My Fantastic Mother Annoys The Hell Out Of Me Since I’ve Had Children

106002757I moved last year, and I am living in the same city as my mother for the first time in a decade. We got along fantastic before I had kids. Since the children – and even more so since we’ve lived in the same city – our relationship seems to have devolved into a bicker-fest. I feel like she’s constantly trying to one-up me. I know this sounds ridiculous, just bear with me.

My mother has this way of turning everything about my kids into a competition. It’s like she’s on a constant quest to prove how much better of a mother she is than me. It’s so annoying, and I’m at a loss for how to make it stop.

My son is three-years-old. He can throw an epic tantrum – and does on occasion. It happens at random times. Whenever I pick him up from her house, she makes a point of saying, “He was so good! He didn’t act up at all! He never acts up over here. He’s always so gooooood.” The thing is – no he isn’t. His tantrums are random, and he’s definitely had them around her. I don’t understand her need to make it seem like he only acts up around me. She also has this crazy habit of saying things like, “Oh. He doesn’t want to go home with you. He’s crying. He gets so sad when he has to go home.” What?

She also micromanages absolutely every parenting move I make; Don’t you think you should put a sweater on him? Are you sure he’s ready for milk? I don’t think he wants to nap. Are you sure he should be eating that? He needs to start daycare. He’s ready to go outside. It’s too cold for him to go outside, isn’t it? The list goes on and on and on.

I guess I could have more patience and justify every decision I make with an explanation – but why? Why can’t she just trust that I know what I am doing? Why question every, single thing I do regarding my child? I’m a good mother. My kids are happy and healthy. This makes absolutely no sense.

I tried to ignore it for a while, but honestly it’s negatively affecting our relationship. I try to explain it to her – but she stops for a little while and then just starts up the behavior again. Is this just how grandmothers are? When “mom” becomes “grandma,” does she naturally evolve into a total pain in the ass?

Oh, and God forbid I ever admit to having my hands full.  If I ever dare mention this, it’s always Well, when you all were kids – there were five of you! Can you imagine that? It’s always a competition of hardship. I guess sometimes I just want my mother to acknowledge that I work hard and I’m doing a good job. I want her to trust my decisions instead of second guessing every, single one. I want her to be the supportive mom she was before I had kids. Problem is, I just don’t see that woman returning anytime soon.

(photo: Getty Images)

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  • Bethany Ramos

    Maria, you are not crazy whatsoever. I would have a hard time handling this myself. I don’t have any advice per se because we have a little bit of distance between all of the grandparents and ourselves. If talking to her hasn’t helped… I’m at a loss.

  • Jen

    My Mom is guilty of similar things. When my daughter was younger, she would sometimes stay overnight with my Mom when I had to work late (I was a single parent at the time). Naturally my daughter enjoyed spending time with her grandma, and would sometimes cry when it was time to leave. Instead of saying goodbye and telling my daughter something like “THere’s no need to cry, grandma will see you again soon” my Mom would take this route: “Oh, you are crying because you miss grandma soooo much and you don’t want to go home. I know you will miss grandma when you leave. You should come live with grandma”. W T F! It drove me absolutely nuts. I don’t have any advice other than to maybe tune it out. I don’t know that calling your Mom out will help – in my case it would have exploded into an epic fight. I just wanted to let you know that I feel your pain!

    • Guest

      That would drive my crazy. I’d be like yes, you better cry, because you’re never going to see Grandma again if she keeps this nonsense up everytime we leave. Now tell Grandma to behave.
      So much easier not having children :-P

  • mom21

    She probably loved being a mom and misses it because it made her feel good to be needed. Not that it justifies the behavior but maybe she’s afraid that you don’t need her anymore so she keeps reminding you why, in her mind, you do. It’s annoying and sweet all in one.

    I bet it also has to do with being a little jealous. You are a great writer and have things in your life she likely didn’t have PLUS you are a great mom. She might feel the need to defend herself for something only she is accusing herself of. Be sure to tell her she is an amazing mom but that it’s time for her to be an amazing grandma and let you be the mom now. Maybe distract her next time by pointing out something else she is great at and asking advice about that. (Like “how does your meatloaf come out so tender?” Or “how do you get the car to shine like that?”) Let her know she is valued for so much more than just her parenting.

    • Mel

      Sorry, mom21, but coming up with reasons that justify or explain this away, is not okay. Not only are you minimizing the feelings of the person actually experiencing this, but you’re making it seem like she’s reading or feeling it wrong. This proves that you don’t have a mother who behaves this way, and for that I’m so glad. But no one who really understands would ever suggest that it’s the daughter’s job to make the mother feel better, when it’s the mother’s behavior that is awful!

      I truly doubt you meant to come off that way, and it’s entirely possible that I’m reading you wrong. If so, please forgive me. But, I have to say, that as the daughter of an often cruel and mean-spirited mother, your suggestions of flattering her and making her feel valued when she’s the one devaluing the daughter, really makes me rage-y.

      Again, I’m obviously injecting my own experiences and bias into this, so I know there’s a possibility that I’m overreacting. I also won’t pretend to fully understand the relationship between someone else and their mother!

  • Véronique Houde

    Yup. I know the feeling. My mom’s like that ALL. THE. TiME. If she’s not trying to show us that she knows “better”, she’s trying to compare our children to my sister and I. It’s always, well your daughter is exactly like your sister, and did the same thing. Or “I don’t know where your daughter got that, you guys weren’t like that at all.” If she goes too far, I just tell her “thanks, mom, for that unsollicited advice!” and then move on. She’s getting used to it now ;). OR, if she asks me a stupid question like if she was dressed up warm enough I give her the most ridiculous answer possible, like, no mom, I didn’t put the warm jacket on her, I actually decided to put her spring jacket on. ;). It’s therapeutic for me lol.

    • JLH1986

      ha I would probably recommend that to client’s if talking didn’t work. Because clearly at this point the boundaries being set are being ignored. So, that’s a clever way of making it clear it was silly but without provoking a huge fight.

  • Mel

    OMG, my mother does this to my sister CONSTANTLY. It breaks my heart for Sis and makes me furious at Mother. Sis handles it as graciously as possible, but it hurts her. Mother, unfortunately for everyone, is a Narcissist (literally, it’s not just an expression), so reasoning and/or explaining is always pointless. I’m so very sorry you have to endure this! Not only are you upset about the treatment of you, but you also have to mourn the loss of the good relationship you had with her. Yes, I’m certain you are a wonderful mom! No, having done it before you doesn’t not make her better at it. Yes, you should file these memories away for when/if you become grandma, and make sure you don’t do it. That’s really the only consolation I can think of. You knowing that you won’t do it when you’re in her position. In the meantime, we’re here, so vent away :)

  • allisonjayne

    My mom and mother-in-law both have this weird habit of comparing our kid to us when we were kids, but in this weird way…like, “oh still having sleep troubles? I can’t help with that one, you slept like an angel from day one!” or “yes, she does have a big vocabulary. Not as big as [wife's] at her age though”. Like as though they are complimenting us, but really it comes across as complimenting themselves on how much more awesome they must’ve been as parents.

    • Brittany Anne

      My mom does this too. My eight-month-old still isn’t sleeping through the night. Every time I talk to her, she asks about my son’s sleep habits, then proclaims, “Wow, that’s so strange! You and all your siblings were sleeping through the night by the time you were three months old!” I let it slide because she’s really wonderful in most other respects, and she absolutely adores my son, but damn, the back-handed self-compliments get irritating.

    • Aussiemum

      My mum does this too! And says oh it can’t be that hard, I had 3 kids too you know! Well Mother….. I have 4 and if I remember correctly, I was one of those 3 children of yours and you certainly weren’t a perfect mum! And we certainly weren’t perfect kids!
      I hate when people compare one kid to another. Everyone’s a bloody individual and I’d hate everyone to be clones. Cause I’d fucking hate to be like my mother! Snarky, elitist, judgemental and just a straight out mole is NOT the person I want to be, or like my kids to be!

    • gothicgaelicgirl

      lol luckily my mom is sooo easy going when it comes to the stepkids.
      she even pulls out pictures of me in all my goth make up to show the eldest girl who is developing a rocker style lol

  • CM

    She’s desperate–DESPERATE!!!–to feel needed. Think of her like an over excited golden retriever puppy ready to wet itself every time she sees your son. She misses being a mom, and is over excited to be a grandma, much less a grandma in the same town as her precious grandson. My MIL (and, frankly, my FIL) can be like this. I have to keep reminding myself it’s only because they’re so excited to be grandparents and they want to be involved in every possible moment and every possible decision in their grandkids’ lives. It’s really, really, really not about you and your decisions as a mom. She probably won’t ever admit it, but she knows darn well you’re a great mom. It’s all about her and her need to be valuable as a grandma. She’s looking for your validation of her. She’s that puppy looking for a Scooby treat. At least, that visual helps me when my MIL (and FIL) pull this same crap on me…

    • Maria Guido

      I think it would be more helpful all around if I looked at it this way than as a personal insult – you’re right.

    • JLH1986

      I’m not sure how often the kids see her now, but maybe this could be one of those opportunities where if she truly is feeling needed, maybe mommy and daddy can have date night say, once a month? Even if you just sit at home and eat cheese and crackers and not watch cartoons.

    • Mel

      I’m not sure “feeding the beast” is such a good idea. I have the feeling that this would only reinforce the wrong idea the Maria isn’t as good as grandma, and therefore grandma is needed to come to the rescue. I’ve seen it play out with my Sis and Mother.

    • JLH1986

      True. I would guess it would totally depend on Maria’s relationship with her mom and her mom of course. Some would be perfectly content with that because it shows the “need” others, as you mentioned might not be so ok and it could get worse.

    • Mel

      Absolutely. Could be a great solution for everyone. Especially since kids love grandma and parents love nights off. I’m just wary based on personal experiences.

    • Maria Guido

      She sees them at least FOUR TIMES A WEEK!! And if she doesn’t – I get the major guilt trip. But she’s also a big help while I’m writing so it’s hard to complain about that part.

    • JLH1986

      Oh well hell. I got nothing but a long distance hug. :(

    • Maria Guido


    • CM

      Yep–my parents live right up the street, and my in-laws live less than 15 minutes away. It’s like “Everyone Loves Raymond” crossed with “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” every darn day around here. Competition says more about the person competing. She’s feeling “less than”, so her way of feeling powerful is to make you feel “less than.” After an epic fight with my MIL over parenting, she told me that every time she saw me do things differently than she did it made her feel bad and worry that she had done things “wrong”. That made her upset, and she said if she could make me feel bad about my decisions, maybe her decisions weren’t so bad after all. Classic case of making one person feel “less than” because you’re feeling “less than”… Had to remind her that she did a pretty spectacular job of raising her son, since he was a great husband and father. She just needed the praise. Lots and lots of it. Scooby snacks. Remind your mom that she did a great job with you. And that she’s a great grandma. Maybe she’ll feel less defensive over time. Or, maybe you’ll have a great epic battle like I did–and survive with a great story afterwards…

    • Tinyfaeri

      That’s exactly how I try to look at it with my parents, and to a lesser extent my husband’s parents. Though my daughter does save up tantrums – it’s like she’s fine to play with everyone else, but if she needs something she’ll hold onto it until I’m in the room and then she’s all “You’re back! I’ve been dying for a snack/drink/toy/attention just from you! WAAAAAAA!” … and then they get to feel all smug and I try really hard not to be annoyed at their smugness.

    • Kay_Sue

      I was getting ready to say the same thing–sans golden retriever imagery (which is hilarious).

      I don’t have this problem with my mom, but my grandmother? Holy shit. Drives me batty. And the only way I get through it is remembering that she just needs to feel needed (it also lets me steer things a bit too, if I put forth the effort). I’m going to fix on that golden retriever image next time, though, lol.

  • Leigh

    You have my sympathies. My mom is usually not one to question what I Am doing and does say how great my kids are often. But if I ask for help, or God forbid I even mention that you know “this is hard right now” I get literally yelled at about how “you CHOSE to have x many kids, you made your bed now you have to ly in it” I ‘d prefer she wrote me off and told me how much harder she had it to be honest.

  • rrlo

    That sounds very familiar. A very similar thing happened with me and my mother after my son was born. She used to come over all the time when I was home with the baby and our relationship suffered. And my mother is a wonderful person in general – not a narcissist or selfish person – she just goes a little bonkers around her adorable grandson.
    I have some thoughts for you. First of all, don’t take it personally. Just keep reminding yourself how much she loves your kids. Secondly, if possibly, have an honest conversation with her. I do it with my mom every few months – she needs constant reminding.
    Don’t feel guilty about being pissed off – I know I was always feeling super guilty after a blow up at her.
    Good luck! You’re not a alone!

    • Maria Guido

      I try! She doesn’t hear me – at all.

  • Aimee Beff

    That sounds like it must be super frustrating. :/ My mom’s second-guessing has actually gotten better ex post babies, but that may be because our phone chats are like 1/12 as long before one twin or the other flips out.

  • Ellie

    OH YES….my mom does the EXACT same thing with the “They were perfect with me. Didn’t cry/whine/tantrum/pout/act rudely while you were gone.” Makes me NUTS! And there are constant comparisons to “whey you guys were little.” “No, you guys never ran off on me when we shopped; you guys never had a tantrum in the grocery store; you guys were never anything but perfect freaky Stepford children!” My kids are 4 and 2 and over the course of their young childhoods, my relationship with my mother has deteriorated to nothing. I get so irritated with her judgments, her passive aggressiveness, her inability to offer help (and the “martyr status” she takes on if she ever says yes when I beg for help when I am in a jam). At this point, I am biting my tongue so that my kids can have a relationship with their grandmother. She is shockingly good with them and sweet to them (trust me – the second I catch her doing anything less, she gets the boot). And they love her so I want to preserve that relationship for them. And if i were to confront her, even gently, she would retreat into her passive aggressive cave and never come out. So we are stuck. I am trying SO hard to let things slide but I can honestly say this is one of my biggest challenges – letting go of these frustrations with my mom. I am just so incredibly disappointed b/c when I was growing up, she always talked about how much she was going to help me with grandkids (she is only in her mid-50′s, doesn’t work and is completely capable of helping but chooses to find “excuses” like hair appointments and lunches with friends to not babysit). And now there is this judgmental edge to her…..ARGH! Gotta stop writing about it. Making blood pressure rise with every key stroke!!!!! GOOD LUCK TO ALL YOU LADIES!

  • aCongaLine

    I could have written this about my ILs- specifically my SIL who raised my hubs. It’s like since I had kids, She doesn’t think I can be a functioning adult, and second guesses EVERYTHING I do. She’s turned it into a competition- which is ridiculous. I wish she’d just enjoy my kids when we visit, rather than nitpicking my ability to parent them. It’s exhausting. And it’s completely ruined our relationship.

  • Jallun-Keatres

    Am I the only one in the world whose parents are NOT like this? Neither my mom, nor my MIL, are like this at all.

    • Natasha B

      Nope. When my kids do get to actually spend time with their grandparents, since both sets live some distance and have full, busy lives of their own, we feel pretty lucky. Plus, my MIL adores the crap outta me, and treats me like her daughter, so it’s pretty great. And my mom sometimes has a few zingers, but I bite back and then we’re all good. I’m just grateful to get a break once in awhile!!!!

    • Jallun-Keatres

      My in-laws live two miles up the street and my parents live across town. My MIL is really busy (she has 9 kids!!) so she’s only seen Mini Keatres a few times but I totally trust her judgment because her youngest is 11. I ask my mom/dad to come over all the time, mainly so I can make food and shower and go on my compy without juggling my baby who, until recently, wouldn’t hang out in her bouncy seat. They all just love up on her and laugh at the cute baby stuff she does. XD

    • Natasha B

      That’s kinda how my parents are when they can stop in :) I guess the only family I can complain about is SIL, but she’s just a b*tch so we just don’t hang with them much. Sadly, they’re the closest (in physical distance) family we have.

    • Jallun-Keatres

      The only fam I complain about are my paternal grandpa and his wife. Such stubborn. Much bigot. Wow!

      (thankfully, they’re 8 hours away by car)

    • carosaurusrex

      Best comment. Make nite. Much witty. Wow! :D

    • Kay_Sue

      I don’t know if I count. My mom and mother-in-law are great, but I have a grandmother that I could have written this about…

      But as far as moms? I am gucci.

    • Jallun-Keatres

      Heh, my “step grandma” could be in here, I suppose. Thankfully she lives far away and we don’t get along so we see each other like once every two years.

  • KHS617

    I hope your mom reads this. Maybe reading it will help her understand how hurtful her behavior can be. Both my mom and MIL are annoying as hell but they’ve never implied that my son only misbehaves when I’m around. Or tried to make motherhood a competition. I mean JEEZ that’s pretty hurtful! I’d stop letting her see the grand kids but maybe I’m just malicious. LOL.

  • Obladi Oblada

    If I were a betting woman, I’d say her mother did this to her. (Just a guess based on what I’ve seen in my family. Some of my aunts recognized it and made efforts to stop and some didn’t.) I don’t have any advice but I know how frustrated you must be. Letting it roll off your back can be difficult.

    I know this sounds harsh, but you can always cut visits off or way down. You hold the cards here. Worked with mine.

  • Anthony Davis F/C

    Sometimes, you just gotta punch yo momma in the gut and just walk away

  • Kay_Sue

    I didn’t finish reading the comments (sorry! I’m a little addled today!) so if others have already said this, I’m sorry.

    First, you are perfectly within your rights to be frustrated with her. Your feelings in this situation are valid, regardless.

    Second, she most likely needs to feel needed.

    I don’t have this issue with my mom, but my grandmother that I am close to and who was my childcare for the past several years is exactly like this. Not just with me but with *everyone*–my mom, my sisters, my aunt. All of us. So it isn’t just a kids/no kids things.

    Blowing up at her does not work for us. She winds up internalizing and crying and nothing gets better. I have found it easier to try to steer it as much as I can. I ask for her advice, I ask for her help when I can. I try positive encouragement when she’s following the things we’ve asked (because she is bad about not doing that). And other than that, I usually just stick it out and drive on. It takes a lot of work, because it really does feel personal–when I was younger, especially, I felt like it was because I was a young mom. If you can fix it in your mind that she doesn’t mean it as an insult–because chances are, she doesn’t, she knows how she raised you and thinking you are a lackluster mom would be a direct reflection on her as a mom–it does help to ease the tension. Now, because I am the only one that doesn’t live with her at least part time, I’m the one that winds up taking her out and spending time with her because the rest of the family can’t master this trick.

    It really is tough, and I really really REALLY wish you luck.

    • Guest

      That is a great point- if she really thought you were a terrible mother it would indeed be a direct reflection of her parenting skills. Spot on.

    • Rochelle

      Sounds like you’re raising a good grandma. Maybe you should write a book ;).

    • Kay_Sue

      It’s survival in this case. She’d drive my nuts if I didn’t channel it.

  • guest

    Ugh, I’m going through the bizarro world version of this with my mil. Every time we come around with our daughter she insists on holding her even when my daughter gets upset, says “your daughter is so fussy, and such a terrible sleeper, just like her dad” (she’s not, but my mother in law is just seeing a limited cross section of behavior resulting from over stimulation, being passed around, then having the whole family sit down for dinner right when the baby would rather nap). When we without fail have a baby meltdown, she pleads me to take the baby so she can try to calm her down (standing right in my face while I’m trying to soothe my crying baby, saying “please, please!? Can Gran have a turn??! Me next!!”). When I nurse her to calm her down, she says “well the only reason you can calm her and not me is because you can do THAT.” It is so frustrating.

    I don’t really have any helpful advice but can totally commiserate with you. Our relationship was OK before the baby came but now I dread going to see her because every visit is so stressful. I’m hoping things just naturally settle down as my daughter gets older and the newness wears off, so I can help nurture a relationship between them when she’s actually old enough to enjoy interacting with her grandmother. In my situation and personal experience, my mother in law, though she has faults and is so excited for her first grandkid to the point of losing her shit, hasn’t done anything so heinous to warrant me limiting the relationship they have. I try to keep it in that perspective but it’s hard.

  • BW2

    Does she read your articles? It made me nervous reading this knowing that she could

    • Maria Guido

      Oh God no!

    • Diya Naidu

      I was wondering that too! Haha. I wonder if it might help though. Just for her to hear some of it.

      Hopefully it at least feels good to get it off your chest. I feel for you, I really do!

  • Alfreda Wells Morrissey

    Next time she tells you that he never acts out for her, tell her that children only act out with people they are closest too. When they are at school/daycare they stuff their emotions until they come home to their parents, because they know their parents love them no matter how they act.

    It is actually a compliment that he saves all his emotional baggage for you. It means he is closer to you. When you arrive, he feels safe and that is when the emotion spills forth all over you. It is because you are a good mother. He trusts you. He may not feel safe releasing emotion with your mother. You are his mother and he will always love you more.

    • Cappy

      Good reply! Thanks for explaining this. I babysit my 21 month old Grandson and he honestly is well behaved…only has a few minor tantrums, but when Mom comes he kicks everything in high gear and acts up. I found it perplexing…your reply makes perfect sense. :)

  • Alexandra

    HAHAHA I can’t wait for this from my MIL. She’s the most self-absorbed person ever in the world, you can’t tell ANY story without her saying “oh I know, when I did ‘x,y,z’ it was like this” – literally NEVER can you get a response from her that is along the lines of “wow that must have been really hard for you” or “how interesting I have no experience with that”.
    About to have our first babies and i’m sure i’ll get fun comments like the ones you describe. (She had 4 kids, although she really gave up the parenting, which wasn’t that great to begin with, after 3)
    My stock answer to absolutely EVERYTHING is going to be “yea well you never had to deal with twins, so you CAN’T even imagine.” :)

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