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My mother, who wants to 'help' all the time and doesn't understand why I'm not grateful, is driving me mad

(47 Posts)
Pikawhoo Sun 18-Sep-16 17:51:05

My mother just came to stay for the weekend (so that she could go to an event last night, although we do usually see each other every second weekend anyway). It left me feeling really upset and angry at her. Sorry, this is long.

She is very judgemental and critical, sometimes with good reason (e.g. my house is a mess) but also just generally -- she was 'appalled' by the fact that I sometimes give DD (3) a cream cracker at breakfast. She is genuinely appalled by it because it is made with white flour (although actually it is the high fibre kind) it is 'processed' and because I should be offering fruit first. When I then bought rye crispbread instead, she said she had read something in the paper once about how rye crispbread is carcinogenic. Nothing, unless it's exactly how she would do it, is ever right.

In the night she couldn't sleep and she tidied up my kitchen (throwing away food from the fridge that she thought might be out of date, including several things that weren't) and tidied up a corner of the living room. The last time she did this I asked her not to do it again, because things went missing (including the veg peeler which I've never seen again! and it's a tiny kitchen!) but she went ahead anyway. When I was upset she was outraged and said that I should be grateful.

She was also upset that I hadn't taken DD to the walk-in centre for a rash of her bottom so we went and did that. And she said she thought it had been neglectful of me not to take her sooner, almost abuse. I was genuinely grateful to her for driving us although I thought it was unnecessary as the rash was already clearing up (and GP didn't seem fussed, and neither had the nursery).

And then DD's shoes were 'far too big' and she thought it was 'abusive' of me to let her wear them (they are meant to be her size but do in fact look as if they are a half size too big, but she says they are comfortable).

Finally, apparently I hadn't made an effort to tidy the house (true) and I smelled (unlikely to be true unless she meant 'of shower gel'). Also I am so fat that it is unhealthy and I will die young and I need to get checked for diabetes (it's true, I am overweight, but the relentless nagging and criticism, 'you get fatter and fatter!', 'I'll have to sneak in in the night and measure round your arms!' feels desperately unhelpful.)

'I thought you were a G-O-O-D mother, but...' (she spelled it out because my daughter was there).

I just don't know how to tackle her behaviour. It's awfully negative and the older I get, the more I think it is quite damaging to my self-esteem. I also don't like her criticising my parenting choices in front of my daughter -- I've told her often to by all means say things privately but try not to say them in front of DD, but it still happens.

Today she insisted on cooking dinner (which I told her I didn't want) and cleaning up despite my saying that I would do it, until I finally snapped and said I really would prefer to do it myself and that she should drive home instead. DD said very sweetly, 'Because you are angry, Grandma' and she proceeded to go on a diatribe about how in fact I was the one who was angry at her, and she was just doing all sorts of kind things to help.

The trouble is that this 'help' is so unhelpful. She thinks that the fact she means well should mean I am grateful to her but actually all I can hear is the relentless barrage of criticism of what I do or say or how I am. She rarely 'helps' in any way that I would actually find helpful, like being with DD while I have time to go swimming or anything that would make a practical help with my weight loss.

What can I do? Should I shut up and put up? Is there any way of tackling the unwanted 'helpful' advice, especially? Out of everything above it was the thing about cream crackers that really really really did my head in.

lemonzest123 Sun 18-Sep-16 17:55:04

Wow. Sorry OP but she sounds like a total cow. Can't believe she said those things! winecake

Cherryskypie Sun 18-Sep-16 17:55:54

I'd stop seeing her every other weekend for a start! She needs some boundaries. She doesn't listen to you when you say no.

MummyTheTramEngine Sun 18-Sep-16 17:57:17

She is being really horrible to you. Don't see her for a good long while because she is truly nasty.

Pikawhoo Sun 18-Sep-16 18:00:02

Thank you, it helps to see how it comes across when I write it down.

To be fair she was exhausted after not sleeping all night and (actually also the case for a couple of the historical comments) she does tend to say all the wrong things when she is tired.

The trouble is that she genuinely believes that all of these things are helpful so it's impossible to tackle without her feeling attacked when she was trying to do the right thing.

Pikawhoo Sun 18-Sep-16 18:03:45

Mummy and cherry I really want to make the relationship work well rather than giving up on it, partly because I am a single mum and she is a very important figure in DD's life, and also because I enjoy seeing her when she isn't behaving like this.

My DSF died 7 months ago and she has been a carer for years before that as he was long-term disabled. I am wondering whether having less of an all-consuming focus in her life is making her fixate on me (my DB is out of the country a lot) and also whether she may be struggling with the loss of the 'being useful' bit of being a carer.

Cherryskypie Sun 18-Sep-16 18:06:27

It doesn't matter what she thinks, would she start clearing out someone else's fridge and throwing food away? Would she start criticising someone else's parenting to their face? Would she go on about someone else's weight? Does she treat everyone like that?

ImperialBlether Sun 18-Sep-16 18:06:36

The fact she tells you that you are abusive towards your daughter is really appalling. How would she respond if you were to write to her and say that she's completely out of order in saying these things and that if she wants to be helpful she can mind your daughter for an hour so you can exercise? Would she have a hissy fit? It would be great if she sulked and kept away - I would be in tears if she did these things to me.

P1nkP0ppy Sun 18-Sep-16 18:10:27

Could you ask her and agree that she will do specific tasks the next time she visits so you both know exactly what needs doing? I think you've hit the spot with her feeling she has no purpose now your dsf has died.
Perhaps go out for the day or have a picnic or meal out or a shopping trip?

Meeep Sun 18-Sep-16 18:10:29

She sounds awful to be honest! What do your friends say about her?

CodyKing Sun 18-Sep-16 18:12:19

The fact she tells you that you are abusive towards your daughter is really appalling

She is saying your abusive to your DD when she is abusive towards you?

Double standards there

CodyKing Sun 18-Sep-16 18:12:45

The fact she tells you that you are abusive towards your daughter is really appalling

She is saying your abusive to your DD when she is abusive towards you?

Double standards there

TheSockGoblin Sun 18-Sep-16 18:12:45

I don't think it sounds like she 'means well' at all. Quite the opposite.
She sounds incredibly manipulative and someone who enjoys playing power games with you and also projecting her own nasty attitude onto you (hence all the 'you're abusive' comments. SHE is abusive, not you).
You've asked her not to do this and shown distress and yet she keeps on anyway. That's not 'meaning well', just an excuse to trample all over you and your self-esteem.

You'd like her to keep up a close relationship with your daughter why exactly?

So she can continue to put you down, cause you pain and model for your daughter that head-fucking, nasty, spiteful and unreasonable behavior which doesn't respect bondaries is a-ok?

Cherryskypie Sun 18-Sep-16 18:13:05

I'm not saying stop seeing her, I'm saying you need to have a shake up of how things are because she isn't listening to you or respecting you. A couple of weeks break and then a heartfelt conversation in a neutral place might get her to listen to you. Tell her what you've said here, that you enjoy seeing her and she's an important figure in your DD's life but she can't carry on with the way she's behaving.

PoshPenny Sun 18-Sep-16 18:16:11

She's sounds highly controlling and critical. You don't need to hear all that fattist crap from your mother (voice of experience here) I would be arranging to see less of her somehow, maybe you go to hers so you can leave when it gets too much.

Pikawhoo Sun 18-Sep-16 18:19:51

P1nkP0ppy she generally only wants to do the things she thinks are valuable... I've mentioned the time for exercise but it's never happened.

With that said, she did have DD for four daytimes during the summer holidays and that went really well and was a huge help. Maybe I will ask about the exercise again.

Cherry, it's always 'because I care about you' or 'because I love DD so much and can't let you do this to her'. She's quite critical of my DB too (he is too slim and works too hard and makes poor relationship choices etc). The trouble is she is trying to save us from ourselves, but seems unable to see that people have different preferences and ways of living, e.g. DB thrives on being a total workaholic and it's actually 'normal for him', IYSWIM.

Meeep, this tends to be in private rather than in front of friends, and I haven't really mentioned it to anyone.

Ohflippinheck Sun 18-Sep-16 18:26:59

You are a saint OP I couldn't deal with that.
I could have written half of your post myself. My mother does exactly the same and oversteps the boundaries completely when it comes to my home.
Our relationship is dreadful - I'm much less polite than you!
Could you ask her to spend time with your DC at her house?
Say you want a couple of hours to exercise, clean, whatever.
And I guessyiu will have to tackle the personal insults head on with a heart to heart.
Good luck flowers

AttilaTheMeerkat Sun 18-Sep-16 18:33:49


Do not put up and shut up whatever you decide to do going forward.

Your mother is a toxic parent who is out to undermine you and your parenting at every turn. Her "help" is anything but and she does not mean well at all; this is her power and control at work over you here.

Your boundaries re your mother are way way too low and need to be raised urgently. This is going to be hard for you because overtly critical people like your mother have never encouraged you to have any. Dropping the excess baggage that is your mother will do your own mental state a great deal of good.

Visits to her now need to be completely curtailed if not stopped. She was and is not a good parent to you, whatever made you think she could ever be a decent sort of grandmother to your child?. She will do similar damage to your child as has been done to you actually if you allow her to keep seeing your DD. One generation i.e. your brother and you has already been profoundly affected by your mother, do not let a second i.e. your child suffer a similar fate. Don't think she means well, such people really do not mean well at all.

You do not mention your dad; is he still around?.

I would suggest you read "Toxic Parents" written by Susan Forward as a starting point as well as reading the "well we took you to Stately Homes" thread on these pages.

MrsBertBibby Sun 18-Sep-16 18:36:24

Christ, you've just described my mother. Awful awful woman, she was, propping up her self esteem at my expense, (oh god the competitive weight loss!) Criticising my parenting (whilst denying to my face her fucked up ritual wooden spoonings.) Criticising my cleaning whilst conveniently forgetting she had a fucking paid cleaner every day until we were old enough to be put to work. And a husband who pulled his weight.

Don't fight to keep her in your child's life. She'll just try to spread her harm to her. If you must still see her, cut it down, keep it outside your home, and practice giving her nothing. Agree blandly with her, and go your own sweet way regardless.

Pimmmms Sun 18-Sep-16 18:38:33

Oh Lord, sounds like my mother. There's a reason why i moved to the other side of the world......

Pikawhoo Sun 18-Sep-16 18:41:40

The ironic thing is that I have watched her mother (DGM) be absolutely awful to her, and I really think DGM is a toxic parent and a raging narcissist. Having done some family history research I also strongly suspect that that side of the family has had real problems for generations, and that it is to her credit that she has improved massively on her mother's (DGM's) example, which was definitely physically abusive in a minor way but psychologically abusive in a big way -- and DGM had in turn actually improved on her parents' example (they beat her and sexually abused her).

But I genuinely don't think my mum is a toxic parent. I think she is much more like an abused child acting inappropriately because they are mirroring what they have seen, and I also just feel really really sorry for her because she just doesn't understand why she does all this stuff to help and everyone gets mad or doesn't appreciate it!

I've already told her that I think we need some help with our relationship and that I'm happy to see a counsellor with her. She really just doesn't 'get' it.

I've also told her that I'd rather not have her at my house again for the moment, and that if we see her it will be visiting at her place.

AttilaTheMeerkat Sun 18-Sep-16 18:46:15

"Mummy and cherry I really want to make the relationship work well rather than giving up on it, partly because I am a single mum and she is a very important figure in DD's life, and also because I enjoy seeing her when she isn't behaving like this".

Read up on the "sunken costs fallacy" when it comes to relationships (the part about giving up on it made me think of that). I think you also need to widen your own social circle more; you seem very dependent on your mother and she is not the mother you perhaps still want her to be. You are still seeking her approval, approval she will never give you. She is simply undermining you and in turn your child instead.

You cannot make a relationship with someone like your mother work at all because your mother just wants her own way. She sees your opinion as unimportant because she after all in her head knows best. She's been like this your whole life and has not at all altered in terms of personality. Your DD as well as you need emotionally healthy role models, your mother is critical and emotionally unhealthy.

As your DD gets older and answers back your mother may well ramp up the power and control ante on her as well. Even worse she could still use her to get back at you as her own mother.

WhoseBadgerIsThis Sun 18-Sep-16 18:56:48

Mate, you and your daughter deserve so much better than this! She's being horribly abusive to you, and she appears to have conditioned you over the years to think that is something to just be put up with. It's not - you don't have to take shit like that, and your daughter certainly doesn't have to. Your daughter might not be getting the abuse directly, but she certainly will at some point, and even before then she's seeing her mum get abused. Take a step back and think what you'd tell a friend to do in this situation

AttilaTheMeerkat Sun 18-Sep-16 18:58:31


I was not at all surprised to read that her own mother was a toxic parent either. Your mother has simply repeated the cycle; such toxic crap like this can and does go down the generations. Instead of getting the necessary help they repeat the abusive patterns of behaviours down the generations.

To your eternal credit it has stopped with you because you would not dream of ever treating your DD in the ways you were treated by your mother as a child.

Re your comment:-
"But I genuinely don't think my mum is a toxic parent. I think she is much more like an abused child acting inappropriately because they are mirroring what they have seen, and I also just feel really really sorry for her because she just doesn't understand why she does all this stuff to help and everyone gets mad or doesn't appreciate it!"

What sort of parent do you think she is then if not a toxic one. You would not have tolerated any of this from a friend, your mother is truly no different.

You can choose to think that she is not a toxic parent but she is an adult now, not a child. In some ways she is emotionally still stuck at around six years of age and who wants that for a mother? She has basically repeated the same old toxic cycle and damaging lessons she herself learnt with you and your child now in the firing line.

Re your comment:-
"I've already told her that I think we need some help with our relationship and that I'm happy to see a counsellor with her"

NOOOOOOOO!!. Sorry for the caps Pika but entering into joint counselling with your mother is the very very last thing you should be doing!!!. I sincerely hope she turned down your suggestion. You are not at fault here Pika, its your mother's entirely. Its not your fault your mother is like this; her own family did that lot of damage to her and their own parents were themselves abusive as well. No decent counsellor would ever see the two of you in the same room together because of the past abuses and current ways in which you are treated.

If you want to speak to a therapist about your mother then go on your own. You need to talk freely, your mother would make the sessions all about her and you would not get a word in.

I would also only meet your mother in a neutral place if you choose to meet her from now on, certainly not at your home or hers.

Pikawhoo Sun 18-Sep-16 19:04:04

My dad lives abroad.

Yes, I am quite dependent on my mum, and I also place a lot of importance on family (I talk to my DF and DSM frequently too, but they're not geographically close by so we only see each other once or twice a year). My DB travels a lot so my DM is my only family member who lives close by and we both really appreciate each other's company. I do have friends but since we've had families they have other priorities (as do I) and it's just not the same. It does also feel as if being a single parent means I can't join in with their activities as easily; I can tell it makes them feel a bit awkward and I can't afford to split the cost of a cottage etc and go on holiday together. So going to see my mum is like our little break.

I really need to sort this out though.

It''s been a much healthier relationship than this for long stretches and I'd like to get back there because I know it can be, but we're definitely at a low ebb right now.

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