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What do you think of this re DM? So sorry about massive length

(34 Posts)
AlexMcLitty Wed 17-Jul-13 10:50:33

I am not sure what I am looking for with this post. I suspect it is for others to look and tell me what they think. I am also unsure if I can offer a fair representation of myself or DM as so much has happened that I will need to be selective in what I write or it will be a bloody book. It will be massively long even just with the snippets
I am married with one child I am close to my parents and they help out a lot.. I am in my mid forties. When I was a child DM was loving towards me but as I reached around 14 I felt completely smothered. Felt I couldn’t even have a thought of my own. She was almost obsessive in her love for me and was overwhelmingly affectionate. When I left home she completely changed. Would not touch me or be touched by me. Will actually flinch if I put my arm round her etc. She had a pretty rough time as a child but will not really talk about it and says she is the way she is and best to let sleeping dogs lie. I totally respect that.
My DD is 10. DM is obsessive about her. Some examples are when she was small I called her “my baby” in conversation with DM. She said “no she is my baby”. I laughed but the look she gave me made it clear she wasn’t joking. She has told my daughter she loves her more than she loves me. This upset my daughter to the point that she asked me if she was to have children would I still love her. She has also told my daughter that she loves her more than I do.
If I ask her not to do something with DD she will ignore. Gives sweets regularly when asked not to is an example. When it emerges that it has happened she will laugh or deny or huff.
She will undermine me when I dealing with behaviour issues with DD. Make excuses for her, talk over me to DD etc.
I have tried to talk about it to her but she either says I am attacking her or if I try to tackle it more generally she will agree but carry on as normal.
She sometimes calls me accusing me of doing something she considers bad parenting. She will be accusatory, tell me how upset she is, that DD has told her x,y,z and that I must not tell her she has told me. This will ring alarm bells for me and Obv. I speak to DD and she is shocked and hasn’t said anything like it. I know my DD is telling truth as she wants to confront my DM to ask why she is telling lies. I don’t let her because I know it will become an unmitigated disaster. If I try to confront the issue afterwards tactfully, I am told that I am being defensive/that I am the one who over reacted etc.
We are given help from them financially, even when unnecessary, and there is no way to not take it without a massive argument. Even trying to pay for a meal out becomes about sneaking payment to the waitress to the point it is competitive. If we are going out we often consider not asking them along as we know they will pay and we don’t want them feeling we have invited them for that reason.
There are times when it is a godsend as things are tough for us just now so I really don’t want to sound like I am ungrateful. But they give us so much that myself and DH feel we cannot challenge anything as we are beholden to them for their help. (God I sound like a spoiled bitch there)
They help out a lot practically too but often I feel judged. Will always come to house and then will start unloading dishwasher, wiping surfaces etc. This would be lovely but makes me feel like it is done to highlight that it should already have been done IYSWIM. My house is clean and pretty tidy too and I feel there is an element of looking for something that hasn’t been done, There are also lots of comments about why I haven’t done XYZ for my DH. DH wouldn’t dream of have me iron his shirts etc and we share household chores. I am SAHM now but have worked FT until last year.
I really love DM. And one to one she can be so lovely and funny. I don’t want to cause a rift in my family. DH family live other end of country and my side of family is small. My DH is treated like royalty by both my parents and he never really sees this side I describe but does see them being generous (which they are) and giving/buying DD too much. Anything that she evens says she likes in passing. I walk round on eggshells in case something I say is taken the wrong way or is a perceived slight. He sees it as spoiling.

If you have read this far thank you. Please ask anything you like as I don’t even know if what I have put here are the relevant bits. And be as blunt as you like too about me if you feel I need it.

AlexMcLitty Wed 17-Jul-13 10:54:38

Sorry - the bit about walking on eggshels should have come after the bit about being spoiled and is different point

CogitoErgoSometimes Wed 17-Jul-13 11:34:43

Your mother sounds like she has nothing going on in her life and only feels that she matters when she's in the 'mother' role. Was she a SAHM when you were a child or did she go out to work? (I'm guessing the former) This bad past, did it involve an abusive parent or parent-substitute (like a children's home)? With a bad or no parental role model to work from, some people can have very extreme ideas about what 'being a mother' actually is.

She fell out with you basically for growing up. She wanted you to stay a small child. Along comes a baby grandchild and she gets to be 'mother' again - even though she isn't. They give you money and you're back in the role of dependent. You say nothing because you think they should be grateful, and the submission is taken as acceptance of dependence. I've seen it in my own family.

Do challenge them, even if they are financing you. Parental love and gifts should be unconditional. It is not a crime to be independent and loving parents should a) be able to cope with you being an adult and b) respect your decisions as an adult.

AlexMcLitty Wed 17-Jul-13 12:19:09

Thank you for your reply. I have NC for this and without fail, agree with you whenever you post.
DM worked FT from when I was 3 wks old (but can see why you would think the other) She was physically abused by her DM who was very controlling.
I know I should challenge..I just dont know how to with out it going nuclear. She is very controlling and always has been. When I have to say something I always fall over my words and things come out badly. My dad is different in as much as he is easy to talk to but will always always defer to mum and would never challenge her.
Your post has made me consider a different angle which is helpful as it doesnt make it feel so sinister (strong word but only one that fits)

CogitoErgoSometimes Wed 17-Jul-13 12:31:44

(Durn on the SAHM thing... smile !) I think you have to risk 'nuclear' occasionally. Being charitable, I'd say that the controlling behaviour is coming from a place of over-compensation. The mistaken belief that being a good mother means things like leaping in, 'helping', paying for everything, solving problems, preventing mistakes, and generally running your life for you, rather than letting you live it for yourself. I had to move 200 miles to get out from under my own example of overcompensating who was also physically abused by a dreadful DM.... and then be fiercely independent. Any hint that I'm struggling ever and you can practically hear the hoof-beats as the cavalry heads down the M6 smile

cleopatrasasp Wed 17-Jul-13 12:33:08

I don't think she will change, sorry, and I think you need to protect your DD as her grandmother's behaviour is clearly not right and could be very damaging in the long run. If it was me I would talk to her and say that if she ever did any of the things with regard to DD that you feel uncomfortable again then you will cut contact until she can follow your wishes with regard to YOUR child. From the tone of your post though I get the feeling that you won't do that. I feel for you and wish you the best of luck.

AlexMcLitty Wed 17-Jul-13 12:33:56

God, and what you say about the money makes a lot of sense. eg We had gone out one day shopping, I was picking out something for a wedding. Once I decided on what I wanted, she wrestled the outfit off me and insisted on paying for it. I went to give her arm a rub while saying thanks (had truly wanted to buy it myself but would have caused a scene in the shop if I had continued with trying to pay myself and so let it go and tried to be nice and thankful) and she jumped as though I had hit her. People nearby actually looked as was really obvious. I was embarassed and mentioned it to her later . her response was that it was typical of me - complaining about that when she was treating me to something.
I dont even know why I did it. It just seemed like a friendly gesture (I am a tactile person in general) I also avoid going with her when I need to buy something so I can pay for it myself.

AlexMcLitty Wed 17-Jul-13 12:39:14

Thanks to you both. It helps alot to hear what others think. Everything has been inside my head only for so long that I am in a rut in what is right and wrong

Nanny0gg Wed 17-Jul-13 12:44:08

I think it's going to be difficult to have things both ways. Unless you can have a full and frank conversation (with your DH's backing) that you want to see them, but the other stuff stops, especially as regards to your DD, or you'll have to distance yourself.

Can't see it ending well unless she won't countenance losing your DD.

(but will she revert to type with her when your DD gets older?)

AlexMcLitty Wed 17-Jul-13 12:51:34

Nanny Ogg - I have thought exactly that. It is horrible to have that "withdrawal" and dont want my DD to experience it.

Ipsissima Wed 17-Jul-13 13:09:23

There are a lot of issues here.
Certainly on the matter of paying for everything, what should be a nice gesture actually just reduces you to being permanently 'grateful', Dependant, even.
Which nicely approximates the dependency you threw off by growing up and leaving home.
The issue over being touched is, I suspect your punishment for that rebellious independence. Your mother may even be unaware of the reason behind this physical rejection of you, but its a faiorly safe bet that punishment is the root.
Your fathers lack of challenge is classic of an enabling partner

I am not going to shout that you should stop contact, protect your daughter from the manipulation etc etc, because you do not sound to be anywhere near to wanting that to happen.
If you are asking whether this is a healthy family dynamic, then the answer is no.
If you are asking if your own child will be affected, then the answer is yes - she is already affected.

A solution would be to take a leaf from Cogito's book, and move a distance away. More than an easy one-day return, in distance. As soon as you are financially able. This avoids a huge upset, but effectively removes you - and your child - from further damaging behaviours.

You need to do something, OP. Unless you are happy for it always to be this way.

AlexMcLitty Wed 17-Jul-13 13:56:53

Thanks Ipsissima. I am not happy for it to be this way. I suppose I am used to it but since DD came along it has been more obvious to me and I am scared I suppose. I am an independent, confident person in just about all other aspects of life in all but this. In honesty I dont know HOW to start the conversation and how to keep it calm and measured. Ihave attempted in the past but it turns pretty quickly to being me over reacting/ ungrateful/ too defensive about things. I am quickly left wondering "what happened there?"
Moving would be impossible due to other factors but in honesty (cringing in saying this) even if these factors did not exist the guilt would be crippling. DD adores DM. Although has started to make noises over constant attention when she is at their home. Too many cuddles, too many questions etc. I recognise all of this from my own childhood but am really careful not to project it.
Fuck - I am an ADULT. Why cant I bloody behave like one in this?
I am truly grateful to all of you for replying. I really thought people would read it and think i was being an arse

Ruralninja Wed 17-Jul-13 14:50:06

I'm sure its unconscious, but your dm is 'buying' your behavior & role and letting you believe that this is a fair trade - needless to say, it isn't. Dynamics like this can't change overnight but I would think about taking a new approach to her help and money. You also need to throw off this guilt she's foisted on you for growing up & not needing her as much any more.

BurntCheeseStinks Wed 17-Jul-13 15:01:51

Could you maybe write her a letter, giving yourself plenty of time to think through your wording and what you want to say to her, and write that you'd like to arrange to see her to discuss what you've said to her in the letter? And maybe put something along the lines of 'I will phone you on Wednesday to arrange a convenient time for us to meet' so that you have to follow through and so that she can't ignore/sulk/laugh it off. Even if you don't get her to change completely, you could have some achievable aims to the discussion eg regarding her paying for stuff. Yes it's v formal but that might get her to take it seriously!

I would have to say that if she is too difficult for you to deal with she is too difficult for your child to have any sort of contact with. This type of dysfunction goes down the generations, you've already been profoundly affected by her actions and your DD will be as well if she is not already. Infact she is already being affected by her toxic grandmother.

As an adult who was brought up by a smother mother (some women who have a narcissistic nature are smother or engulfing mothers) you are now mired in FOG - fear, obligation and guilt. Infact you have FOG in spades. She will never let you have a life of your own and your boundaries with her are practically non existent as well because she's never allowed you to have any boundaries re her. She's made you dependent on her, she wants to keep you dependent. Its all very damaging.

You may want to look at the "well we took you to stately homes" thread on these pages as well.

AlexMcLitty Wed 17-Jul-13 15:55:49

Thank you Rural and Burnt . I think putting something on paper to her is a good idea as as you say it would give me the oportunity to get it right. Rural - the buying the behaviour is right I think.
I am a people pleaser without a doubt and just seeing it down in black and white makes it clear I am complicit in this by my people pleasing going into overdrive with DM. Dont want to rock the boat but by not addressing things at the time honestly everything has built up in me and I feel I have missed the chance to deal with those things. I also know that (sub) consciously - I want her approval.
When it comes to DD - I never want her to be hurt by this. I parent SO differently than my DM did me. Open/honest and try not to put any pressure on her (other than manners and kindness). Again seeing others say in black and white that it has/is damaging her is really the line in the sand for me. Cant really shove my head in the sand anymore.

CogitoErgoSometimes Wed 17-Jul-13 16:03:34

"I dont know HOW to start the conversation and how to keep it calm and measured. Ihave attempted in the past but it turns pretty quickly to being me over reacting/ ungrateful/ too defensive about things."

My suggestions on this one
1. Pick your battles. Don't try and pick up on everything or you'll lose impact.
2. Remember, this isn't a law-court. You don't have to provide evidence or convince a jury with scintillating arguments. This is about what is acceptable and what is not acceptable to you. Your house your rules. Black/white. Unreasonable/irrational mothers are just toddlers with a buss pass. You don't get into a discussion with a toddler.
3. Set expectations often & promote your own standards. Make statements rather than pose questions. 'I don't want DD to have too many sugary foods. I'm sure you agree' 'I think it's very important for self-respect to pay your own way in life. I'm sure you'd support that'
3. For conflict situations decide what you're not happy about. Then keep it brief and again make it a statement. 'I prefer to unload my own dishwasher, thank you'. If the person goes on a personal attack with accusations of overreacting, ungrateful, defensive or whatever don't rise to the bait but just repeat what you said a little slower and a little more firmly each time until the behaviour stops.
4. Finally, practise some conversation closers. 'This stops now', 'that's enough', 'I'm not discussing it any more', 'that's my final word', 'if you don't like it, you know where the door is' ... those kinds of things. And repeat.

Optimist1 Wed 17-Jul-13 16:14:48

I agree with Burnt about writing a well-considered letter, including the date you'll call her to arrange a face-to-face discussion. Would advise keeping a copy for yourself, so that she can't misrepresent what was written at a future date.

You sound a wonderful daughter, doing all possible (against formidable difficulties) to maintain a close relationship with your mother and making sure that her parenting style isn't passed down to the next generation.

(And yes, Cogito is full of wise words, as usual.)

AlexMcLitty Wed 17-Jul-13 16:18:04

Thanks Attila. Do you really think it sounds as profound as that? (You are another poster who I always agree with and really appreciate your POV)
I have read many of the DM threads and while I could see similarities I always felt my situation was not in the same league as others. I never felt DM was toxic just difficult I suppose. But then I am in middle of the situation and not looking at it objectively maybe. I will look at that thread now.

These responses are all fine if you are dealing with someone who is on balance emotionally healthy. The problem here is that you are dealing with someone who is basically unreasonable to start with. Letters can also be used against you, you could well receive a stinging attack on your own self even if you did send a well measured letter. Do write a letter to your mother but do not actually send it.

Many children now adults of such toxic people do tacitly seek their approval. It is ok not to seek such approval from parents but you have been so conditioned that you still look for same. Small wonder too that you people please; she ingrained and trained you to do that for her as well.

Are you actually strong enough within your own self OP to actually tell your mother to back off?. What if she starts going on the offensive in response, what is your Plan B?. Confronting her is the ideal but you need to be far stronger than you are now emotionally; this could become your finest hour ultimately.

Am not suggesting at all that you do not challenge her, she certainly needs to be pulled up on her complete lack of boundaries but you need to be fully prepared for an attack on you if you challenge what has been until now well established roles.

CogitoErgoSometimes Wed 17-Jul-13 16:28:47

"Are you actually strong enough within your own self OP to actually tell your mother to back off?. "

She has to be. There are no 'non strong' options from here. No contact requires a huge amount of strength to get past the self-imposed guilt and all the 'what ifs' and the silent hurt treatment. Standing up to mother in person requires a lot of short-term strength to get past the innate feeling that it's wrong to tell your mother off... but it's far better for the self-esteem ultimately to know you've stood your ground rather than scuttled off and hidden.

AlexMcLitty Wed 17-Jul-13 16:30:05

You guys are so lovely. I am taking it all in. A bit shell shocked as I do love my parents and like them a lot of the time. I have clearly minimised a lot as I would really like evryone to be happy and I know that they love DD and despite all the shit I have always seen that as the bottom line.
Optimist - that was a very nice thing to say about me being a good daughter. I dont feel it after biting the bullet and posting this.

The thing is with toddlers as well is that they do grow up. Unfortunately (and that is an understatement) for you as well your mother's emotional development seems to have stopped at around 6 years of age.

What if anything do you know about your mother's childhood?. This may well be highly relevant as well.

Narcissists have normal, even superior, intellectual development while remaining emotionally and morally immature. Dealing with them can give you the sense of trying to have a reasonable discussion with a very clever six-year-old -- this is an age when normal children are grandiose and exhibitionistic, when they are very resistant to taking the blame for their own misbehaviour, when they understand what the rules are (e.g., that lying, cheating, and stealing are prohibited) but are still trying to wriggle out of accepting those rules for themselves. This is the year, by the way, when children were traditionally thought to reach the age of reason and when first communions (and first confessions) were made.

I do agree Cogito with you and the OP must not cave in at all when she confronts her mother. Boundaries need to be raised higher as well as being steadfastly maintained. I am suggesting though that she will need to be stronger within herself in order to do this. OPs mother will certainly go on the attack immediately if her overall authority is challenged and the OP needs to be prepared for such an eventuality.

AlexMcLitty Wed 17-Jul-13 16:37:46

DM background is a very dominating and physically abuse RC mother. I mention RC as guilt features heavily in DM life

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