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Childrearing

Listen To Your Mother — Until She Judges Your Parenting

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The relationship between a mother and daughter can be fraught with complication for a number of reasons. This is never more true than when a daughter becomes a mother herself. Some moms are very supportive when they become grandmothers but some don’t handle it as well. It can be envy, sadness that their own child-bearing years are over or just plain cruelty. No matter the reason, it’s a difficult subject to broach when your mom judges your parenting as this woman writing to Dear Prudence recently discovered:

Dear Prudie, 
I have 5-month-old baby. My mother came to help out when he was born, and my husband and I are grateful to her for that. But we both began to notice while she was here that she would disparage my ability to breast-feed. I didn’t think that much of it, even though my husband felt she wanted to be holding our son more than I did. Now when she visits she routinely says that my son is “making do” with the mother he has, that it’s unfortunate for him that she isn’t around us most of the time. On her last visit she pointed out that she was a stay-at-home mother and I am not, so I need to have more of a routine in order to be a good mother. When she comes, I feel constantly judged, which is making me feel more distant from her. I think that she is jealous that I have a baby because her days of being a young mother are long past. I don’t know if I should bring any of this up to her. She is a very touchy person and I’m not sure it would do any good. How do I deal with this?

—Concerned

Good Lord, this poor woman. First of all, I have trouble relating because my mother and mother-in-law were, thankfully, wonderful when my kids were born and still are. Maybe it’s my Resting Bitch Face, but neither ever dared to openly judge my parenting or undercut my choices. When I worked, they supported me. When I stayed at home, they supported me. I can’t imagine how awful it must feel to have your own mother criticize you during such a sensitive time where you’re taking on a new (and very important) role.

That said, this mom needs to establish boundaries. Badly. Her mother seems far too comfortable imparting her “wisdom” and letting her daughter know that she sees her as an inadequate parent. Even if she truly feels that way, it is not her place to say so. Telling her daughter that her son is “making do” because his mom works? Ouch. That is a terrible thing to say, especially considering it’s patently untrue. Being a working mom doesn’t automatically make you a bad mother and this grandma should know that.

Prudie was pretty harsh on the grandmother and advises keeping distance if she continues her stupid comments, Obviously, I completely agree:

Instead of boasting about what a great mother she was back when, she needs to start being a great mother to you now. If she doesn’t put a lid on it, you will have to put a lid on her visits, and then everyone loses because your son will miss having the close presence of an (appropriately) loving grandmother.

A-freaking-men. As a new mom, you have enough to deal with and that shouldn’t include fielding insults from a close family member while you’re trying your best to care for your child. I am a big believer in keeping toxic people out of your life, even if they do happen to be your parents. I’ve seen it happen to friends of mine where they let their mothers behave this way and if they don’t say anything, obviously the tension and the mean comments escalate to a point where the relationship is beyond repair. This new mom has a chance to fix things before they get too damaged and I hope she takes it. At the heart of it, this grandmother probably loves her grandson very much but if she treats her daughter like garbage, she doesn’t deserve a place in his life. I hope this new mom is able to set limits and let her mother know that her current behavior will never be acceptable.

(Image: GettyImages)

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