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What's wrong with my mother?

(40 Posts)
junkfoodaddict Mon 21-Apr-14 21:46:40

My DM looks after our DS (2 years) for two days and nights in our own home every week during the term time (I'm a teacher). She travels from afar and she offered to do this, we never asked, as she wanted a regular relationship with him.

She is someone who can turn from a nice to an incredible nasty person in a split second. She has 'episodes' of anger that last from 3-10 weeks in which she becomes aggressive with her tone of voice, sits with a permanant scowl on her face, takes no interest in anyone, can sit for hours chain smoking, swinging her leg whilst seated, staring into space, bang things and be a very intimidating person to be with. This bevhaviour has been going on since I was small, but with each period either she is more outwardly aggressive and scary or as I'm getting older, i'm noticing it more. She is also bringing this attitude with her when she looks after DS and making us feel intimidated and nervous in our own home. The last time this happened was from late September until early November. All my life, I have always known friends and family to come and go, my DM always blaming others.

She has no contact with her DS (my brother) as he cut ties with her, She has no contact with her own brother (my uncle) - not sure who cut ties but I think it was her, she has had an on-off relationship with my grandma (gran left DM when she was 14) and currently no contact with her for last decade at least, on-off relationship with her sister (my aunt), currently unknown but I don't think she has spoken to her in months. She has only one friend who is someone else she cut ties with for 20 years, found again but after a decade in each other's life, she has decided that she no longer wants the closeness that she had with her.

Three weeks ago, she asked me if I was doing anything at the weekend to which I replied I was not and then proceeded to request DS for the weekend and she would bring him back on what would have been her last day of the week caring for him at our own home. I agreed and asked why this was to which she replied that she was under no circumstances going to spend another day or night freezing her butt off! I was taken aback and said okay. This attitude was because the night before we had doors and windows open for fumes to escape after having a new wooden floor laid and it had just been varnished. DH then decided to turn the aga off for the summer. I did say this was daft and leave it until DM went home but he didn't. Having said that, Agas take a few hours to cool right down!! But on the night that this took place, we were all chatty, eating some treats I had brought back after work!?!?

So the following week, three days after taking DS to visit DM and my dad, she brings him back as agreed. I walked into the dining room to find her on the sofa with her back turned to DH and a friend who were chatting (friend is also a work colleague of DH). I could immediately tell she was in a bad mood. She basically said she was very annoyed with DH and friend and she'd tell me later. I never said anything to DH or friend that night BUT on attending a class together, friend asked if DM was okay as she seemed to be in a mood. The following night I asked DH about DM's arrival and DH said he said hello as they came in, DM looked at him, looked at the cat and said to DS "Oh there's the cat" and ignored DH!!! On asking my dad two weeks later (tonight) she said to him that she was being ignored?!?!? DM asked me to ring her the folliwing night to which I agreed but then got a text to say not to bother until the weekend as she had serious thinking and decisions to make and not when still angry.

As it happens, that weekend FIL died so this took priority. I telephoned my parents to tell them but DM was not as chatty - concerned but I could tell by her voice that she wanted to say very little. DH did get a sympathy card. She also said that my dad would attend the funeral (hadn't been arranged at that point) but she would have to check to get time off. The following day, we had a date, venue and time and I text them with it. A WEEK later (yesterday), DM still hadn't contacted me to let me know if she was attending the funeral so I rang. It was a painful conversation. It was obvious she didn't want to talk to me. She was cold and frosty and replied "Nothing" to every question I asked. She passed me quickly to my dad to arrange particulars about them attending the funeral.

It's getting to the stage that my dad wants a divorce (been threatened many, many times before) but then she's 'come round'. TBH, I think she's with him for the 'lifestyle'. My dad is a taxi driver and works 10-12 hours a day, 6/7 days a week. The shifts are dictated by DM. The other night he came home because there was no work (to her surprise) to which she said "Oh, only working 9 hour shifts now!".

I do think this childcare arrangment is having a detrimental effect on their martial health as well as her physical and mental health and a huge financial burden. We've offered to give money for fuel but she declined. She is a very 'proud' woman who won't accept defeat or help and takes offense at it. She is unlikely to admit it is harming her life and marriage and would never 'give up' looking after DS yet if WE ask her to stop and tell her why, she'd take offense at that and claim that we've used her, stopped her from seeing DS - which of course is not true.

Just not sure what is wrong with her. AIBU? Or is she? Does she sound like she has mental health issues (the mood swings are common and long-lasting caused by trivial things!)? We're seriously considering putting DS in full-time childcare from September but with a view of us visiting DM and dad once every half term and giving them four days with him. Not all grandparents see there grandchildren every week and those who don't, still have a meaningful realtionship with them.

We're just fed up of the mood swings, feeling intimidated in our own homes and we're beginning to dread the day she comes to us!

Also, congratulations for getting this far down my post!!! And for the record, DS adores DM and vice versa and she has in no way, given us cause for concern about the way in which she treats DS.

Electriclaundryland Mon 21-Apr-14 23:03:33

I wish I could help, she sounds awful. I'd put him into childcare too if I were you.

RussianBlu Mon 21-Apr-14 23:30:29

Oh how awful. Not nice to feel like you have to walk on egg shells and not know what you are going to find next. I would be finding childcare pronto. She may be nice to him now but you don't know what will happen after a month or two. She may also be saying things around him/to him that he doesn't yet understand but aren't very nice/appropriate. I have no idea if these are mental health issues but I have known someone similar (much worse though after time) and I believe it was due to Mh issues though maybe was just a v horrid person but either way, it isn't good!

DonkeysDontRideBicycles Mon 21-Apr-14 23:59:46

It is lovely when grandparents have a great bond with their DCs' families. However as DM is a 'tricky' personality and can be touchy with family members I would think twice about having her mind your DS. I am sure you are doing the right thing considering alternative childcare arrangements.

If she takes offence just observe that toddlers can be demanding and even if she has coped until now he is at the stage of benefitting from socialisation with other youngsters. Don't let her blame DH and if she's belligerent tell her you're sorry she feels that way but you are considering what's best for her grandson.

Rudeness to her son-in-law will only backfire. If she can't be civil when FIL has so recently passed that is pretty poor behaviour. Don't indulge her by trying to jolly her along or pander to her sulks about trivial things.

Your parents' marriage or divorce is their affair and you can be sympathetic but say that you love them both but don't want to take sides. (Unless you choose to! ). If she rants or gives you the cold shoulder? <Shrug> The sun will still rise tomorrow.

As powerless children or teenagers we have little choice but to live as best we can with our parents. As we age we have more understanding perhaps but we no longer have to play along. Now you are in control of your own life you are out of her shadow so do work from the angle of "What suits us".

DonkeysDontRideBicycles Tue 22-Apr-14 00:05:42

MH issues I am unqualified to judge. Maybe in the middle ages her bloody mindedness would have seen her through plague and warfare. Perhaps she would have made a fearsome revolutionary. Or do you think there is a family background of broken trust or a generation of manipulation? She doesn't sound like a happy person. Maybe she should be pitied. But she made her own choices.

ChasedByBees Tue 22-Apr-14 00:09:53

It doesn't matter what's wrong with her, no way is she a suitable person to leave your child with.

Simile Tue 22-Apr-14 00:21:20

If you are fed up of the mood swings, feel intimidated in your own home and dread the day she arrives what on earth do you think your two year old child feels?

First thing you need to do is sort alternate childcare out for your DS. By all means have her visit, just make sure it's supervised. If she is troubled by MH problems then you need to shield your DS.

greenfolder Tue 22-Apr-14 06:51:51

If all this childcare happens without you there, how do you know how she treats him?

17leftfeet Tue 22-Apr-14 07:00:37

Why on earth are you letting this toxic woman near your child?

She might be nice to him, for now, but when she is so disrespectful to your DH then she's hardly got your dc's best interests at heart

harriet247 Tue 22-Apr-14 07:07:39

You shouldn't let her look after your ds, childminder or nursery would be much muvh better.
My mum is Similar to yours and wont even leave dd with her for an hour

Animation Tue 22-Apr-14 07:13:48

Please put your child in childcare. Your 1st priority is to protect your child from your mother's toxic influence.

You need your sanity that's a priority too.. If your mum gets upset so be it - she may need to get upset and think about the affect her bad behaviour has on others.

You need to get a bit more firm with her - you can't have her running rings round you all.

PatriciaKrenwinkel Tue 22-Apr-14 08:13:04

Jeez why are you letting her near your child? Do you think she has a personality transplant for those childcare hours only?

MakesAMessWhenStressed Tue 22-Apr-14 08:37:39

Hey Sweets - think I'd listen to some of the wise words above. My MIL is also a v difficult woman - acts fine with small children, but as soon as they get old enough to challenge and/or question her the nastiness starts to seep out. This is why DH decided to go NC, because we didn't want DS to grow up thinking that we endorsed her actions, words, attitude towards him. I really think you should do what will suit you all best as a family - because DH and DS are your family and must take priority over her feelings. It's harsh and I'm not looking forward to when DS is old enough to do it, but it's how life works.
Stay strong

SystemIDUnknown Tue 22-Apr-14 08:47:24

It's the perfect time for an 'excuse' to try to minimise the impact she'll feel on childcare stopping.

Start mentioning it over the next few weeks - ds is getting to the age where he needs more socialisation with other children. There's a fab/nursery childminder who has X kids, but she has a waiting list, boo hoo. She's just had a cancellation and can take him from September, isn't it brilliant! etc.

Then a big bunch of flowers for your mum and a thank you card from ds, thank you so much for having him over the past couple of years, you've been a lifeline, it's so lovely to see the bond you have with him yadda yadda.

Fizzybangfanny Tue 22-Apr-14 09:01:45

op I could have wrote that about my DM . I've been NC with her for about ten years now. I had to because I couldn't cope with the emotional roller coster she continuously took the family on.

She ruined Christmases with her moods and tempers. One second on the karioke then next furious in the kitchen because some one had left a dirty glass in sink. Then would dismantle the tree and everybody had to put all the decorations away on Christmas Day.

You could feel the mood creeping up and seeping off her in waves. She crucified my SF. He left her in the end and had a happy life.

This is not a nice life to live. My dd1 remembers her being nasty, although she was always nice to her. We stopped contact when dd1 was 7 but she remembers how she treated others. She now loves on her own, with no family around her what so ever because one by one she alienated them all. I don't feel sad for her but not enough to infuse her back in to our life's

They are emotional vampires and have a personality disorder. Nothing you can do will ever change her. All you can do is change the way you let her dictate aspects of yours.

Have a look on the stately homes threads - you will get lots of support there.

Wishfulmakeupping Tue 22-Apr-14 09:18:56

I really don't know about your mum but she's not able to look after your son properly. You need to get him suitable childcare

bedraggledmumoftwo Tue 22-Apr-14 09:25:48

She sounds a lot like my MIL. I always thinks it speaks volumes when people have alienated all their other family and friends. I remember my mother being shocked when planning a guest list for our wedding that MIL could only come up with four people to invite- his two godfathers and their wives. No idea whether they are actually even still friends with her or if they just came out of godfatherly duty IYSWIM. we also invited her parents, but she doesn't speak to them herself, so had to seat them separately! I imagine all our own friends must have been told to sit on the grooms side or there would have been noone there!
I don't know about MH issues, although i have advised my MIL to seek counselling before as she is clearly unhinged damaged. Personally i am on ADs for PND and it sounds like it would help her to be medicated, but that would involved having a difficult conversation about her moods to get her to seek help and she is unlikely to accept that. You might be able to persuade her to try st john wort though?

In your shoes i would not be comfortable continuing the childcare arrangement. You have to think of both your son and DH here- even if he was previously tolerant of her i cant imagine he likes being treated like this in his own house. I would get nursery sorted asap. And broach it as gently/ carefully as possible but as a fait accompli. She will probably be secretly relieved

Famzilla Tue 22-Apr-14 09:27:46

She sounds like my mum, honestly I could have written your post. I cut her off when DD was a few months old as I realised I had to protect my daughter and didn't want her to grow up thinking it was ok to act this way.

Not suggesting you cut your mother off but definitely suggesting arranging alternative childcare and putting some barriers up.

saoirse31 Tue 22-Apr-14 09:29:26

Cant believe you are letting her look after your ds. Also cant believe youre not paying her tbh.

redskyatnight Tue 22-Apr-14 09:31:37

OP (I have a mum like this also so some of this may be projecting) and I would say
- how did your mother's behaviour make you feel when you were a child? Chances are it made your nervous, worried, uncomfortable, like you had to tread on eggshells around you? Did you vow never to treat your own children like that?

- you are exposing your DC to the same behaviour, so they will be feeling like you did - do you want that?

- would you put up with this behaviour from anyone else? Chances are the answer is no and you are just putting up with it because you are used to it and conditioned to pandering to her.

- for years I avoided tackling my mum about her behaviour because I was so scared of her reaction. Actually, now she knows that I think her behaviour is unacceptable and I won't put up with it, she behaves a whole lot better!

BitterAndOnlySlightlyTwisted Tue 22-Apr-14 09:37:51

I wouldn't let her anywhere near a small child!

bedraggledmumoftwo Tue 22-Apr-14 09:57:01

Also, even if she didn't sound toxic i would probably still not like the arrangement, purely because it involves her staying with you every week.

my own parents live three hours away, supposedly want to move here but not holding my breath. She has always said she wanted to look after dd 2days a week.when dd1 (2) was a baby and my mat leave was ending and they hadn't moved, my DM did come up with the harebrained idea that she could still do the 2days a week and just drive up and stay here two nights a week. My DM is lovely, we are very close and my DH gets on really well with her, but even so we agreed it was a terrible idea, for our home/family life, and that it would ultimately end in tears. It took a lot to convince her (i actually showed her a similar thread on MN where everyone was telling the gran no!). But she is very happy at nursery, and when they are visiting i let her keep her out of nursery for some of the time. I just wouldn't want it to be a part of my regular childcare arrangement.

(goes off to dig up link to thread posted by unreasonable gran!)

bedraggledmumoftwo Tue 22-Apr-14 10:02:44


bedraggledmumoftwo Tue 22-Apr-14 10:04:21

Thetallesttower Tue 22-Apr-14 10:13:22

It's sad but I think you have to accept that if she's not nice, then she's not going to be a good carer for your little one, because he will have to endure the moods too and it's frightening for them. She may be depressed, she may be horrible, she may be a bit self-centred, but whatever, she won't be prepared to snap out of it (and perhaps can't) as your child gets older and clocks whats going on.

I have one set of grandparents I can't leave the children with for similar reasons, they still see them, have fun times, get presents, but there's no childcare because me and my husband can't trust that they will look after them properly and put their needs first.

In this case, it sounds like you should definitely move your son into childcare and then consider how much time you want to spend with your mum- you do not have to leave your child overnight if you don't want to. she is not the decision-maker here, you are.

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