Mother issues.

This afternoon, we went to visit my mom and stepdad to celebrate my stepdad’s birthday.   Soon after we arrived, my mom said to my wife “we’re so used to having J around now that we tidy everything that she might get into away before she comes”. This is one of many statements my mom has made lately that are very clearly meant to assure us of her exemplary grandmotherly-ness and of J’s hypothetical safety if we do eventually leave her with them.

Which we haven’t done. We’ve never left J with anyone for more than 1/2 an hour. Why? Well, in the beginning it was definitely us being overprotective. But for the last year, we’ve mostly really wanted to. So why haven’t we? Because I don’t trust the person who most wants us to leave J with her (my mom), and I feel too guilty asking someone else to babysit J when I won’t leave her with her own grandma.

My mom loves J. So much. It isn’t that I don’t trust her intentions, which is what I feebly said when she accused me of not trusting her. I know she’d never hurt J on purpose. But what went mostly unspoken was what I don’t trust: her judgment. And in the event of her poor judgement leading to some awful place, her honesty. If J, for example, hit her head while my mom was taking care of her, I don’t 100% trust that she’d tell me, because she hates being blamed for anything so much that she can never accept responsibility. Which wouldn’t be as huge of a problem, except…

Except that when J was 3 months old, I specifically asked my mom if I could leave J with her for a minute while I left the room (everyone else in the room was a child). A minute later, I saw my mom leave that room, and when I went to see what was going on, J was alone, on a waist-height bed. When I confronted my mom, she said that she asked J’s ten year old cousin to watch her and that she should have known better, and when that answer didn’t fly, that I should have specifically told her (my mom) not to leave J with the kids.

Except when J was about 7 months old, and my mom was alone with her on her second floor balcony, my mom dangled her over the balcony to “show her to the neighbour”. Half an hour before that happened, my mom had complained of being so dizzy that she couldn’t stand up.

Except that I routinely find prescription medicine pills that have been dropped on the floors at their house, and when I mentioned that as a safety issue, my mom angrily responded that her home is so much cleaner than mine (true, but I don’t leave pharmaceuticals on my floor).

Except today I discovered a bottle of super strength cleaning product WITH NO CAP ON, AT FLOOR LEVEL in the “baby proofed house”. And when I freaked out about it, all she said was that she didn’t think that J could have got to it.

I’ve felt sick about it ever since. I feel super stressed that J could have perhaps taken a slug of cleaning liquid, bad about the fact that I’m always making my (unwell and depressed) mom feel bad, angry that she’s so undependable in so many ways, and on a pettier level, increasingly frustrated that this dynamic is getting in the way of D and I from having a date night. Or a date morning. A date anything that doesn’t have a pit.

Nothing will make my mom change. Even the prospect of spending more time with her granddaughter, which is probably very high on her list (though at this time, I think it’s equal parts desire and power struggle). So where do I go from here? What would you do, internet friends?

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13 thoughts on “Mother issues.

  1. That’s a tough one. I mean, at 2 j is more likely to make a mess with the cleaner than drink it, but she could eat a pill. And is mom sober enough to watch the kid if she’s taking pills to the point of not noticing when she drops one on the floor? That being said, it might be worth a shot to have her watch j at your house, maybe with step dad assuming he’s more stable? Or over nap time/after bedtime? I might try to make something happen, since soon you’ll be starting all over with a newborn, and it might be nice to have a moment alone before the baby whirlwind hits you again. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh, my mom doesn’t take anything mind-altering – she’s just not that careful and if she drops a pill then that’s more than likely where it stays. I think having her watch J at our place with my step dad is probably the okay-est plan, since he’s more trustworthy (though equally impractical).

      Absolutely to the wanting a moment alone before the baby whirlwind. I can’t imagine going another two years without having a bit of adults-alone-in-the-world time.

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  2. A date that doesn’t have a pit! Bahahahaha! I am stifling laughter because my mom would think I’m crazy.

    I think you are right to not trust your mom. And your guilt over not trusting her would be nothing compared to the guilt if something happened to J.

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  3. I agree with the above commenter–if you are genuinely worried about safety, don’t do it. But what’s your plan for the birth? Is J going to be left with a sitter/family member? Better to do a practice run with someone before the stakes rise.

    You could do what our babysitting co-op calls a “monitor sit.” Kid in bed before your mother arrives (or put her to bed at your mother’s house) and specific instructions about what to do if kiddo wakes up. Doesn’t solve the quality time issue, but it does get you a date night.

    For quality time, what about a work from home/mother’s helper situation–you do work or chores or, heck, just hide out and read while your mom plays with J.

    I think the proposal above also makes sense. Although there’s a small part of me whispering “nanny cam” in my ear.

    My blog self would be brave and lay out the concerns before granting increasing levels of responsibility, i.e., “you, mom, need to earn my trust before I will feel comfortable giving you the freedom you want.” Real life me would continue to avoid the issue entirely and find excuses not to leave J with Mom. But eventually I would let someone else watch the kid–two years is too long to go without a date!

    Do you have a local library or something that does storytime/structured play that your mother could take J to? Library in particular–ours has reading nooks and toys so is a perfect controlled space.

    Good luck–this is hard!

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    • The revised plan for J’s care during the birth is that D’s parents will be staying in our home and caring for J, with my parents as backup/help. I completely trust my in-laws, who don’t share a lot of our values but are very respectful of our parenting choices and generally just very dependable people.

      If I thought it’d actually change anything, I’d totally give my mom such an ultimatum – unfortunately, I just don’t think she can change/do the things I need her to do, and though I love her, I just don’t totally trust her. But I think leaving my mom and my stepdad with J at our place – or the library, good idea – would work. Or maybe we should just leave J with my sister or our good friends and deal with my mom’s hurt feelings when she finds out (she often asks me if we “still haven’t left J with anyone yet”, so I’m sure it’ll come out if we do, unless I lie).

      But yes – two years is far too long without a date. The prospect of two more is terrifying.

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  4. This is a tough situation… My situation with my mom is similar in some ways. My mom loves Avery to the moon and back, but she also isn’t physically capable of carting around a 24lb baby. I don’t feel safe letting her go up the stairs with her. My mom is also a little slower to notice when Avery gets into something (my hawk eye is better trained to spot the dangers now). My solution was to only leave them in MY house, which I had carefully baby proofed to my own standards. And only for a couple of hours, after her diaper had been changed so my mom wouldn’t try to do the stairs. I would never feel safe leaving her at my mom’s place, even though my mom would love that. Maybe you could try to letting your mom watch her in your house? Also, do you have another adult in you and your mom’s life who could co-babysit? I always feel better when my dad is there too because even though Avery doesn’t know him as well, he can step in to help physically when my mom can’t do something.

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    • My mom has health problems and can’t lift J either, which is one of the reasons I’ve used for not letting her care for J alone. I think I’d be okay with leaving J with my mom, at our house, if my stepdad were present.

      I think the danger-danger hawk eye is something that just happens when you have a baby – and unfortunately something that you lose as they grow. It’s a pretty cool superpower, and I wish all grandparents had it as well!

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  5. grk says:

    1. YOUR HOUSE is safer for baby and all the things are there and baby is familiar with location. 2. A friend not your mom. Does not need to be discussed or told to mom; best if friend is also a parent and you can swap children. OR “J’s cousin’s mother” IF she is safe person who parents in your style.
    3. Grandparent’s feeling may get hurt, grandparents recover ~ injured child may not.
    I am grand parent……. I do child care at my grands homes. I follow the house rules!

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    • Thanks for your perspective. My sister would love to babysit J (especially because I did heaps of free childcare for her when her kiddo was younger) and I’d love to let her but have been stalling because I know how much it’d upset my mom. I think I might get my mom and stepdad to do a short, daytime, in-our-home babysitting session, and then take my sister up on her offer later for what will likely be a more relaxing break.

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  6. We, too, have a similar problem. My mom cannot seem to handle the “gear.” It’s like she’s lost the logical portion of her mind that figures stuff out. For example, collapsing and setting up strollers. We have 3 – she can’t seem to get any of them figured out, and she ends up really banging them up on the pavement as she tries. Also, carseats – I found my daughter with one buckle completely twisted up, one buckle not even fastened into the crotch piece, and the chest clip at her belly button. It is SO hard to try and educate/reprimand your parent for endangering your child. My mom watches my daughter on Wednesdays, and every week I worry. I keep wondering if she’ll get better at it? And I also fear that she’ll only get worse. It’s sad, frustrating, and scary.

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    • I’m sorry you’re dealing with this kind of thing, too. I can totally imagine my mom having the same problems with the gear based on some of the things she’s done – I sometimes wonder how I made it through childhood, but I think that maybe she just isn’t as onto it as she was 30-something years ago. And you’re right, it is so difficult of being in the position of educating/reprimanding your parents about things like this, especially because they love us and our kids and no one likes hearing that they’ve done something dangerous with someone they love. I hope it does get better with your mom – I’m sure some new parents are totally clueless with the gear and then get used to it, so maybe with time it’ll become routine for her.

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  7. I could have written this post regarding my in-laws who do take the children more than I am comfortable with, but that’s a lot of me simply not wanting them around, not necessarily for safety reasons. I think we’re more comfortable with the safety issue because the older two both know the proper rules and are giant tattle-tales so they wouldn’t sneak much by us. 😉

    I would definitely do several trial runs, and one easy way to sort of avoid hurt feelings may be to ask your sister to come over while they babysit either at your house or theirs and that gives you the set of eyes you’d want, you know? A lot of times, I think grandparents are worried to make a mistake in front of their children and they tense and become sort of clumsy, so maybe not having you guys there for a few hours but having your sister there could ease it off. And if it went well, you may feel better about having them come to your house for am evening watch (while she sleeps) and if your sister is like, wow, no that was bad, you can use that to say: look, let’s work together to get better because I want to trust you but this isn’t a personal bias, sister saw it as well.

    That would be my advice. I hope it works out however because it’s a lot to be “on” while parenting for so long without a proper break and it wears down and a new baby will exacerbate that so I hope you can all find something that works and soon. 🙂

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    • Yeah, the fact that J is now starting to tell us what has happened in our absence if one of us has been away makes me feel much better about leaving her! I know in not very long she’ll be giving us even more detailed reports.

      Thanks for weighing in with advice – it sounds like a great plan, except that my mom and (step)sister don’t get along well and even asking my sister to be present would piss my mom off mightily. I think I might try a short trial of leaving J with my mom and stepdad at our place, and then also ask my sister to take J so that Di and I can have a date where we aren’t quite so anxious to get home. Honestly I think that once we agree to actually let my mom babysit, her desire to actually do so will decrease, and then we can get other people to babysit without me feeling so guilty. And I mean, even a two hour daytime date would be wonderful. The thought of the newbie arriving without having even done that is a little scary…

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