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Difficult grandmother

(31 Posts)
sylvie8242 Tue 22-Aug-17 11:45:05

Hi. I would be grateful for some perspective on my mother's behaviour. Context - I have 2 children (3 & 6), am an only child so these are her only grandchildren and my father died two years ago, fairly suddenly but after several years living with cancer. My mum is very negative about her situation. I live 2 hours drive away and she constantly refers to how far it is. My in-laws are only 8 miles from us. This was not a plan, rather when we moved back north it us where my partner found a full time job. My mum visits fortnightly for 2-3 nights for childcare alternated with my MIL. I spent all Easter hols with her, children had a week with her in summer and planned my summer hol so I could return via hers for daughter's birthday together. It is never enough. She is jealous of any time in-laws spend with my children and when they look after them says "I would like to have done that." She visited 3 times in one week for my son's birthday and when I gently declined a visit the following week told me she did not feel welcome in my house. She refers to being on her own all the time. I have suggested GP and for a few weeks she tried antidepressants but prefers to 'soldier on' in her words. She is not warm to my partner, often criticising them to me and quizzes me about them (how often do they speak to their parents on phone etc). I have tried talking to my mum but find it impossible to get her to see my side. I am currently trying to stay calm and a bit more detached but feel on edge and very guilty. I also feel bad for my partner. Any advice?

AttilaTheMeerkat Tue 22-Aug-17 11:55:11

Its not your fault your mother is like this, you did not make her this way. You could give her the moon on a stick and she still would not be happy with her lot. Her actions I think are about wanting power and control.

You have tried and you cannot help anyone who does not want to be helped. So do not continue to run ragged after her. It will also not do your children any favours in the long run either to see their parents being so disrespected by their nan. All you can do is reaffirm your own boundaries here and further raise them. What is your response when she starts on your partner or do you not say anything?. Would you have tolerated this from a friend, no you would not have done. Your mother is no different.

Re all these visits by her to your house, do you invite her or does she really invite her own self here. I would also in future not spend the Easter holidays with her either.

Optimist1 Tue 22-Aug-17 12:42:20

Sounds as though the loss of her DH has left her with no-one except you and your family for socialising, OP. Not a happy state of affairs for any of you!

Instead of focussing on the amount of time she'd like to spend with you, when she next mentions being lonely could you suggest that the two of you investigate things she might like to do local to her home that would help her (book club, volunteering, WI, etc)? You need to dilute her neediness - it'll only get worse if not addressed.

MissBabbs Tue 22-Aug-17 13:10:56

How does she know how often and when the ILs visit. I would avoid telling her.
The situation should change as youngest goes to nursery/ school so don't fall out unnecessarily if things will change in the future anyway. Perhaps some other childcare needed.

StarlightExpress5 Tue 22-Aug-17 13:14:54

You have my sympathies, my DM is very needy and there are 3 of us, must be so hard to be a onelie in this position.

OrlandaFuriosa Tue 22-Aug-17 14:38:47

I completely understand where you're coming from, DM was a bit like this.

But standing back, To give her her due, it's a two hour trip to do childcare for you, if I uunderstand you correctly and although I'm sure she wants to do it, it's tiring, not adult conversation, and two hours back. It may well feel a long way.

She's lonely, still grieving, probably wondering if she gives up the childcare she'll lose you, really needing to be needed, esp if she was the caregiver for your father. I'm not saying she's right in how she expresses this, far from it, but I do think the length of time it takes to get over bereavemenr is often misunderstood when it comes to the career.

Like another pp I wonder if there are things she can get involved in, perhaps with you to begin with? Could you join a Saturday club with her, going alternate Saturdays, or something?

If you think she's depressed, which she well might be, : doctor -pills or counselling, she may well need to talk. And talk. And talk.

Then, cruse, the organisation for widows/widowers, being able to explore your feelings, talking there.

And getting involved with people. She's prob v v lonely, not your fault. If you can help her find a day time voluntary organisation that's crying out for help, that's a good one. Doing something for other people gives meaning to life. Given your DF died of cancer is there a local hospice, or Macmillan? Evenings are tricky and lonely: a choir? Training to be a St John's ambulance person - they are always needed..

We found that if we suggested something it was vetoed. If we told DM that one if her friends was doing x, or that y was mentioned in the newspaper, or even better got one of her friends to mention it, it had a much greater chance of success.

You're not wrong, her demands are too heavy. And she's jealous. But she will need help finding and doing stuff.

sylvie8242 Tue 22-Aug-17 14:52:35

Thank you for your responses. I think you are right OrlandaFuriosa that she feels the children are her link to me. I suspect she feels that when they are with in-laws, she has lost them somehow. She doesn't seem to realise that two sets of grandparents can be loved equally. Probably parenting an only child didn't help with that. And she never had to 'share' with my Dad's family as he was estranged completely from them. Yes,she is very lonely and introductions to clubs via friends sounds good. She likes to have things in the diary so I will plan ahead an activity for a weekend. I have told her that I am not the right audience for criticism of my partner, that they are a loving & responsible parent to our children so really any dislikes are her prerogative but could she grumble to a friend instead. She has improved, but lots of "I don't want to be contriversial...", "I'm biting my tongue..." asides which I now ignore. I agree she is grieving but also that she uses it as an excuse to speak unfiltered. She has always been critical of others (my friends were fat/not as clever as me etc) in a misguided attempt to compliment me. Doesn't seem to realise I would much prefer her to accept my choice of partner and friends to be validated. She is loving and generous to my children and I don't want to fall out. I hope that as children both go to school, we will find a new balance.

thewaitresses Tue 22-Aug-17 15:34:13

Thank you for sharing this sylvie. I needed to read or post something similar to this following another one of 'those' phone calls with my mum this morning.
'Those' phone calls as in the ones I dread as I know I've been busy and I can hear the resentment in her voice when I'm updating her on what we've been doing.
Since May, me, DH and children have taken her on holiday for a week, we've been to stay with her for a weekend, she's been here for 3 nights in the school holidays and is coming to stay for a week when schools go back and yet a crushing remark of this morning's conversation was 'oh so that's three weekends you've spent with DH's family?'
Aarghhhhh!!! It's so infuriating. There are definitely two sides to every story and I'm sure if I were reading a post from my mum's pov then I'd feel terrible however our relationship is suffering as I feel like she has no interest in my life if it's not about time spent with her.

user1499333856 Tue 22-Aug-17 17:45:37

In the same boat here.

We had to conceal our summer holiday with our children from my DM because had she known there would have been fall out.

Mothers like this, in my experience, do not see their children as individuals, rather as extensions of themselves and/or their demands and needs.

The solution is to check what information you share and to hold them at arm's length.
It's the only way to keep your life and sanity.

Good luck OP, it's very hard this one. flowers

sylvie8242 Tue 22-Aug-17 18:00:28

I am learning not to share so much. It goes against the grain as I think it's unreasonable for my Mum to resent another Gran enjoying what she evidently does but guess pragmatism more important than principles! Also starting to realise that protecting my feelings, and therefore my partner/children from my stress and upset is valid. I think not seeing others as separate, independent individuals is absolutely it. At some level my Mum believes her feelings matter more than anyone else's. She is loath to compromise, sees it as a weakness. She agreed to switch childcare dates so my FIL could attend a hospital consultant's appointment, then told me how she regretted it as my Dad never once complained about having cancer and rearranged an appointment to visit me! She refers to my in-laws home town as 'surname world' and says she would never have moved to 'someone else's patch' and that daughters usually live near their mother. The more I write, the more demanding it sounds which is helpful for me to see. I sympathise with the other posters, it is draining. Hopefullu it might make us that bit more empathetic parents to our own children. I aim to be the most chilled and welcoming grandmother, should I get the chance.

user1499333856 Tue 22-Aug-17 18:01:06

@sylvie8242 - would also add that we were also estranged from my father's family when I was growing up. Not all my mum's fault but she was a driving force in it because it suited her at the time. My mother is now very isolated because she never built networks beyond my dad and through me.

You are not responsible for her happiness. She is.

EssentialHummus Tue 22-Aug-17 18:07:03

You could give her the moon on a stick and she still would not be happy with her lot.

Nailed it in one. OP, do what works for you and your own family. If she asks pointed questions about the ILs, your holidays, whatever else, answer factually then change the subject. I'm not sure my DM is at this stage, but I've long tired of her capacity to make everything about her own unhappiness.

user1499333856 Tue 22-Aug-17 18:18:13

The hurtful thing about all of it is becoming aware of how 'motherless' you can feel. The gradual change in dynamic from being the child to becoming their parent. Because that is how this has made me feel. Or with me, the longer term realization of emotional neglect all down the line.

sylvie8242 Tue 22-Aug-17 18:58:16

Tonight's conversation - me sitting down with prosecco after daughter's lovely birthday party. Mum - are you taking antidepressants again? Me - er no, remember I told you at Easter I was feeling much better and had stopped. Mum - I was just asking how you were? Me - well, you could just ask me how I am then. Seems a funny way to ask. Mum - big sulk, tears and 'I'm sick of arguing. I'm just talking to my daughter, my confidante" (Partner upatairs bathing children). Me -I'm not arguing, just saying I would prefer if you just asked me directly how I was. Mum - I just eanted to lead in and tell you I'm not taking pills anymore etc. Maybe I was oversensitive (but is that what you ask after a happy party with daughter in room) but illustrates the waters I have to navigate. I wish my Mum would own her feelings and tell me her pov but she is so defensive and quick to high emotion.

EssentialHummus Tue 22-Aug-17 19:05:10

How it should go, imo:

Mum - I was just asking how you were? Me - Fine thanks, wasn't the weather lovely for the party today? [or something equally innocuous]

Pretend you're dealing with a toddler. Distract, distract, distract. I'm sorry OP, it's rubbish to deal with.

sylvie8242 Tue 22-Aug-17 20:05:48

You are right. Sometimes I get caught off guard and forget!!

thewaitresses Tue 22-Aug-17 20:24:40

Happy birthday to your daughter and I hope you got to enjoy that prosecco! It seems that to your mum, just like mine, small talk and politeness are overrated.

There are some great tips here. I'm going to share less detail, I'm going to plan ahead for things including an itinerary of things we'll do in the week that she's here so it doesn't just feel like a visit to help with childcare but a real holiday, I'm going to message more and phone less so that I can control the information/tone.

Interestingly my mum never had to 'share' us either as my dad is an only child whose parents died young. She has admitted to me in the past that this is a problem for her so it's good that she acknowledges that. However what she can't acknowledge is that because dh's parents are separated (happily so) they are two different families to us so it's not just my parents and dh's parents, it's three sets of parents.

Adviceplease360 Tue 22-Aug-17 20:36:28

It sounds tough but maybe you should be extra kind and love bomb her. She sounds lonely and as you're her only child she just wants to feel wanted

thewaitresses Tue 22-Aug-17 22:04:56

Advice, I've been mulling over the love-bombing. I want to do it. I could do it (and have done with my own children with some success) but am still left with the certainty that this is not the root of our problem/solution. Would love-bombing not just validate my mother's views that she deserves the undivided attention?
Can I illustrate from a recent observation of a friend at her wedding? She spent the morning getting ready with her friends. Her parents were milling around but were mainly helping out at the venue. Neither parent had seen her dress and had a lovely moment when they saw her emerge fully ready to take her to the church. Neither felt left out of their daughter's experience.
My mum would view the same as being excluded. My own wedding morning was very different and spent only with my mum as she'd expressed beforehand how important that was to her and I wanted to accommodate that, and was happy to as it didn't diminish my wedding morning experience, however it still wasn't good enough for her and the day ended with her in tears saying how excluded she'd felt from everything.

User02 Wed 23-Aug-17 01:29:20

Just a thought to put into the thread.
Younger couples have their husband and wife and children. One widowed parent who had a child and a husband is now totally alone as child is grown up in a relationship and with children and the husband/ wife is dead. The younger couples with children are likely to have been together for relatively few years compared to how long the widowed parent was in a relationship with the deceased partner.
It is very hard to be alone after 40 or 50 years of always having an OH.
It was once thecase that daughters stayed close to their own mother for support with children especially when 8 children was about average.
Your mum has lost the other half and you the daughter lives closer to the in laws who see the children more often due to proximity. She will be horribly lonely.
Couples never think of the day that there will only be one left and sometimes even when a person has been ill for years it can be a shock when the end finally comes. 2 years since the death of your father is nothing compared to the time from when your parents met until the death of one.
I know how hurtful the least little thing can be to a person who is so alone. Try maybe to have some sympathy for someone who likely barely knows the time of day because she is so crushed by the sadness of her loss.

OrlandaFuriosa Wed 23-Aug-17 01:49:46

I agree with User02 and tried to express that but,


daughters don't usually end up living near their mum, unless they are the youngest daughter in Victorian tines who has to look after the aged parents. Daughters usually follow their husbands!

She needs boundaries and other things to think about to help her get beyond this stage.

Atenco Wed 23-Aug-17 02:29:42

Well Orlanda and User, as an anthropologist I can say that it depends on the culture whether the daughter follows the husband or stays nears her mother.

It is hard for your mother, OP, but in the end she is the only person who can fix her situation. I think you should continue to be kind and considerate of her but distance yourself emotionally as much as you can. As you are already doing do not permit her to badmouth your partner and just don't tell her about the ILs.

By a stroke of fate I am a lucky grandmother with my dd and dgd living with me but I also have to accept that they could move out at any time and even move across the world. It was ever thus.

AttilaTheMeerkat Wed 23-Aug-17 07:53:26


Your mother's opening gambit of, "are you taking anti depressants again" is not a normal conversational opener in any sense of the word. Its all very dysfunctional.

Its not your fault your mother is like this, you did not cause her to be this way. Her own family of origin did that and I was wondering if you know anything about her own childhood or family background.

Do not love bomb your mother; that will only serve to worsen her already poor behaviours. It won't make you feel any better.

Your mother's waterworks can also be seen as manipulative and designed to make you feel bad. She is alone both through circumstance and choice. Does she have any friends; probably not and there are reasons why that is as well. All she wants is you as her only audience. She does not want to do other things or meet other people. She dislikes your partner. You are her daughter, not her confidant (again another indication to me that her boundaries are well off kilter).

You could try using the "grey rock" technique on your mother. She probably still around the age of six emotionally in an adult's body and if that is indeed the case, that is bad news indeed for you and for your own family unit.

User02 Wed 23-Aug-17 21:36:13

Atenco I said about daughters staying close to mum because that id what I did. My in laws who are a huge number of people also stay around the same area within walking distance. It was just how it all panned out.
Silvie I dont really agree that op should distance herself. It is not op fault that Ddad diednor is it DM fault. MN is very non huggy but it is very hurtful to be pushed away just when you need all the relatives and friends you can find

welshmist Wed 23-Aug-17 21:47:15

We use whats app as a family thing, both sets of grandparents on it so they can see what we are doing if we choose to show it. It shows no favouritism.

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