the kids, she’ll be told its not okay. In front of the kids. If she persists, we leave even if she follows us out the car complaining that I’m “being rude” or “being a drama queen” by quietly walking out of the house and taking my brood home.

    Sir Guy, how would you advise handling her gifts, though? She now sneaks them to the kids & my 4-year-old daughter really loves gifts. I feel like such a kill-joy if I snatch up the gifts later and take them away. I’ve asked my mom to send the gifts through me, but once she found out I wasn’t actually giving ALL of them to my kids, she started giving behind my back (or only when the kids are present, so that they can start throwing a fit if I don’t pass the gift to them immediately). My husband has offered to move our family to another state to she has to mail her gifts and I can open the box when the kids aren’t around. He’s only half-joking. 😉

    Your Highness Anon,

    Your takeaways are great. Except in 4), don’t correct you mother in front of the kids. Do the same as you should do with husband, take all disagreements from in front of children. When they see a squabble, they take sides and you need to avoid that with someone who gifts them.

    Mother does not respect you as an adult; in fact, she’s highly disrespectful. The way out is for you to earn more self-respect. Whatever actions you take to defend your nest will breed more self-respect. These are just ideas, you have to figure out what’s best for you.

    • Where’s grandpa? Available and willing to help you? (If he still lives, I bet she’s already driven him off. So, she won’t listen to him either.)

    • She’s earned your disrespect. Show it in ways she can’t ignore your message.

    • You have the power and ability to mollify the kids. Without alerting mother, collect and donate all her gifts to Salvation Army and then mail her the receipts with gifts itemized (however small and just trash for the SA—e.g., chocolate bar minus one bite).

    • Let mother read about the damage she creates, as I suggested in the #2002 post. Heck, print and mail it anonymously. I left your name off just in case.

    • Write a letter that you resent being treated as a child, that when you left her nest you became an adult and rose out of and above her domain here on earth. She’s no longer welcome in your home until the gifting stops completely except passing them privately through you.

    • Get husband involved dealing with the children and take all the gift-confiscation heat off you.

    • Let husband know it’s okay, that you’re tired of mother’s disrespect, and sic him on her. Go stop her, tiger. Be prepared for outcomes that may reverberate for years. The conscience and respect of a mother-in-law can go to zero.

    • When you take ultimate control over your nest, things will start to improve. Refuse to let her enter your home. Reject her at the door and close it before the kids can get involved talking through the door. Tell her to bring her complaints to you with a letter, phone, or email when kids are not present. Otherwise, you don’t care to deal with her. (Now, I know a good daughter can’t do that. But a smart woman knows how to get the same effect with less severe tactics.)

    The ball is in your court. Good luck.

    Guy

  4. anon

    P.S. ~ A word about my husband Yes, I married above my head. Way above my head! Didn’t fully realize it at the time, but over time I have uncovered what a truly GREAT man (in all respects of the word) my husband is.

    As befits his greatness, he has offered to get involved with the situation I described to you. (He has not WITNESSED it for the simple reason that my mom is a whole different person when my husband is around — somehow in her bones she knows to be respectful and gracious.) And truth-be-told I have not actually TOLD my husband everything my mom has done and said because I feel he would terminate the relationship out of disgust.)

    I say this because it seems my husband’s instinct to shove the grandma out of the nest was spot on. I had been hoping to be more indirect and salvage the relationship without just point-blank demanding respect (which would cause my mom to retreat, as she likes herself to be the Matriarchal person & would enjoy keeping me in the “child’s” role, even if she would never use those words to say it). I thought I could sort-of stradle both & keep everything sweet. Its souring my relationship with my kids, though. 😦

    Your Highness Anon,

    You’re blessed to have such a husband. I urge caution.

    He’s already primed to rescue you, which means he likely will overdo putting pressure on his mother-in-law to cease and desist. He will intend to stop her and the process may lead to a mother-in-law war,* and such things have a way of reverberating for life. What is a gifting problem today can possibly become three-way relationship acid. That is, it can ignite resentments between spouses.

    So, when you disclose your problems more descriptively, try to keep him calm about it. If you reveal disrespect of mother, he will take up your offense and take action. Any right-thinking husband will blow his cool at what you’ve had to endure.

    Guy
    *What is a mother-in-law war? It’s a relationship that apparently functions civilly, but the true motivational forces arise out of resistance, resentment, retaliation, and revenge.

  5. My Husband's Wife

    Thank you for your story, Anon and your insights, Sir Guy. I believe a lot of us women (more than you’d think) have problems with mother/mother-in-law “contaminating the nest” in many different ways and we feel as if we’re between a rock and a hard place–what we want to be and what mother/mother-in-law expects us to be.

  6. Catherine

    “MUCH DAMAGE HAS ALREADY BEEN DONE.” – Sir Guy

    Sadly agreed. 😦 Damage now, and exponentially painful blistering damage in the years ahead. Even if damaging input stops.

    Husband might only look like he’s safe at the moment. 😦

  7. Catherine

    Sir Guy,
    What keeps the kids from adopting a mother’s fighting back with Grandmother as their standard for interacting with authority? Is Mother taking a stand against Grandmother better than Grandmother degrading Mother? Is the best path instead for Mother/Wife to follow Husband as the ultimate authority of the household, however he decides to handle things? Mother deferring to Husband and following his leadership (whatever it may be) seems much more respectable in kids’ eyes than an epic 1v1 with Mother and Grandmother… do you agree?

    Your Highness Catherine,

    Yes, I agree with you if husband were gotten involved in the first instance. As of now, however, with Anon, conditions are different and what you propose is not so easy.

    See my last comment to anon about getting husband involved.

    Guy

    • anon

      ^ I would love to know what Sir Guy thinks about this!

      Your Highness Anon,
      Catherine being right doesn’t make you wrong. You just haven’t found the way to solve your problem yet. In fact, I admire your understanding of the dynamics of having your authority undermined and being able to grasp the full meaning.
      Guy

  8. anonymous

    I’ve had a similar problem since my daughter has come into this world, only for me it is my father-in-law. He told me that he intends to control my baby. He had been drinking and would probably claim that he never said such a thing, but he did and I haven’t forgot it. He frequently says he is going to buy her whatever she wants, even a Porsche when she turns 16. Because of the controlling comment I am very weary of his spoiling intentions. I don’t wish to rob him of the opportunity to dote on his grandchild or my daughter the experience of a doting grandparent, but I don’t want her to be controlled with money or gifts or for my husband and I, her parents, to be pushed aside in her eyes because we don’t buy her anything she wants. I feel the only way I can prevent this from happening is to get my husband on my side but I don’t want to villainize FIL (who otherwise seems like a nice man) or cause unnecessary drama. Also I have no proof: it’s FIL’s word vs mine. And maybe he was just joking or something, but it drives mama bear nuts.

    In addition to FIL verbalizing his intention to control my child, I feel like he started disrespecting us as the parents back when I was pregnant. When we told them we were expecting we asked that the news be kept private until further notice. We found out through the grapevine FIL disregarded this request and was telling friends and coworkers. Then, on my daughter’s birthday, my in-laws showed up to my hospital room unannounced before I even had a chance to shower after giving birth (they had previously reassured us they would give us privacy and wait for an invitation). I know these things aren’t the end of the world and maybe part of it is they are first-time grandparents who couldn’t contain their excitement, but I feel like if my in-laws truly respected us as the parents they wouldn’t have disregarded our wishes.

    My daughter is now 6 months and I feel like my FIL undermines me with her already. If she’s fussing and I’m changing her diaper he will say “she’s probably just hungry” as if I don’t know how to care for my own child. If I go to get her when she cries, he will tell me that she is fine and babies can’t always be happy. What makes him think he knows my baby better than me, her mother? I would like to tell him that I, not he, is the parent and can take care of her just fine thank you, but I don’t want to be rude. Maybe he is just trying to help.

    Once he was trying to tell me to give her a bottle by talking through her (IOW he told my daughter “say ‘mommy I want that bottle’ ”). I ignored him because I knew she wasn’t hungry and found it very annoying he was bossing me around, particularly in front of other family members. He decided he would take matters into his own hands and shoved a bottle in her mouth while she was in my arms. As soon as I could get him alone with just my husband and myself, I told him that really bothered me and to please not interfere while I am taking care of my baby (I am a very non-confrontational person so he was shocked). I thought he might be better after that, but nope.

    I used to adore my FIL before this issue, but that is no longer the case. MIL, however, doesn’t bother me. Yes, she sometimes gives me unsolicited advice but I think she’s just wanting to feel needed as opposed to trying to undermine me so it doesn’t bother me. I have no issues with the rest of my husband’s family either.

    As my daughter gets older I will need to let her spend time with my in-laws alone (I have already let them babysit a couple times but it made me so uncomfortable). I am very protective of her with them and it’s starting to cause friction. I would like to be able to relax more but I don’t think I can until I feel as though FIL respects us as the parents and isn’t trying to purchase our daughter’s loyalty, control her, etc. At first I thought maybe it was just pregnancy or postpartum hormones getting me all worked up, but it’s been 6 months now and I’m still bothered by the situation. I’ve been stewing over it and can’t seem to find a solution, so I am now turning to the master of human interaction 🙂 Do you have any suggestions how I should deal with this?

    Your Highness Anonymous,

    You must make FIL aware he is harming your life without disturbing family relations. So, use silence! Make the following a matter of habit for the rest of your life, when in-laws do or say something of which you disapprove.

    Don’t explain, don’t complain, don’t even verbalize. Don’t let them know what you are thinking, except that you disapprove of what just happened. Make it habitual, so that you daughter won’t be given a Porsche.

    Before the next incident, mirror time. Practice reflecting a moment of darkest, clenched-teeth stare-down to show your displeasure. Get that look available to flash on your face.

    Choose whom you will inform of your displeasure, FIL or MIL. The next time he offends you, stop everything, turn and purposely stare darkly at the one you chose. Reflect displeasure with an emphatic facial expression. Don’t say a word even if they try to pry words out of you. Change the subject. Then, proceed with whatever you were doing, as if nothing untoward happened. What FIL figures out for himself carries far more weight than what you could say.

    If FIL, you may have to do it several times before he understands he was wrong. If MIL, she will get the message much faster and correct her husband more efficiently and with regret for his having insulted you. She’s a mother too.

    Will it work? Any woman can stare down a man she knows and send his spirit scampering under the couch. Do you have the courage? It is available, if you but consider his unpleasant behavior continuing for life, the need to prevent his or their outlandish gifting, plus other interferences with child raising. Silence keeps it non-confrontational.

    Also, after the first few stare-downs, if she saw or received it, take MIL to lunch. Talk it over but explain/complain as little as possible. She should listen and empathize as you invoke a mother’s concerns. She will probably carry the message home and defend you, if she hasn’t already.

    If FIL’s threats were innocent and mere bravado, silence will do little relationship harm. If not innocent, you need MIL’s influence to help you. Again, don’t get husband involved, as it will put him under the hammer. I remember how your relationship started and developed. He loves you too much to put him in the vise of in-law differences, which does not apply if silence doesn’t work.

    Guy

  9. anonymous

    Men are never more handsome than when they give such practical advice. I am not fond of confrontation so I love this plan. One clarification question: should the stare-down be a fleeting look so that only he notices it or blatantly obvious that I am staring him down?

    Your Highness Anonymous,
    Your call as to what is necessary. Start with long enough that he gets the picture and shorten as time passes.
    Guy

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