My mother and I don’t get along. I’m a mother too, and in some ways that makes me less tolerant of her behaviour, because I wouldn’t treat my own child the way she treats me: she’s rude, thoughtless, undependable, often in front of my daughter!
On the other hand, now that I’m a mother I almost feel like our roles are reversed and no matter how badly she behaves, I have to watch out for her. I want her to have a relationship with my daughter, but not if she drains my energy, which ends up affecting my daughter negatively. So how do I maintain a relationship with her, along with my sanity?
Andrea: Dear Mommy Not Dearest,
I’d wish you a happy belated Mother’s Day, but it feels like I’d be wishing you “Happy Massive Baggage Day.” The fact is that your mom is your mom. You can’t return her to the manufacturer when she’s defective. So you have to simply forgive and accept her. You can’t expect her to be like you and consistently set yourself up for disappointment.
Don’t put her in positions where she must demonstrate qualities she doesn’t have to succeed. If she’s undependable, don’t make her the babysitter. If she’s rude, don’t introduce her to your boss. If she’s anything like my mom, don’t let her near sharp objects or operate heavy machinery. Instead, set yourself up for good memories. Interact with her in situations where she’s awesome.
She’ll appreciate being less pressured to be something she’s not, and chances are she’ll go out of her way to make your day.
You’ll be a great example for your daughter — seeing you develop a good relationship with mom will allow your daughter to build a great one with her, too.
Claire: Dear Mommy Not Dearest,
You’ve summed up what it is to be an adult: we can see people’s faults as clearly as we can see that we are powerless to change them.
Sucks, doesn’t it? As the saying goes, you can’t change other people, you can only change yourself.
Therefore I suggest: first, be calm.
Second, explain to your mother the main things that bother you about her behaviour.
Third, prepare for her to ignore you.
Remember that these are the issues that psychology/psychiatry are founded on, so the best option is to talk to someone and find coping mechanisms that will help you change your reaction to her, so that her presence doesn’t make you spontaneously combust.
Sometimes altering your behaviour is enough to alter the dynamic between you.
And if not, limit the duration of her visits so that you can put aside your grievances long enough to show your child what she can look forward to dealing with one day ... with you.
Two sisters, 20-something Andrea and 30-something Claire, offer their differing views on your relationship issues. email your questions to the sisters at email@example.com