Lots of issues with my mother as a child and now I am a mother. I am torn about her interacting with my kids.
Hi. I am a 35 year old happily married mom of 2 small children. I am white,upper middle class,college degree. I have 2 unbelievably great little boys and I am lucky enough to stay home with them. I grew up in a family of 4, with my mom,dad and younger sister. My childhood in my opinion was terrible. I remember feeling sad all the time.We never did anything as a family.We were not allowed to have friends over the house,not allowed to play outside our yard, did not do any outside of school activities (I remember one time bringing mom to a Brownie Scout info meeting). I must have been maybe 8 years old? I remember her listening then raising her hand in the auditoriam when the speaker talked about the moms having to be involved in bake sales,etc ,she started fighting with the speaker that she worked and could not be involved. I recall the woman saying’this isnt a babysitting service lady’ and then we were crying and my mom dragged us out.My moms famous line I will never forget b/c I heard it daily was “I am not going to revolve my life around kids” whenever we would ask to be driven to a friends home or a movie,etc. So we basically until highschool when friends got cars and we had freedom,never got to do anything.I grew up with my mom constantly in fits of rage and yellling/slapping my sister and I over weird things.Yelling if we were sick and coughed “stop that hacking”. Yelling if we were shy and didnt say hi to her friends “you are backwards kids,I am not going to have dumb backwards kids,etc”. I vividly remember at least several times a week crying in my room,when I was young wishing I were dead and then as I got older just waiting to be able to be free and leave. My mother from the time I was 7 years old was having an affair with my dad’s ‘best friend’. I remember being aware of it, her coming home in middle of day from work and locking herself in her room and having basically sexy talk on the phone w/ him for hours, of us not being allowed to answer the phone when it rang, of her telling my dad she had business meeetings and was gone to all hours. My sister and I used to lay outside her door sometimes listening to this and taking notes, I guess as ‘evidence’ for daddy,though we were too scared to ever tell him or show him. We just resented her for it and for this friend who we had to see and his family weekly at church. When we were 13 my dad found out, he apparantly never knew all those years but at some point starting getting our hints (as we got older and angrier I guesss we alluded more to it)and when he sat us down he told us he suspected we knew but was NOT angry w/ us b/c it wasnt a child’s job to know this and tell him.They divorced and he had custody of us,though she had unlimited visitation. The whole time my dad worked a lot and was basically in my opinion completely uninvolved,(he died when I was 18 from cancer). I think he had social anxiey issues,was shy, was removed from a lot,had few friends,just worked and nothing else outside it).After highschool I went to college,supported myself via inheritance from my dad and kept in contact w/ my mom,holidays,etc out of guilt. Now she is in my life. My husband almost can’t believe these stories b/c he only sees this mellow older woman. She comes to my home weekly,she babysits my children,but I find myself still constantly looking at her and listening to her and still angry>Several years ago she apologized but basically said what,are you going to punish me the rest of my life, I know I was wrong,etc… I find I am not sure if I keep her around b/c I feel guilty,sorry for her somehow if I didn’t. She seems nice to my children and doesnt seem the same . I do find sometimes I need to correct her in speaking w/ them on things that i feel could lower their self esteem (like saying you are stinky for a diaper where I just say oh let’s change you,etc.) So I feel I spend my time like a hawk just waiting for her old self to come out. Is it healthy for her to be in my life? Is it ok for my kids? What do I owe her if anything,as a parent if she has seemed to change,is it up to me to move on? Thanks and sorry so long.
A. The real question here is should you trust your mother. You have many years growing up with her to recognize her character, to know her and now that she’s in your life, you spend your time watching her like a hawk while she is around your children. You watch her because you’re afraid she will abuse your children in the manner in which she abused you. Your children are the main concern here. Should you risk your mother’s potentially abusing them at moments when you are not around, when you can’t watch her like a hawk? That is the question you have to answer. In my opinion, I think you know your mother’s character. Yes, she has mellowed with age but she has earned no right to be involved in your life? Your mother was a very poor parent and I am sure you could have listed many more examples beyond the ones you did list. Do you owe her something? Well, lets look at two categories, do you owe her for the good she did you as a child? Yes. Do you owe her for the bad she did you as a child? Yes. So, I think the issue of whether or not you owe her something really becomes a nonissue. The real issue is can you trust her with your children? No one knows for sure. But, then we come to the most important questions, can you risk her hurting your children? I think that’s an easy answer. It’s a very easy question to answer and I think that answer is no, you cannot take the risk of her hurting your children. I would recommend very limited involvement with your mother and the children and only when you are present. I don’t believe that just because she has become a grandmother that she has full “grandmother rights”. I think she should be treated in the manner that she has earned both in the past and in the present. What she has done in the past cannot be ignored, not by a caring, responsible parent such as yourself. Again, it’s a question of potential. Has she changed? Who knows. I guess the more important question is can you risk your children. Can you risk her damaging your children? I think the answer is no. It’s not a risk you can take.
Randle, K. (2005). Lots of issues with my mother as a child and now I am a mother. I am torn about her interacting with my kids.. Psych Central. Retrieved on April 26, 2015, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2005/07/07/lots-of-issues-with-my-mother-as-a-child-and-now-i-am-a-mother-i-am-torn-about-her-interacting-with-my-kids/