My mother and I have been on shaky terms for many years, since I was a pre-teen. My mother left my father when I was 11 and moved to another town near us, to live with my father’s boss, as his mistress.
My father’s boss, I will call him Steve, was married, but his wife allowed my mother to move into the house with them. This has been over twenty five years ago.
My mother contacted me two years ago in an attempt to improve our relationship and be, according to my mother, “a real mother and daughter.” We have had limited brief visits, and occasional coffee dates. I have allowed her to meet my husband and children. However she denies any responsibility for her abandonment and absenteeism for over twenty five years (I saw my mom maybe once every two years between those missing twenty five years).
In fact, my mother will frequently refer to those years as the happiest in her life, and that she had such an amazing time in this relationship situation, as well as so much fun being free of housework and the burdens of “needy children.” Even with her viewpoint being this way and her clear choice to not have kids, she believes she has the right, as the grandmother, to tell me how to raise my children, and frequently criticizes my parenting skills.
My mother and Steve are now married and his wife passed away last year. Steve constantly attempts to insert himself into my family’s life and insists that he be called “grandpa Steve,” which I have emphatically refused to honor. My mother now says I either start making my two daughters call Steve “grandpa” or she will cut me out of her life. She says that Steve never wanted children, which is why she left hers behind, but feels he missed out on something others got to enjoy.
I am tempted to tell her I that I am quite comfortable with the dynamic of her being gone, but do not wish to hurt my own mother’s feelings, as my father raised me better than that. However, isn’t that the point, Violet, my father raised me, and no other man deserves to be called grandpa in that way, especially one who ended my childhood? Any advice welcome,
You’re not the boss of me
Dear not the boss,
You ARE the boss of your children, and have a responsibility to provide them with all of the care and provisions you are able to provide, within reason.
In this situation I find that while I understand this person’s desire to play “grandpa” in his later years, he did not wish to play “daddy” nor did your mother wish to play the role of provider, protector, confidante, educator, nurturer or guidance in your life.
While a woman is certainly never required to desire motherhood, nor do I feel that wanting to be a mother makes a woman a woman, a woman IS required to adequately care for the children she brings into the world, or surrender them into the care of someone who does wish to provide the needs the child will have for their lifetime.
Once the birth mother decides she is not meant to care for the child and another should be the bearer of the “burden” (your mother’s words) she does not then get to come back and decide that now that it’s smoother sailing, or that she suddenly desires to nurture something, she can just step back into the role and assume the privilege that would have been expected with the alleged “burden”. Seems unfair, doesn’t it, to accept benefits of work not provided?
I applaud you building bridges with your mother, and encourage you to continue in this vein, because like it or not, she IS your mother, and that will not change, biologically; however, that being said, she does not have any owed rights, privileges or expectations that should be provided to her by virtue of her title as the woman who gave birth to you.
As for her making threats to leave from your life if you do not give in to her demands, I say smile, stand firm, and if she makes an exit, wave politely.
Dear Violet is a relationship advice column, covering both domestic relationships and familial relationships, as well as friendships. If you have something you want to get advice about, write in and get a third party, no ax to grind perspective. Welcome to Violet’s world. Send questions, comments or concerns attention: Ask Violet c/o Gonzales Inquirer at firstname.lastname@example.org.