Dear Amy: When I got married almost three years ago, my parents were less than supportive. Basically, they do not approve of my husband, and (despite his efforts to provide for our family) they probably never will.
I became pregnant with my parents’ first grandchild. I was excited and told my mother right away. Her reaction was to say, “Well, I really hope you aren’t.” That shocked me to my core. I eventually let go of that hurt.
When my son was born, my mother didn’t come to visit until my son was almost 2 weeks old, and she only stayed for two days.
I try not to judge my own mother against my mother-in-law, but my mother-in-law has been an absolute angel. I feel fully supported and appreciate her hands-on help.
I recently found out that we’re expecting our second child.
I told my mother right away, hoping that with almost three years of marriage under my belt she might be at least a little joyful, but again, no excitement, no smile or hug or any other sort of positive reaction. Am I hoping for too much from her? How should I address my needs, or should I just let it go? If it weren’t for my mother-in-law, I’d be at a total loss for any parental support in my life.
Hopeful in the Midwest
Dear Hopeful: At this point you should assume that your mother’s reaction has everything to do with her, and very little to do with you.
You might gain some insight by communicating -- not about your goals and your disappointment in her, but about her own life. She may have been ambivalent about her own abilities as a mother. Start by saying, “Mom, your reaction to my pregnancies has been less than enthusiastic. Are you worried about me as a mother? Are you worried about you as a grandmother?”
The more you understand about her, the less surprised you will be by her reactions.
Ultimately you will have to accept your mother’s deficits and raise your children joyfully with people who are open and loving toward them. Unfortunately your mother might not ever get there, and, yes, then it will be time to let it go.
My mother was bipolar and this behavior was how her mental illness manifested, so sitting down calmly and reasoning did no good. She was unwilling to get help, until legal action was threatened by her landlord, whom she verbally threatened.
It took until her 70s to get help and now, in her 80s and with proper medication, she is able to have relationships she couldn’t have before.
If the mom won’t get help, the husband and kids should leave. I wish that every time my father threatened to take us and leave, he had followed through.
Dear Been There: This is a devastating account of what it is like for a spouse and children to live in a household with an abuser. There are many reasons people become abusive, but the point I want to emphasize (and the point you raise so well) is that parents must protect their children. I hope the man who described himself as “Stuck” in a family with a verbally abusive spouse is inspired to act on behalf of himself and his children.
Dear Understanding: “Just a Girl...” didn’t describe feeling uncomfortable interacting with co-workers, but she did express with frankness that she simply isn’t interested in them.