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Dr. Z
Dr. Z, Psychologist
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 10643
Experience:  Psy.D. in Clinical Forensic Psychology with a background in treating severe mental illnesses.
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I would like advice on what to say to my Mother, who gets

Customer Question

Hello! I would like advice on what to say to my Mother, who gets very upset with me if I do not do things her way. I am an adult, with my own child, and since she is a Grandma now, often she uses things related to my son (like if she can't see him one day) to set fuel to the fire. My mother was going to watch my son while I ran some errands, but in the end I told her I was going to take him with me (I had seen her the day before and she was on a complete “poor me “ rampage, so I decided it was best she not watch my son). She now has sent me a long text about how my reluctance in leaving my son with her leads her to believe I doubt her ability to care for him properly (I have left him with her at least 20 times to be babysat). “I feel as though my rights and privileges as a grandmother are not respected, my soul and spirit are crushed Desiree and my heart broken. I feel that it is best that if I just detach myself in order to protect myself from anymore hurt.”
How do I reply to that?
Submitted: 2 years ago.
Category: Mental Health
Expert:  Dr. Z replied 2 years ago.
This website DOES NOT constitute treatment and only provides information and advice. For treatment (therapy and/or medications) you must go to a licensed professional in your area. Please note that anything said here is not private or confidential, as this is a public forum.
Hello, I believe I may be able to help you with your concern. I am sorry that you are having this issue with your mother, I can understand how distressing this can possibly be for you. I would like to ask you a couple questions to get a better idea of your situation so that I can better assist you.
1. Your mother stated that she wants to detach in order to protect herself, I am assuming this means she wants to put up barriers and space between you two. If she is being this dramatic, wouldn't having space be a good thing? Or does your mother say this frequently only to cause you guilt, and she never actually detaches?
2. Has your mother been acting like this since you have had the child, or is this a more recent issue?
3. When you suggested she see someone, I am assuming a psychologist/therapist, how did she respond to that?
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
thanks for your reply. here are the further details you requested:
1.She often says similar things to guilt trip, such as "I am just going to move away", on countless occasions. I am certain she is just being overdramtic for the effect. Yes, space would be a good thing! however, since she sent me this via text (ugh so impersonal), I feel like I must answer something, to acknowledge her message. If I don't acknowledge, she will accuse me of not caring, and if I do she will use what I say to add more ammunition.
2. My mother has been acting like this for years and years, at least since I was a teenager. If I don't agree with her, or do things her way, she guilt trips me. For example my parents are divorced, and my mother always wants me to spend christmas with her, if not, she gets upset and states comments like how she will just move away. And many other similar instances.
3.I did mean she should see a psychologist/ therapist, but when speaking to her I believe I said she should try and consult someone who could help her manage her stress better. I knew using psychologist / therapist would really get her up. How she reacted, well she was not open to the idea and clammed up. She called me abusive and cold and mentionned how could I say that to her, she is my mother not some friend or colleague (not really pertinent but that's what she said).
Expert:  Dr. Z replied 2 years ago.
Thank you for your responses as it helps me to better understand your situation. So for the immediate response to your mother's text message you should probably write that in no way are you doubting her abilities to care for her grandson and that you only changed your mind because you wanted your son to be there while you ran errands...the decision was not made to spite your mother. Also mention that you have had her watch her grandson on multiple occasions without any issues being raised. But be prepared that anything you say may never be good enough for your mother as she may still try to cause you guilt and grief, but hopefully this will at least keep her at bay in the meantime.
As for a long-term solution, you may be right that your mother has Narcissistic or possibly Histrionic personality traits given the behavior you described. I think you should strongly try to set a schedule with your mother, if you can, where she can watch your son on set days and times. This way you both get into a routine which can help to minimize her pushiness and guilt trips. Also as for her wanting to do things her way and not your way, even though you are the parent and she is the grandparent, you have to be assertive here and say that you will think about what she said, but ultimately the decision rests with you as you want to raise your child your way. You can tell her that there is probably nothing wrong with her way, but as a parent you have a right to raise your child as you see fit. Say it in a calm tone and hopefully it will help to give you strength in the relationship.
I hope this answers your questions and gives you some guidance on this issue. I truly wish you all the best with your mother and I hope this situation gets easier from here on out with her. Please let me know if you have any questions or concerns as I am happy to assist and support you regarding this issue.
If you are satisfied with my answer, I would truly appreciate it if you can take the time and provide me with a positive rating so that I can receive credit for helping you. Thank you
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
Thanks for the time you took to answer, however, I feel that the suggestion you offered will still open a whole can of worms. It will be a back and forth of me trying to not offend her, and her responding with similar guilt-trip remarks.
Expert:  Dr. Z replied 2 years ago.
Well the intention of trying not to offend her is because that is what she wants as she will use that against you to try to manipulate the situation and reinforce that "poor me" attitude. You do not have to offend her to be assertive with her on this issue (and probably other issues as well). If you put up firm barriers with her and tell her outright that this is your decision and not hers, but you respect her past experience, it will still be giving her credit, but at the same time showing that you are in charge. Obviously the only way for your mother's behavior to lessen is if she sought help as you cannot change her behavior, only she can, but your responses can at least nullify her behavior to an extent.
If you are satisfied with my answer, I would truly appreciate it if you can take the time and provide me with a positive rating so that I can receive credit for helping you. Thank you