Dear Naomi, My mother does not seem to understand Attachment Parenting despite my best efforts to explain it. So far she has been insisting that I should be able to leave my daughter (now 10 months) with other caregivers. I have tried to explain that Margie prefers me, that separation anxiety is normal a this age, that we are still nursing, etc. My husband says that everything is about my mom, that is to say that she wishes to have her alone time with our daughter. I see her resistance as a bigger problem which will only continue to grow. My mother was raised with conditional love in a controlling household. She is insecure and does not take suggestions or criticism well. She cannot talk about her feelings without losing control. This makes it nearly impossible to talk to her about conflict. She internalizes things rather than discuss them. Do you think there is any hope for an open communication? Many thanks!
If by open communication you mean to ask if your mother will understand or be able to change her philosophy, I highly doubt it and I do not recommend to have such a goal. Any time we want to change another person we lose. It is simply not possible.
On the other hand, if when you say “open communication,” you mean that you want to feel connected to your mother and free to parent your ways, then yes, this is completely possible because it is up to you and not up to her. You cannot change her, but you can change you.
The way to connect with your mother is by listening, validating her feelings, understanding her point of view and neverteaching her your way nor trying to convince her of attachment parenting. Your parenting way is not up for a vote or a debate. When you try to convince her you lose her respect. By debating the subject, you are inviting your mother to be part of the parenting decision team. She is not. She would love to be. When your daughter has a child, you would want to have a say too. Have compassion and go your way.
Here is how a kind and connecting conversation can sound:
Your mom: Leave her with me, it is good for her to learn to relate to others.
A confident you: Oh, mom. I know how much you love her and want create a relationship that is exclusively you and your grand-daughter. It must be so hard for you not to be able to at this time.
Your mom: Well, then, you understand so leave her with me. It is good for her.
You: So, you actually think it is good for her, and so you must worry that she won’t develop well. Oh my. That’s hard.
Your mom: Yes. You see. It is best for her to learn to be with others who love her. She will grow to be comfortable with more people and not so dependent.
You: I know, I know. Do you worry that if she doesn’t stay with you or others at this age, she never will?
Your mom: Well, it sure will be harder for her and who knows, she may be too dependent.
You: Oh I see. This is very difficult for you indeed. You fear for her. You think she won’t develop well? Is that it?
Your mom: Yes. You see now?
You: Yes I totally get how you see it and how you feel. Here I am, raising my daughter, your grandchild, so different than what you are used to, and you worry so much. Would you like some reading material that may help you understand my parenting path?
Your mom: No no. I just want you to see how important it is that she spends time with me and others without you. So lets plan that she stays with me tomorrow.
You: I see. And no, she will not be away from me. I understand how much you want it. I do raise her very differently. I love that you care.
Your mom: Of course I care.
You: Yes, I know. I love you mom. I am sorry it is so difficult for you. We will keep parenting our way. Let me know if I can provide any supportive information. And, you know you can always play with her while I am around.
Your mom is likely to stop after a while because you never negate her, nor argue with her. You never defend a position and instead you listened and cared about her.
Seeing her point of view with compassion does not mean you have to do anything other than your own choice. Your mother does not need to be converted. It is you who can realize that you do not need her approval or agreement and you are free to follow your parenting path with your child. It is your own dependency on her approval that gets in your way. Be the wonderful mother that you are and be kind to your mother. Kind does not mean doing what she says, nor convincing her of your way. King means loving her unconditionally too. She will stay the way she is. Love her.
Warmly, Naomi Aldort, www.AuthenticParent.com