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Damaging grandparent? What are your thoughts? What to do?(58 Posts)
I am a mum of two girls. They are beautiful beings and I still pinch myself I get to be their Mum. (I've had miscarriages, ectopics, IVF, it was a journey but that's another story!). Needlesstosay, I work hard to be the best mother I can be. I do this by reading, scouring Mumsnet, watching others I admire and following my instinct. I've never posted on Mumsnet myself before but I'm a bit lost and seeking some advice please.
I was raised by my mother who does, in her own way, love me. That said, she has never been nice to me.
My childhood was without connection, we didn't talk, we didn't hug, she was emotionally unavailable, constantly distracted by the 'men' in her life, three long term relationships, all with drink problems. I was terribly neglected and emotionally abused. I was screamed at daily, physically attacked, put down, name called, and ignored, even in my most desperate of moments. I used to take myself off to CAMS as they were the only people I could talk to. She was cruel to the bone. I left at 14 to live with another family member, with little confidence or self esteem. The years 14-18 went past in a shambolic blur of self destruction. At 18 I decided that I would make something of my life and achieve.
I became very successful in work, I married (10+ years in now) and I live a very happy calm, stable life. I have become something of a show pony to my mother now, the source of much pride I am told by others constantly. However, the pattern behind closed doors and on the phone remains. I am her emotional metaphorical punch bag, most of the time.
What is sad and difficult is that she's unaware by in large of her toxicity. She's fragile and emotionally unstable, when low she hates herself but she rarely hates herself. Mostly she is righteous, aggressive, bullying, controlling, forceful and without sympathy or empathy. She is consumed by wanting to dissect the past, to discuss all the problems in others that they can not see, normally mine. She's always trying to diagnose everyone, from my sister and I, to friends, family, famous people. She's like a sudo psychologist.
As a grandmother, she is having her chance to fix history, to an extent. She loves them, hugs them and is warm towards them when she sees them but she finds it hard work and consequently only has them to visit once every couple of months (she lives 30 minutes away) for a day or night. She comes over to us a couple of times a month but it normally always ends in disaster. She does babysit on request sometimes, which we pay for, its expected and needed so we don't resent it.
She is so very easily upset that I usually say something, unwittingly that results in her storming out of the house, in front of the children, often without saying goodbye. Always with hurls of abuse and foul language. If I ask her to leave because her behaviour is poor, she rages further about how I'm 'throwing her out'. She has very limited ability to manage her emotions.
I find her sometimes hard on the children where behaviour and manners are concerned, they're both between 4 & 8. I'm all for raising well rounded children but her inability to see her own dominating and forceful behaviour causes discomfort for me. People are not allowed to discover who they are. They are told who they are. By age five my eldest had been named manipulative, game playing, bullying etc. It makes me die inside. My mum thinks they're the sweetest really but she uses words as weapons to great effect in conflict or as punishment. Her words caused me untold damage so needlesstosay, I'm keen to protect my children from name calling. I always feel guilty for allowing her to upset my children but I suspect most grandparents parent their grandchildren to some extent? By in large she is loving towards them and they her, though my eldest can be wary occasionally. Though my in-laws are loving and would never dream of ignoring our parenting choices (aka, please cut up grapes) or discipling our children (aka, please don't tell my 7 year old she is manipulative).
My grandmother told me in recent years that my mother struggled to accept me as a child because I reminder her of my father. She had me at 20, they were young and dysfunctional, she wanted out, her didn't, it got messy. She cut off all contact, as did he and I grew up without him in my life. (Happily we found one another in my early 20's and my daughters are growing up knowing who he is).
Despite everything, my mother has always had my back, I've always had a roof over my head and she is very dutiful in terms of being there in a crisis, hospital stays etc, but the day to day is hard. The truth is, I get nothing from my relationship with her. Worse still, she brings distress and conflict into my home, frequently.
It's my believe that my Mum has undiagnosed personality disorder, mood disorder, bipolar or other. She has always refused to seek help. It is a belief shared by the wider family. Her siblings too have mental health issues, one of whom is currently in a psychiatric hospital. This is why I've been able to forgive her flaws and keep on trying.
I have long since tried to manage the relationship to ensure the girls are raised with her in their life, whilst also protecting them from her wrath, it is a hard path to navigate. There is no question that she will cause them a level of psychological upset but so too would cutting her out of our lives. There lies the issue.
What do I do?
As things currently stand, she's cut me out of her life. Yesterday. For a comment that upset her. Nothing new. It'll last a week or so and then she carries on like nothing has happened. Allowing this to just carry on year after year just leaves us all open to more hurt, trauma and long lasting damage. But, are my children really at risk? Would I be walking away for me or them if I do? It feels like its what I want right now but I'd feel awful guilt no doubt.
Any advice from people who've been in same boat or similar would be most welcome.
Thanks for taking the time to listen. What a waffle! Apologies!
Stay safe and well. Much gratitude in advance!
Don't let her abuse your children. Read back what you write about your childhood but insert your children's names. It is your duty to protect them. I would cease all contact with her. It doesn't matter what the reason behind her behaviour is: the damage is the same.
I haven’t been through the same, but your mum sounds like she was horrifically abusive to you and is doing the same to your children. The way you’ve written that, it seems like you think the abuse is inevitable so you’re going to do what you can to minimise the impact on your children. It is not inevitable. She is their grandmother, not their mum and she doesn’t need to be in their lives. Lots of children grow up without grandparents and they’re not negatively effected by it. What will affect your children is her controlling and abusive manipulation. She is going to do this to them for all their lives. You had to experience it, but they don’t have to. You don’t have to experience it any longer. You are an adult and can choose who you have in your life. You owe your mum nothing. She might have been young when she had you, but that’s no excuse for what she did to you. She doesn’t deserve any of you.
Read your first paragraph again. That is what being a mum is. You love your children more than anything and would do anything to protect them. Protect them from your mum.
Have you ever had counselling? You may find it helps you come to terms with things and also ease the guilt attached with cutting her out of your life. Have a read of the Stately Homes thread as there are lots of people on here who have been through similar and can point how your upbringing may be impacting your current life. You had the strength to succeed after your childhood so you have the strength to go NC with your mum!
Thank you both. It's so very appreciated to read your views. I think the issue is that 99% of the time, she's loving with the kids. 1% she is not. That 1% bothers me greatly because I know how damaging it can be. But do I deny them the 99%? The 1% is being what I consider to be excessively harsh parenting, chastising and a name being called. Perhaps others might find it alarming but others may not, it's hard to quantify. I find the 1% very troubling and hence my post.
I'm sorry if I'm getting this wrong. I've come to the group because I need the support and perspective I'm clearly lacking in being able to make the call.
Yes, I had two years of counselling. I've spent £1000's on it. It was fantastically freeing and changed my pain. As you can tell, I am free from my mother emotionally. However, to deny my children their gran as she denied me a father is a hard call to make... of course not in the face of emotional abuse but this isn't black and white as above. Or is it?
You know. You're right. It is black and white. I can work on the moments of guilt. I think I feel the guilt because I know her behaviour is largely mental health related and towards me so I've wanted to give it thorough and fair thought.
My girls are too precious for any negativity and I'll walk away. I know its the right thing to do. I don't intend to make an announcement but it will happen. I just needed the confidence. Two replies and I already feel empowered, thank you.
I just wanted to say I'm sorry you drew the short straw in your mother.
I think protecting your children from her is the right thing to do, it's not just the meanness and accusations of unpleasant personality traits but the accepting of nasty behaviour repeatedly that they should not grow up thinking is acceptable.
Also keeping your children from their grandmother is not at all the same as keeping a child from it's parent.
Please don't think you are behaving like her in this at all.
I would let her see the children but always with you there. Never leave her alone with them. Ever.
I don't wish to be rude but you said your mother pseudo arm chair therapist diagnoses everyone but then you've just tried to do the same to her. Please don't associate mental health disorders with abusers, in particular bipolar. Bipolar does not make people abusive or nasty. My sister has it and is nothing like in which you have described your mother.
As for advice OP, I would say you have no obligation to keep her in your life. She has hardly earned the right has she? You even say yourself, the eldest is wary of her. That shows already signs she is having an effect. Please read up on FOG. It will be very insightful. Take back the power and never let her darken your door again. Good luck op you deserve a happy life.
Sounds like your mum is nasty more than 1% of the time but boy she excels at being abusive so I’d ignore her from now on. Too damaging for your kids.
However, to deny my children their gran as she denied me a father is a hard call to make
But you would not be denying your children their gran. By her very own behaviour, SHE is the one who would be denying your children their gran.
Thanks for the additional comments, all really helpful, kind points.
@Opaljewel@opal. I should have given more information, sorry for lack of clarity. As a young child my mum did spend some short time in a psychiatric hospital, once, not long enough for any diagnosis to be made that I'm aware of. Many years later, as an adult and in a fleeting moment, she told me that her doctor had suggested she had bipolar, but she didn't agree and refused any medication/treatment on offer. I forgive much of her behaviour in the face of her probable mental health conditions, not because thats how it manifests in all but because I think mood disorders can affect behaviours. Perhaps thats just my excuse for her, it makes forgiving her easier.
I would look at the “stately homes” thread on here and seriously consider going no contact. You minimise her bad sides (99% to 1? Really?) and she WILL and probably has damaged your children. You are their rock and their model of how they should act and if you accept less than from your mum then they too will grow up accepting less than from her and others.
You’ve done so much work to be the person you are, don’t let it slip now.
At the very least look at grey rock technique... if you can’t go NC.
You and your children are worth it
You sound a lovely mum. Put yourself and your children first..I think you underestimate the damage she is still causing.
I would keep my children away from her. If you want to maintain contact then that is your choice but you know your DC deserve better.
Thanks again, grey rock is interesting, thank you. Stately homes thread, how sad. So many in same boat. She has genuinely got much much better as the years have gone on but, I wouldn't be here if I still wasn't concerned about the behaviours that rear their head from time... I think everyones input is really helpful. Truly, thank you.
Sorry to read this OP.
Personally I think you need to re-frame this decision.
You're talking about it purely from your mother's perspective, that you would stop her having contact with them.
However I think you should be looking at it in terms of acting to prioritise and protect your children's best interests.
This is something your mother failed to do for you and despite your best efforts is still failing to do for her grandchildren.
She may or may not be mentally unwell - I can't possibly say, but she needs to make a choice to get professional help and support in changing her behaviours if she can ever be allowed to have a relationship with your children.
In that sense this is really her decision rather than yours. Get the professional help and have the possibility of being in her grandchildren lives or not.
You don't really have a choice in so far you have to do what's right for your children regardless of the impact on your mother.
Well done OP! Great that you’ve had therapy because that will help you come back to a central point of rationally processing things without falling back into your learned behaviour. Bear in mind that your scale of acceptable behaviour has been set at quite an extreme level. As you grew up with her behaviour you will have processed it as being normal and what was to be expected. I think that how people react coming from an abusive childhood depends to an extent on their personalities. Some may mimic their parent’s behaviour and become abusive themselves. Some will always try to get approval from whoever is the significant person in their lives etc. Everyone starts off as a blank canvass and when we’re young we all react to things in the same way eg we want attention from our “adult”, being shouted at is frightening, we need to feel connected in order to feel secure. If you’re exposed to patterns of abusive behaviour then these start to overlay our instinctive reactions. If we only ever get negative attention from misbehaving, we misbehave because any attention is better than no attention. If you're constantly shouted at, the fright reaction is still there but gets internalised and normalised. If your adult speaks to you in a negative way then that is how you model a familial bond. We all need to have that safety net/connection from our family which is why we still love our parents even when they are complete b*stards. We’re programmed to be in a herd so we keep trying to get connected even when our adult is telling us we’re useless or impossible to love. When we’re young, our worlds are tiny. You have parents, siblings, nursery maybe a few others. These people form the blueprint for all of our future relationships. If one of those people says something or interacts with us then it means a lot and we accept it as being factual. Your mum had called your eldest manipulative, game-playing and bullying by the time she was 5? She may not know the meanings of the words but she will have known they weren’t kind words. She may be thinking “But granny said it, so I must be a bully. She’s an adult so she must know”. What’s your mum’s demeanour when she says these things? Is it calm and thoughtful or spiteful and vicious. How things are said will count. If your girls are used to a calm, gentle atmosphere then someone shouting and yelling is going to be frightening for them. They then have to process that the person frightening them is someone they should love but who is also unkind to them but they have to ignore the screaming because it upsets her and they’re not meant to do that so they’re not allowed to show their own emotions in case it upsets her.
In case you’re wavering, read these comments you wrote about your mum:
she is righteous, aggressive, bullying, controlling, forceful and without sympathy or empathy
Always with hurls of abuse and foul language
inability to see her own dominating and forceful behaviour
she uses words as weapons to great effect in conflict or as punishment
Her words caused me untold damage
I get nothing from my relationship with her...she brings distress and conflict into my home, frequently
Then read these:
They are beautiful beings and I still pinch myself I get to be their Mum
I work hard to be the best mother I can be
At 18 I decided that I would make something of my life and achieve
I live a very happy calm, stable life
My girls are too precious for any negativity and I'll walk away
You’ve got this!! If you want to maintain a relationship then you can dictate its terms. If she breaks the rules then she doesn’t get to see them. Decide what the rules are, tell her and explain what will happen if she doesn’t behave. If she’s not prepared to do that to see her granddaughters then she doesn’t deserve to have a relationship with them.
Can I ask, when you mostly say, reduce/end contact, how do you actually do that? My children will inevitably ask after her, they like seeing her, they love her? I'm still trying to piece all this together.
My dm is eerily similar op.
The short answer is we are nc.
Was the best for my dc and for me. What as best for dm didn't figure in my choices.
Because I can choose not be told what to do anymore..
"There is no question that she will cause them a level of psychological upset"
This on it's own should be enough for you. Why would you willingly impose someone on your children that you know would do this?
I would reduce contact gradually if you feel you need to rather than cutting it off completely. Fill your kids lives (when we can) with people who love them unconditionally and won't make them feel the way you do about your mother.
I've been no contact with my 'd'm for almost 9 years and my dc are now 18 & 20, best thing I ever did for me and my kids. Ill bet you'll be surprised at your girls reaction, kids 'see' more than we think and they'll probably be relieved. Good luck op
Keep your DC away. Don't feel remotely guilty - it may not be DM's fault, but it sure as hell isn't yours.
Don't fuck up and pass damage onto a new generation - that's what she does.
Dh's Mum wasn't as bad as your mother OP, she was emotionaly abusive to him and some physical when very young, but he cut her off the minute he saw her attempting to repeat the EA towards him in front of one of our children. Ds asked about her one time, then said he didn't like going there out of the blue one day. He has no memory of her now he's an adult. None of the other kids knew her, but she did try by sending in the flying monkeys when she knew they were born.
Keep her away from your
They are young enough now to 'adore ' her and be easy to manipulate. As they grow and get opinions of their own or eillsoon change and the abuse will come out.
It is not your place to facilitate a relationship with them for her.
Protect your family that you've worked so hard for.
The stately homes thread has lots of advice and reading around this.
Break the cycle
Don't carry her pain onto your family.
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