Friday, May 6, 2011

Reluctant Grandmother

Dear Jocelyn, 
I feel bad about asking my mom for help in any way. I work a part time job at my office and work at home the rest of the day while I take care of my two toddlers, one is 18 months and the other one is almost 3 years. My sisters and mom live in the same area and my mom takes care of my 8 year old niece from Monday till Friday because my sister works full time. But whenever I ask my mom to watch out for my children even for a little while she complains and it makes me feel really bad, because the way she expresses herself seems like my children are a burden. I recall she wasn’t very enthusiastic about taking care of us when we were kids. Besides that, she constantly complains about feeling tired for cooking, cleaning the house, arguing with her husband, etc. What I can’t understand is why she is so negative and hurtful. Once she even said my niece and her husband ruined her life. They are both wonderful persons, and although I am aware of how hard it can be sometimes taking care of others and how tired it can get, I feel there is no excuse for being so cruel. The hardest part is not being able to tell her anything because she is very insensitive and I feel like I have no way to approach her without being humiliated. It’s amazing that I am telling you this when I’m already 33 years old, but I still wish I could have a happy, loving and unconditional relationship with her. What do you recommend?


Dear Tired,
While many women speak of being a grandmother in glowing terms, your mother seems to resent her role.  In fact, she seems to resent many things!  You said she not only complains of taking care of children and grandchildren, but also of household chores and even her own husband.  It would appear your mother focuses on the negative aspects of life.  You, on the other hand, seem to relish the joyful moments and delight in your family.

You stated a desire to have a happy, loving, and unconditional relationship with your mother.  I wish I could tell you that was possible, but it simply isn't without some sort of change on the part of your mother.  You have the option of approaching her and telling her what you wrote to me (in different words, of course); however, you also said you didn't feel you could approach her without being humiliated.  Your best option at this point is to distance yourself from the relationship.  If she complains of not seeing you or the children, simply remind her of her complaints about taking care of the children, and say you do not wish to be where you are not wanted.

On a side note, I am not simply recommending this for your sake.  Children are more perceptive than they appear, and your children are coming to the age where Grandma's sighs and complaints might affect them.  If your mother said that your niece ruined her life, imagine what she might say about your children?  Imagine the damage it could do to them to hear their grandmother say something like that within earshot.  It is not just yourself you are protecting from this woman; it is your children as well.

Please find someone who will enjoy the gift of children with you.  Plug into your community (religious or otherwise).  Seek out an older woman you can learn from, and who might be a sort of "adopted" grandmother to your children.  You might look into even visiting a nursing home on a regular basis - it would be a delight to the residents there to see such beautiful children, and it could do wonders to your family to be appreciated instead of viewed as a burden.


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