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Head to head with my mother

(13 Posts)
WongTobyWong Mon 30-Nov-15 19:20:03

I live overseas and my mother is currently visiting. She has been here 3 weeks and will be staying for another 3. I have 4 young children under the age of 8 and my husband and I both work full-time. Usually we get on pretty well but this trip has been a bit of a strain.

I have gained fair bit of weight over the last few years, each pregnancy has added more weight. I am now about 3 stone overweight. I am actually doing something about it – I ran my first 10K in years last week! – but it is a slow process. Since her arrival there have been a number of little comments about my weight – including her telling me that she wasn’t going to make a Christmas cake this year because “that’s not going to help that (my midsection), is it?” (The irony is that despite her focus on appearance, my mother is overweight too. Probably 2 stone or so.) So there have been moments of tension.

Yesterday we were all out for a meal. She told me that I needed to do a better job cleaning my children’s teeth because my daughter’s teeth are yellow. And then asked my 7 year old daughter – yes, she was sitting right next to her – to open her mouth to prove her point. I was livid. I didn’t want to make a big deal of it in front of my daughter so I just said, “Don’t be silly, her teeth are beautiful.” My daughter is a very anxious child. She recently started at a new school and has been seeing a counselor for anxiety. She often mentions that she worries that people won’t like her because she wears glasses. And now her grandmother tells her in public that her teeth are yellow.

At the first opportunity I had yesterday I raised it with her. The conversation didn’t go well. I essentially told her to never make a comment about her appearance again (or that of any of my children). I broached the subject calmly but it very quickly escalated. She muttered a half-hearted “yes, I know” but didn’t apologize, so I said to her “Have you any idea how much damage you’ve done?” and she shouted “Yes, I just said, I know!” So then I was shouting at her and she was shouting back and then of course it wasn’t even about the teeth comment.

I don’t think my mother has ever apologized to me for anything she’s ever said to me. For example, we were talking about something the other day that we disagreed with and she just said, “You’re talking total crap”. And that’s it, as far as she’s concerned. There’s no subtlety, everything is black and white. Yet if you disagree with her, it’s all “How dare you speak to me that way”, “You speak to me as though I’m a piece of dirt” and, yesterday, “I won’t be lectured to by you”. I don’t think I’ve ever been so angry with her as I was last night. I could have punched her. She really feels that as “mother” she has such elevated status that any criticism of her is “talking to her like dirt”.

We haven’t spoken since and I know she won’t apologise. Clearly the expectation is that I shall be the one apologizing. But I really don’t feel that I should. Nor do I want to give her the satisfaction, to be honest. I understand the idea that “you can be right or you can be happy” but I feel so strongly about the comments she’s been making that I can’t let it go. Or don’t want to. I’m really not a vindictive person – quite the opposite – but I really feel that a line has been crossed. We haven’t had the closest of relationships since I was about 18 but strangely enough things had got better over the last 18 months or so. Now I feel that we are back where we started.

Does anyone else have a complicated relationship with their mother? How do you reconcile yourself to it?

RomComPhooey Mon 30-Nov-15 19:25:15

Go NC when she goes home?

leadrightfoot Mon 30-Nov-15 19:26:35

I don't spend 6 weeks with her! Sorry a bit glib but seriously 6 weeks is a long time. Anywhere she might like to go for a few days trip?!?

Don't apologise, but you may need to draw a line under it something along the lines of "moving forwards" big smile and change topic. Why is her apologising such a big deal to you? It's not something that sounds achieve able so what else might work? Neve mentioning it again? Or behaving similarly?

Or you can point out you are a mother too and so where your children are concerned you are right end of. Might not be a harmonised solution.

Seriously trip somewhere for a few days might be good.

WongTobyWong Mon 30-Nov-15 20:29:09

I thought I'd posted in Relationships; how can I have this moved? Thanks.

YetAnotherHelenMumsnet (MNHQ) Mon 30-Nov-15 21:29:05

We've done it now, hope you get the support you need.

itsmeohlord Mon 30-Nov-15 21:37:13

Visitors like fish go off after three days - so 6 weeks is far too long.

Don't apologise, but do stress that you don't want her to ever ever make any derogatory personal comments to any of your children. That if she does, that will be the end of visits.

I find my own mother extremely controlling. IF challenged she does the "poor little me no lone listens to an old lady routine". I walk out of the room. I limit myself to visits of no more than three days. Obviously that would be too sort if you are abroad, but you need to make it no more than a couple of weeks.

Footle Mon 30-Nov-15 21:54:06

Do whatever you can to make your daughter feel that her teeth are fine. More than 50 years on I'm still haunted by my aunt ( a professional photographer ) saying "No, don't smile, you're prettier when you don't smile " as she took my picture.

mintoil Mon 30-Nov-15 22:44:38

Yes 6 weeks is waaaaay too long. What were you thinking?

Can you ask her to leave?

WongTobyWong Mon 30-Nov-15 22:59:25

No, if I asked her to leave I think that would cause irreparable damage to our already-fractured relationship.

RunRabbitRunRabbit Tue 01-Dec-15 00:36:43

Do not apologise. That would actually be a betrayal of your daughter and would essentially give the green light to your DM to make more comments to your daughter.

No, if I asked her to leave I think that would cause irreparable damage to our already-fractured relationship.
And that's bad because...?

dontcallmecis Tue 01-Dec-15 02:17:17

Good god! People are suggesting she pack her mother off home and go nc? Most of us would be driven up the wall if our mothers came to visit for 6 weeks!

AttilaTheMeerkat Tue 01-Dec-15 06:47:54

Six weeks with her is actually six weeks too long in the first place. I do wonder how much FOG you are in anyway with regards to her. FOG is an acronym for fear, obligation, guilt.

Re your comment:-
"No, if I asked her to leave I think that would cause irreparable damage to our already-fractured relationship".

And that is a bad thing because....

Your relationship was pretty much fractured anyway before you were eighteen years of age. Its not you, its your mother. It is of no surprise to me at all that she has not and will not apologise. Such people as well refuse to apologise or take any real responsibility for their actions. Do not apologise yourself to your mother for your own words towards her. You would not have tolerated any of that from a friend, family are no different.

You do not mention your dad; where is he?.

What boundaries do you actually have in place yourself re your mother?. They have been way too low to date. I would seriously consider further lowering contact with your mother.

I would also think your mother actually does not have any friends either.
She was not a good parent to you and is a crap example of a grandparent to your children. That often happens as well, you perhaps thought that now she is a grandmother she would actually behave better despite your own personal knowledge of her.

Concentrate your efforts on your own family instead. If the other set of grandparents are nice see them. Model the attitude you want your children to adopt, do not act from a fearful mindset.

OnceAMeerNotAlwaysAMeer Tue 01-Dec-15 08:52:34

wong not suggesting you throw her out, but I do think that for the -future- you have to consider that she might push so hard that you have a choice: protect your children and don't have her to stay again, or have her to stay again and put up with the comments (and damage) she might or will do.

This will be a choice that you don't want, but you can't control your mother's actions directly, so it may be one that you have to bear in mind might be necessary.

For now, a gentler option is to use a sort of technique on her. As itsmeohlord said, get up and leave or ask her to leave when she makes an unacceptable comment. Do this enough times and she'll get the message. If she doesn't then you'll have to say that you don't think it's a good idea that she stays next time.

Most rather wilful people tend to finally learn eventually. Those who dont and who still push their line are the ones you have to go NC with. But it's a good thing to face the idea of it, even if you don't want to do it, so that you're covering all options.

People who have the My Way Or The Highway outlook are tyrants.

For right now, yeah, you're in a very difficult position stuck with her. Any chance of booking her into a B & B ? You are absolutely right though not to apologise. It's a rite of adulthood, becoming your own person with your own mind and your own boundaries, not drowned by your parent's voice.

This could be a very long three weeks if she doesn't go to a hotel, but do hold firm. You're establishing your house, your rules and her antiquated ideas of the Rights of Parents to Rule Their Children are not valid (they never were, actually).

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