‘I love her so much but every time we speak we end up with a row. We are both angry and upset.’ Trish was talking about the relationship with her mum. ‘Earlier or later in the conversation she looks at me with a smug smile and tells me that I have turned out really nice. Thanks to her perfect parenting skills. And she did it all by herself, as my dad was totally useless. Such a shame I never take on board her advice, because she really worries about her grandchildren. I can’t stand it. I feel I have to defend my dad and justify how I raise my children. I feel angry, guilty and irritated with her. I have told her thousands of times before that my children are great, that dad was an okay dad to me and that she has to stop this glorifying herself and putting my dad and me down. And then the guilt kicks in. I don’t know what to do anymore to make her see how wrong she is.’
What Trish is telling me is the following:
- My mum is dismissing me as a good parent
- She doesn’t think my children are great
- It is upsetting when she calls my dad useless
- Mum needs to change
She also tells me a lot of other things, but she isn’t aware of that. I can just pick up the underlying messages and I know what is going on for her:
- It is important to be respected and appreciated by my mum. And clearly, she doesn’t appreciate my parenting skills. I want mum to understand that I am as good a mother as she is and I feel the need to be defensive and justifying myself. Unfortunately, that message doesn’t get through and the only result is irritation.
- I find the way her mother talks about her grandchildren insulting. She only looks at them from one angle and is not open to be positive about them. It feels unfair and I can’t resist to tell stories of how lovely they are and praise them. Only to get dismissed and put down.
- I love my dad and I want to see him as a lovely parent. I don’t care he could have been better. He was good enough for me and I hate it when she devalues him.
- I struggle with the messages she sends out and she has to stop it.
What can be changed to make the relationship between mother and daughter softer and easier?
Unfortunately, Trish wants to change her mum. But one of the principles in the ‘instruction book of life’ is that you can only change yourself. So the question really is: what changes can Trish make to stop the arguments between her and her mum?
- Trish needs to accept that her mum has a different opinion about raising children and they don’t need to agree. If she can take the comments as the voice of a different generation and then let it go, there would be no tension about this subject.
- If Trish doesn’t feel the need to stand up for her children, it will take the sting out of this subject. Her children are great to her and the approval of a grandmother is actually irrelevant.
- Her mum lashes out at her dad. Maybe in her eyes he hasn’t been supportive to her, but that doesn’t mean that Trish has a different experience. Two different experiences, valid in their own right.
- It Trish can go along with the fact her mum has a different opinion than she has, maybe they can agree to disagree. Which means there is no point in arguing and trying to be right in the eyes of the other. The result of ‘agree to disagree’ brings the subject of parenting and grandchildren to the level of exchange of factual information. Asking advice, contemplation and discussions are out of the equation.
- Trish can take control of their conversations. Knowing which subjects are tricky, she can avoid them. Or handle them in a different way. One of my ‘tricks’ is to have the perfect distraction to hand when you feel it might get out of hand. Distracting by changing to a topic that always sparks the highest interest of the other party: mums new hobby, the weather or her wedding day…..
- On a side note: all her mother’s criticisms are around parenting. In her days, that is what women did and were valued about. Her mum might be struggling with the fact that mothers these days are more active outside the family, work, have their own activities and are involved broader in the community. She might feel devalued by that and therefore defensively aggressive of what she did in her life……………….. Just another thought………….
A few months later Trish told me the relationship with her mother was better than ever. No more rows and much more love. Oh, and no more intense conversations about parenting either.
Often relationships struggle. Not because of a lack of love but because of inadequate communication. If you think that happens in your life and if you want to find out what you can do about it, why not book a FREE chat with Mariette. Click here to book.