Family Boundaries

My relationship with my mother throughout the years has varied wildly from being great to being estranged. The main problem I have with her is that she doesn’t seem to respect any boundaries for me. Nothing is ever off limits. She also thinks that because she thinks something, it must be true.

We had a run-in this week. She said many unkind things about my husband. Now, he isn’t perfect and six months ago kicked a pretty major drug habit. Since then, he has been a model husband and father. It isn’t easy for me on some days to deal with it, but for the most part, I think our relationship is stronger than ever.

Now, ok, my mother doesn’t like my husband. It is no surprise. She has never liked any of my friends, ever. She didn’t like my husband from the get-go. Now she is ascribing her “intuition” to not like him to his drug usage. The problem is, she didn’t like him before, and many of the things she brings up are just how he is. He is an antisocial hermit. He is a geek that prefers the electronic company of a TV/Computer/Ipod to humans. However, given that, he is a very likable guy. Most people, when they meet him, immediately like him.

My mother said that I took advantage of her. The only thing I ask of my mother is to babysit my daughter on Tuesdays for half a day. She says she does it for herself. It is no bother. She values the time.

So here I sit, with a mother that badmouths my husband AND me. Who accuses me of using her, who I rely on for babysitting. I told her I was uninterested in having her feel that way and that I would find another babysitter for Tuesdays but that she could see my daughter whenever she wanted to, but that I was not going to put myself in a position for her to feel the way she feels. She told me that Tuesday was the only day/time she ever had available and to tell my daughter when she is 18 that her grandmother TRIED to have a relationship with her, but I would not let her.

What would you do if your mother was saying horrible things about your spouse in front of your child? FWIW, my mother said she didn’t say anything bad about my husband and that she would never do that. What I recall her saying about him was “the only reason you have a marriage is because of you.” “He never accomodates you.” “He is selfish and inconsiderate and never considers anyone but himself.” Now, in my book, those are bad things to say about someone. Maybe perhaps I am wrong.

Fellow parental dopers. My daughter is only 9 months old, it terrifies me to think what my mother may say to her about us. She obviously doesn’t respect me enough to hold her boundaries in regards to my husband. How can I have any faith that she will respect those boundaries with my daughter? Do you let your children be around people like that?

My mother lives on a distant planet. I know this. Her reality is not anyone elses. Her most used phrase is that someone was “being mean to her.” You ask her a question and she pretends like you never spoke. It is quite surreal actually. I just don’t know how to deal with this in relation to my child.

The first and formost question in my mind would be: Is your child safe being cared for by your mother? Is this “other world” you speak of actually something that would make you worry that she wouldn’t be attentive enough to prevent your child from bodily injury? Because if she’s not safe - then everything else is moot and you need to find another sitter.

Assuming that your child is safe and it’s just the inflammatory statements your mother comes out with that are the problem: My vote would be to ignore the verbal games and have your mother babysit.

Your child is going to forge relationships with all sorts of people throughout her life. Truth be told - except for her relationship with you - you have no control over any of them. Trying to dictate the terms under which you’ll allow your mother to spend time with your daughter is a can of worms waiting to happen.

If her grannie loves her and the child knows this - then by all means let them establish a relationship and spend time together. If you and your husband have a good, healthy relationship with your daughter, there’s no way your mother’s little jabs will undermine that. When your daughter asks you why Grannie says mean things about Daddy, you’ll be in the position to teaching your daughter a valuable lesson about how people are not 100% good and 100% bad. Nobody is perfect and it can be challenge to accept others warts and all. You could add on and that we love and spend time with Grannie even though she sometimes says things she shouldn’t.

Then your daughter will feel more secure knowing that you will love and support her even if she’s not perfect, too.
The alternative is to have your child ask you why she never sees her Grandmother and for you to tell her that you prevented that because Grannie says mean things about other people - like her mother and father.

Then your daughter will feel less secure because you’ve just told that if she says the wrong thing, you’ll stop talking to her, too.