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How do I protect my child from MY mom?

post #1 of 10
Thread Starter 
My only child is an infant so so far it hasn't been an issue but recent events have me pondering this again (this always worried me before having kids).

My mom grew up with a really abusive family and is bi-polar (manic depressive). So she can be very unstable and has a lot of triggers.

She had me young and her lack of stability and inconstancy regarding her affection for me and treatment of me has led to me feeling healthiest when I keep her at an arm's length. But I must say that SHE TRIED harder than anyone else i've ever met. And I appreciate that so much. She had no example of how to be a healthy parent. No resources or money.

When I became pregnant it was terrible financial timing. She said she would support us. I said I felt uncomfortable taking money because our relationship its not so good. She said since she was unable to take care of my needs growing up, she wanted to help me give my child a healthy happy childhood where I could be really present for her. I'm so very grateful for that!

The issue recently (this is typical) is that she had a bad reaction to meds. Additionally she has had a lot of stressful things in her life as of late. Because I said I didn't have time before nap to find a tape measure I tried to find this morning to get measurements for her to make baby clothes, she got really upset. She said I seemed inconvenienced by her doing things for me when I suggested that she use a stretchy fabric for pants. She started crying and saying she didn't feel loved by me and I always seem put out by her. But in our last conversation she thanked me for my support. Now she doesn't want a relationship because it hurts her too much. Though she isn't threatening removing her financial support.

This episode is mild in that she didn't get mean. Still I'm triggered because I've spent my whole life trying to prove to her I love her. But she believes if people don't do what she wants or say what she needs to hear as she needs to hear it
they don't love her. Often during an episode she calls me names, says horrible things to me, and says she wants me to "get the fuck out" of her life.

I have two concerns regarding my child. The first because my mom lives fast away is how her behavior affects me. It really upsets me. Even if I react calmly nothing gets to me like she does. I can really feel it on a physical level. I don't think that's healthy for my daughter. The other issue is their relationship. My mom is over the moon about her and would never INTENTIONALLY hurt her ever (at least I'm sure of this until her teen years). But when she's triggered I'm not sure she would careif my daughter witnessed her flip out. When my mom is stable she is fantastic and I don't want to prevent a potentially great relationship. But I feel the need to protect my daughter too. If my mom is stable it will generally won't change mid day so I wouldn't be worried about my mom losing control on an outing. I'm more concerned about having a scheduled date for them (for a day or a planned visit from out of state) having my mom show up in an obviously bad state, me having to cancel and her totally losing it in front of my daughter. Because with her you just never know when the hammer will fall.

I should add that my grandma was a horrible mom but a good grandma, so that is part of my struggle in figuring this out. And I don't think me being there to supervise will help because we just trigger each other and that won't lead to them having a good relationship our benefit my relationship with my mom.

Any advice?
post #2 of 10

I don't know that I have any magic advice, but I can empathize to some extent.  My parents live close by, but our relationship is very *new* in the sense that my childhood with them was marred by abuse and addiction, alot of blame and crazy expectations put on my shoulders, and a very dysfunctional, toxic family dynamic in general.  I completely relate to your hesitation about accepting financial support - I still feel this way, even with things like Christmas gifts, because I swore I would never take a dime or a thing from them, because that would keep us connected and me somehow indebted to them (in college, I firmly believed they were out of my life forever).  Only in the past few years have we started over and started to build a healthier relationship.


Fast forward to me being married and having their first grandbaby.  This has brought on alot more family time than I bargained for and, frankly, more than I am comfortable with (though I sincerely appreciate the progress they have made).  As I mentioned, they live close by and are constantly offering to babysit, etc. but I don't feel comfortable with it.


My parents' dynamic can still be very volatile - loud, crazy and, occasionally, quite verbally/emotionally abusive between them.  Particularly if my mom has been drinking (she will pick fights over nothing) but just about anything can set them off bickering, which goes from 0-someone is gonna call the cops in no time flat.  I don't want my child exposed to that.


Once, we were at a family function when DS was 2 or 3 months old.  My mother had a few drinks and decided to cuss my father out for literally no reason (he went to get her coat instead of something else she wanted first?) - next thing I know, she is screaming and dropping f-bombs and he is screaming back right in her face - all while she is holding DS!!! nono02.gif


That was IT - I was so mad and tried to get him away from her - she stopped yelling, stared at me like she was confused and insisted he was fine - um...no.  Not remotely ok.  And I just never know when stuff like that is going to happen.  Most of the time they are normal, loving grandparents - but the slightest thing sends them off into their own weird world where they are destructive and oblivious to others.


So, didn't mean to hijack your post with my own long story, but just wanted you to know I kinda know where you are coming from! hug2.gifAnd would be really interested in what people have to say.


It sounds like your mother isn't quite as unpredictable moment-to-moment, but still, when you have to plan a visit, having a bad day or week is a big deal.  And it would certainly erupt into a scene if she shows up and is turned away (though, of course, you have to do what is best for your child).  


Is your mom at all aware of her behavior being tied to her disorder?  I know she must be aware of it, takes meds, etc. but could you talk to her objectively about it at all in a good period and set some ground rules?  Or is that just likely to go out the window later?

post #3 of 10

I can relate on some level. My mom also has the same disorder and you just never know which day is going to be a bad day. She's on medication, but if she misses a day or doesn't take all of her pills, it can turn into a nightmare. My mom doesn't sound as bad as your mom, but maybe that's because of her medication she's taking. She will still erupt into anger at the weirdest things. For example, she came to visit us last year and got really upset at me one night for "spitting too many times" while brushing my teeth. Seriously. I'm 31 years old.


She used to be on drugs but is 100% clean now - she really pulled a 180, it's amazing and has been actively campaigning against drugs for years. She has attempted suicide several times. She's had kock-down drag-out fights with boyfriends in the past. She's not completely healthy, but SO MUCH BETTER since she has been on medication. If your mom is having a lot of trouble, I would be honest with her and tell her that you love her so much, but that the only way you can continue with her is if she gets some help. If she's on medication, maybe you could see about having her dosage increased. It really does help a lot of the time. There's a reason why bipolar disorder is also called manic depression. It makes my mom (and probably your mom as well) feel as if they are unloved and unappreciated, even if they are. It's a medical disorder, so they literally are not able to see that they can be happy and loved.


Like your mom, my mother is over-the-moon for her granddaughter. She absolutely adores her. I have no problem with my mom spending time with her and I know she would never hurt her. I do have to employ some tactics that I also use with my husband who has Asperger Syndrome. When my mom was having a bad day, she would just stay in her room or go do something on her own. When she was having a good day, it was pretty obvious. She was up early with makeup on and making breakfast and chipper. On those days I was fine with her taking my daughter somewhere.


It's different for me, though, because I don't see my mom that often. Only every couple of years for a month or so. If we lived nearby, I wouldn't deny my mother unless things got really bad. Do you think you would be able to tell that your mother was having a bad day when she got to your house just by looking at her? Are there visible cues?


Definitely talk to her about it when she's having a good day and let her know how you feel on a regular basis, of course emphasizing how much you love her and how important it is for your daughter to know her.


But also keep in mind that "knowing" her means KNOWING her. Your daughter will have to learn to take the good with the bad. You'll have to explain to her how grandma is different and how grandma needs help from both of you. She'll have to have reassurance that grandma isn't acting like that on purpose and that she can avoid her during her bad times, but that she still loves her very much. I use this method with my daughter in regards to my husband. He's really hard to understand, but I reinforce the lesson with my daughter that "Daddy is different from other daddies. He loves you very much, but he has a hard time with some things and we have to help him, even if he seems a little grumpy. We can leave Daddy alone when he's not feeling well and when he's feeling better, he can do some special things with you." I think that teaching children empathy for others is important. Turn it around and think how you might feel if you had a mental disorder and your own daughter was considering whether she should allow you to see your grandchild because of behavior that wasn't really your fault.


A lot of parents disagree with me and that's okay, but I think it's important not to shelter kids too much from the real world. I want my children to be able to accept all kinds of people for who they are. As long as the person isn't physically or emotionally harming my child, I see it as a learning experience. The really good thing is that your mom isn't raising your daughter, YOU are, so your daughter isn't stuck in the situation the way you were. She can avoid her grandmother any time she wants to or needs to and you can gauge how well your daughter is taking it by the way she reacts to your mom. If she doesn't want to do things with your mother, it's a good sign that she's not happy with your mom's behavior. On the other hand, grandma might end up being one of her very favorite people to be with and even if there are a few bad times, there will always be good times to look back on.

post #4 of 10
Thread Starter 

Thank you ladies for responding.  Sorry it took so long for me to respond.  DD has been having digestive issues and will only nap in my arms in a dark room and my phone is acting funny and won't let me post and so on.


No need to apologize for hijacking my thread.  I thought it was good to read other people's stories.  


Amberskyfire, I also think that kids need the truth.  I think they are aware of things being off and when we tell them everything is ok it teaches them not to trust their instincts and that's dangerous.  And, like you I also agree in telling them an age appropriates condensed version of the truth.  "Gma needs medicine to stay healthy and balanced", not Gma was abused by her parents and is bipolar with a mood disorder and..."


DD is fussing so I have to go, but I'll try to write more later.  


As for talking to her about it...I tried, and she shrugged off all personal responsibility and pointed it back at me.  "if I really loved her I'd make scheduling a solid half hour just to talk to her a priority..."



Thanks ladies!

post #5 of 10


Originally Posted by justgonnadoulait View Post

Amberskyfire, I also think that kids need the truth.  I think they are aware of things being off and when we tell them everything is ok it teaches them not to trust their instincts and that's dangerous.  And, like you I also agree in telling them an age appropriates condensed version of the truth.  "Gma needs medicine to stay healthy and balanced", not Gma was abused by her parents and is bipolar with a mood disorder and..."

yeahthat.gif  I wholeheartedly agree with all of that - I think that is very insightful and appropriate.


I'm sorry she is still putting it back on you.  Forgive me, because I'm no expert in this disorder, but it seems like she is still fairly symptomatic (in terms of thought patterns, etc. - even if not having a really bad day) in spite of the medicine...is she going to therapy as well?  Is it an option for the two of you to go?


It seems like she may be lacking some awareness of how her disorder affects her emotions/thinking - there didn't seem to be any shred of objectivity in her response to you - in fact, it seemed to be the same pattern of thinking that's symptomatic of her disorder (just maybe not as bad as her truly "bad days").  In my experience (again, not an expert on her case), mental disorders can often benefit from meds, but cognitive-behavioral therapy also goes a long way toward helping someone be more aware of how their brain works, how to work with/circumvent those patterns, and how to build better relationships with others.


Good luck, mama!  Definitely trust your gut.  Protecting your child is important - exposure to that kind of behavior can be confusing or even damaging to her.  It's crappy to be in that position, but hurting your mom's feelings is not half as big a deal as making sure your defenseless lil babe is ok.

post #6 of 10

Not to totally hijack here, but from what I'm reading, some of the symptoms you're describing could be a fit for borderline personality disorder (not to say that she does not have bipolar disorder as well). Borderline traits can result in some very chaotic interpersonal relationships, putting people "up on a pedestal" as the most wonderful person ever, to suddenly feeling so abandoned and angry they push the very same person away. Medication is generally not the most effective treatment for borderline personality disorder (although bipolar disorder is generally well controlled by meds) so stability on medication may not fix the symptoms. Anyway, I hate to butt in, but I just wanted to throw that out there. If you're able to research it a little and see if it fits for your mom and your relationship with her, that might give you some peace and some strategies for protecting your mom, yourself, and your daughter so you all three can have the best relationships possible. (For what it's worth, I'm a licensed mental health counselor, so I see these symptoms a lot. Peace to you.)

post #7 of 10
Thread Starter 

Goodness I know it's taken me a long time to respond.  Dealing with allergies that have cause a very clingy, whiney baby.  I just don't have enough time....


Rainface, I wanted to say you were right.  My mom went to a new diagnostician, and he said she wasn't bipolor.  She has a personality disorder.  She didn't mention borderline, but it sounds right.  She's also been going to a support/recovery group for people with co-dependency issues.  I've seen her change more this year than I ever thought possible.  


My sister-in-law also has borderline peronality disorder (it being on both sides of my DD's family worries me).  My in-laws are here and I was talking to my MIL about it.  Though my SIL and mom are very different people they do share all the same symptoms.  It gives me hope that the cognitive therapy is so effective (I'll be talking to my mom about it), and also that a lot can be accomplished by learning how to communicate a little differently with people that have BPD.  My mom is also having a really hard year, so I think once that stress decreases she'll improve at an even faster rate.  She also discovered she's developed a bunch of allergies.  Quite possibly, she's allergic to salicylates, which my MIL is also allergic to and I think my DD is too.  I just posted about that in the allergy thread. I'm feeling pretty defeated on the allergy front.  I just hope my DD has some hope for a healthy, happy life.  And wow do I miss eating tasty foods.  


Thank you all for the information and support! orngbiggrin.gif

post #8 of 10

   If at all possible I would not accept financial support from your mom. My mom and I went to go live with my grandmother after my parents divorce. My grandmother was emotionally abusive to me and hated me because she hated my dad so much. Even as an adult I suffer from severe low self esteem because of being around my grandmother. I feel it was my mother's job to protect me. But she wanted the big house and big yard for me, even though it meant living with her immature dysfunctional mother. I would've been fine with Mom and I living in an apartment, Mom working long hours and me going to daycare. But it was more important for Mom to live in a nice neighborhood and get her graduate degree (which my grandma paid for) so we lived with Grandma. I wish Mom had protected me from her. As a result when Grandma died, I didn't shed one tear and was actually relieved.

post #9 of 10

my family is pretty awful and i didnt want my kids being raised around them.  i moved out of state and had no contact with them for years. just because you are born into a family doesnt mean you have to accept them. 

post #10 of 10

My mil doesn't realize the stuff she does is not good for ds. Never leave her alone with her until you feel comfortable and maybe never. Also if she causes you too much heartache it might be good to limit your exposure.

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