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Grandma wants to be called Mommie

Asked by on with 1 answer:

I recently confronted my parents over a issue my wife had with my mother (who watches my 2.5 yr old daughter). My mother allows my daughter to call her “Mom” or “Mommies”, and doesn’t correct her or attempt to correct her. My wife and I are constantly trying to teach her everyones name or title but it seems to get disrupted during the time she spends with grandma uncorrected. My wife stated to me she felt hurt by her daughter calling another women “Mom”. But, it bothered her she doesn’t try to correct her .

Even after my wife had asked her to try and correct my daughter when she called her that. I asked my wife not to make a big deal out of it because I really did not see my mother changing her way. She let it go for a long time. I tried to address it with my mom in a nice way. She stated she had spoke with her friends and they didn’t see it as a problem. We just want them to understand that if WE as THE PARENTS ask them as adults if they can assist us in our teaching that they do not take it personally.

There has been many issues we did not agree with but we have to draw the line somewhere. Recently, I addressed some of those and they were surprised I took sides with my wife. They said we should find other child care arangements and a day later dropped off the car seat and a bag of clothes and toys from their house.

It’s obvious they are hurt and feel they did no wrong. I never said anything about them not seeing their grandkids. Without getting into the other situations how do you reccomend we deal with them from this point on?

Grandma wants to be called Mommie

Answered by on -

A.

This is a tricky situation. It’s clear that you aren’t ungrateful for your mother’s help. It’s clear that you are trying to protect everyone’s feelings. It’s also clear that your folks are well-intended. But well-intended or not, they are putting your new family under unnecessary tension.

First, let’s be clear: It doesn’t matter what your parents think or what your parents’ friends think. What matters is what you and your wife think. Your daughter is YOUR daughter, not your parents’. They had their turn at parenting. Now it’s time for them to Grandparent. It’s a different role.

Further, your wife is correct. It is confusing to a small child to call her grandmother by her mother’s title. Grandma is Grandma. Mom is Mom. Your mother is out of line to try to blur that distinction. My guess is that since your Dad has to live with you mom, he tries to keep peace by backing her. But he’s not doing anyone any favors by doing so. It would be better if he supported his wife by helping her accept her proper role.

I do have to wonder what is going on with your mom that she expects a married son to not back his wife and wants her grandchild to call her mother. I do have some guesses: Could it be that she really does not want to do childcare but can’t bring herself to say so? Maybe she is setting up a situation where you have to fire her and she doesn’t have to quit. Maybe she thinks that your wife has given up her rights to be a parent because she is working instead of doing the daily childcare. If that’s the case, there needs to be a serious discussion about the reality that working doesn’t disqualify a mom from being the mom. Maybe she feels bad about her own parenting and wants another chance to do it right. I have no way of knowing if any of these guesses come clase to the truth or whether it is something else entirely. All I know for sure is that there is something unhealthy going on and you all need to sort it out or risk a sad rift in this family.

Her tactics of leaving off the car seat, etc. is a manipulation that puts you in a no-win situation. If you agree to not leave your daughter with her, you’re the bad guy for taking her granddaughter away. If you take the carseat and stuff back to her house without having it out with her, than you are giving in to her and giving up your authority to decide how your daughter should be raised. Neither choice is acceptable.

What you can do instead is refuse to play the game. For this to work, you need to be your most mature self. Calmly tell your mother that as much as you appreciate her help with your daughter, you can’t accept it on the terms she is
demanding without compromising your own adulthood. (If you are angry or upset when you say this, all she will hear is the anger. Just lay it out as matter of factly as possible.) Let her know that if she can’t keep the boundaries clear when she does childcare, you think it best to make other arrangements. Reassure her that your family will visit often and she’ll get to be a doting grandma. Ask her what name for grandmother she prefers (Nanna? Gram? Granny? Grandma?) and promise her that you will respect that. (And no, she can’t have any variation of mother or her first name). Of course, if she can commit to supporting your and your wife’s wishes, you can try out leaving your daughter with her again. Your job during this conversation is to stay clear and firm while at the same time being as kind as you know how to be.

Either she will continue her boycott, in which case give her lots of opportunities to see all of you – but get yourself another babysitter. Or she will accept your terms and do a more respectful job while doing childcare. Hopefully, with time, she’ll decide that being Grandma is a fine thing to be.

Dr. Marie

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Grandma wants to be called Mommie

This article has been updated from the original version, which was originally published here on April 30, 2006.

Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

Dr. Marie is licensed as both a psychologist and marriage and family counselor. She specializes in couples and family therapy and parent education. Follow her on Facebook or Twitter.

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2019). Grandma wants to be called Mommie. Psych Central. Retrieved on August 17, 2019, from https://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2017/04/30/grandma-wants-to-be-called-mommie/
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 3 May 2019
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 3 May 2019
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