Friday, 4 December 2009

It's not the mother-in-law I'm worried about....

Ok, so this is a bit of a personal issue I have, but I'm going to talk about it anyway because I need some thoughts on it from others (and neither the mother-in-law or mother will read this, I hope).

It's my mother.

I thought that, when your daughter has a baby, your mother would be the most wonderful person on Earth. Well, it turns out that she still as no interest in my baby JJ. Part of me wants to provide lots of reasons, no, excuses, why she is like this and the other part of me just wants to shout at her. He's the story...

Alright, let's be personal here, my Dad died of cancer over a year and a half ago. I became pregnant soon after because, well, we really weren't thinking about getting pregnant then and it just kind of happenned. Great news, I though Mother would be really pleased and glad that something would take her mind off losing her beloved. No. She was pretty disinterested from the start. My sister-in-law was also pregnant, 2 months ahead with her second, and she was more concerned about her it seemed. I don't mean to come across as jealous, I really wasn't, but my Mother seemed to have let me down. I wanted support, I wanted emotional support and advice. All she gave me was the guilt-trip that I wasn't spending enough time with her or phoning her enough (hold on, really pregnant and holding down a stressful head of department teaching job does not equal enough time for the husband, let alone anyone else!). I could have screamed!

She was on holiday when I gave birth - she had actually asked me in advance whether she should go, but I gave birth early so it was just bad timing. She was excited at the start but kept away. Now, I'm not a shrinking violet when it comes to my thoughts about how I want to live my life and bring up my children, so I guess my Mother didn't want to interfere in case she got both barrels, so to speak. I can see that maybe I wasn't the most stable of people after giving birth (who is?!) but I remember her coming to visit sometime in the first week and asking whether I had the 'baby blues' and I promptly cried in front of her (cardinal sin). I thought the balance would shift and she'd take over, give me that emotional support, but she didn't. There, there, was all I got.

Moving forward 8 months to today - she has just looked after JJ this afternoon for 1 1/2 hours for the FIRST TIME since he was born. Ok, she has taken him for a walk once before for half an hour, but nothing since then. She hasn't even offered. I would have muscled in with my daughter and sent her off shopping or to have her hair done or something. Do I sound callous and unforgiving? Should I be grateful I have a Mother that I see every few weeks, if I'm lucky, even though she lives 20 mins away?

I have spoken to a number of friends about this and they say I should confront her about it. About the lack of interest - she will literally come for a visit, make me get the coffee whilst she parks herself in her 'chair' and updates me on her social life. She doesn't even pick up JJ unless I give him to her. Then she recoils when he squirms (which is about every other second) and passes him back to me. Heaven forbid it she should actually get down on the floor and interact with him. Aaaarrrgggghhhhh............. How was I entertained when little?

Well, the answer to that was that our Grandmother (Mother's mum) lived with us and I think probably took care of us most of the time. Maybe Mother isn't maternal? She doesn't seem to have the genes for it.

The title refers to my Mother-in-law. Now, she's a different kettle of fish. Ok, so she has 2 other grandchildren she's practiced on as they live nearby. But MIL actually plays with JJ and makes him laugh and gives him bottles/feeds him without me having to ask. We have left him with them on numerous occasions when visiting so we can actually get some time out together. Mother recently cancelled a babysitting session (on M's birthday in a few weeks) because she 'forgot' about a carol service she wanted to go to. Aaaaaarrrrggggghhhhh. MIL would jump at the opportunity to babysit, if only she didn't live in Devon!

I'm stuck with a dilemma. Mother is suppossed to be looking after JJ for 1 day a week when I go back to work. She doesn't even know him. She has no idea about his routine or how advance he has become. She never asks. But if I confront her (and I'll go both barrels) it will destroy this arrangement I'm sure.

So, we've arranged for some 'visiting' sessions at her house (I have to book these in weeks in advance because of her busy schedule! Ha!) for her to get used to him. I'm going to write EVERYTHING down about his routine and feeding etc. I'm looking into playgroups she can take him to in her area. What else can I do to ensure it works? I can't change her genes.... (unless science has advanced gene therapy to include the introduction of maternal genes that is).

Answers on a postcard.


  1. Oh dear, I really feel for you. My mother lives in Devon, 150miles away. She adores Star, but has no time for me and since he was born regularly criticises my parenting skills. I know it's a different problem but I know there would be no benefit in 'having it out with her'. We have never been close and we are both pretty entrenched in our views. So I just try and ignore it. I don't have any expectations and then I can't be disappointed.

    I think your plans about visiting sessions, writing everything down and a local playgroup is about all you can do. You might even find that without you around your mum is more relaxed and hand on with him anyway. And you know what... it's only one day a week and he'll be fine whatever. Try not to worry x

  2. The answer is this: DO NOT RELY ON YOUR MOTHER TO BABYSIT. Get a good childminder or engage the nursery for another day. Believe me, from experience, you may not get any money from going back to work this way, but it will be more than worth it for the lack of stress and aggravation.
    I have similar things going on but I'll tell you as my entire family read my blog!

  3. This is very interesting. I can relate to a lot of it but don't want to disclose to much in a comment. It would be nice if she spent time with JJ, she may learn to really love him. That seemed to happen with my mother and my daughter (now aged 6). It took about 2 years for their relationship to develop.
    I think the mother-daughter relationship is a very complex one and it changes when we become mothers ourselves. My mother backed off to and was unsupportive. She is a little better now but it's been hard and I've taken it personally so I know how you feel.
    If she was able to look and care for you propoerly then she sould manage with JJ.
    Sometimes it's helpful to discuss these things with a professional so they can help untangle it all if it is bothering you tht much.

  4. Wow, your story sounds very like my own, just in my case it's my dad who doesn't show any interest. Well, he'd never have been a candidate for looking after my daughter, but still. I've been hurt, desperate when I really needed a break and now I try to accept it. I'm an only child, my daughter is his only grandchild, he doesn't want to visit at all (it involves a flight) and if I visit, we are a burden. He has only once taken her on a walk without me (in almost 3 years). And yes, my in laws are both fabulous too, which makes it all the harder.

    I'm not sure if your arrangement will work. I guess it might be good to try a day to see how it goes but to be open to alternative arrangements. My dad hasn't changed with all my effort, that doesn't mean your mum won't of course.

  5. Oh hon. That sucks. And I've been there. But I gave up. My Mum just didn't care and wasn't interested in my second child and this has lasted even though he is now 7, and i don't understand and wish I did. But I can't talk to her about it, because, of course, she never does anything wrong, ever, and must never be told if she does..ever. Sigh. You are going about it the right way - write down days worth of activities, for each hour, maybe even, if you are worried about her not doing things, provide her with a camera to record 'all the moments you will miss each day' most of the day playgroups are a brilliant idea. so are routines and lots of toys. and regular long walks maybe. At least it is only one day. *hopes for the best* or maybe find a Uni student/babysitter/nanny who can help her out in afternoons for the first while? "to make it easier on her"? good luck.

  6. wow, thanks to all of you for your comments, it's so nice to realise you are not alone with problems such as this.
    I have taken on board your comments and think that things 'will be alright' and I'll have to be brave and give it a go. Some of her friends are coming to help her in the early days she tells me - phew, some advice which isn't coming from me could be a godsend. And I'm sure they'll give her ideas on what to do as they all have grandchildren too.
    Rosiescribble, you are right in saying mother-daughter rel's are complex and now being a mother myself brings a whole new dimension.
    Thanks you, thank you, thank you all for your comments!! :)