Does anyone else have the same problem I have with a mother who always needs to be centre stage? I’m now at a loss about how to deal with her.
Mom had me when she was 19. She gave me a supporting role in her self-imagined career as The Celebrity.
She sewed me matching clothes to hers. She taught me songs to sing together at every family event.
When I started grade school, she took courses and talked about what she was learning without mentioning how I was doing. I always felt I was in her shadow,
I’m now 39, with three children of my own - ages 14, 12, and 10. They are each doing very well in their own right.
Yet my mother, turning 60, still keeps trying to get attention for her achievements, even talking over my daughter’s and two sons’ great marks, and involvement in sports and music.
There’s no way I’m going to let her keep competing and try to show them up, as she did with me. But I do NOT want to destroy our relationship.
I just want her to be my mother, not my competitor, and the kids’ grandmother, not a visiting superstar who must always have the spotlight shining on her!
Let mom shine in her own circle of friends, but gently let her know that in your house, the kids are all equally worthy of notice. She needs to love and be proud of them, not impress them.
Tell her you’ll always love her, and so will the children, if she stops trying to impress and leaves space in the conversation for others, including you.
Explain that you were always proud of her and still are. But her need to be noticed beyond all others is not even attractive. It’s oppressive.
However, if the source of her current neediness comes from being lonely, sad, or fear of being ignored, offer to go with her to talk to a therapist.
Instead of performing for attention, she needs the self-confidence that comes from family and friendship support. Tell her she has that from you and can now be respected for supporting others, too.
During my 29-year marriage, my husband’s sister and I grew closer over both having children with disabilities.
But she began to disrespect me, e.g. not understanding “why woman don’t work and depend on man” i.e. insulting me.
She’d even insulted my husband and me for getting my mom to babysit so we could have a date-night.
I’m sure her behaviour’s related to her son’s very severe disability which makes her life very stressed.
But when she insulted my kids, I decided to stop talking to her. My husband asked me to ignore her calls/messages but I told her how I feel.
I feel better for standing up for myself and for him too. He didn't defend me. I feel betrayed by him.
This rift is a sad outcome for two women who should’ve continued bolstering each other from the heartache of raising children with frustrating disabilities.
Instead, you both justified making judgements and losing all empathy.
She badmouthed you, so you hardened your feelings and ignored your husband’s better advice.
There’s no win here. Accept that you’ve both had a hard time and the tension boiled over. It doesn’t have to stay that way. Make up with your husband.
Reader’s Commentary A different view of Alienated Grandparents (August 13):
“How many of these alienated grandparents are as clueless and dangerous as mine?
“After growing up in a household of abuse (physical, verbal, emotional, sexual), I confronted my parents after I had children because I realized how badly I’d been treated.
“They denied everything, said I was making it all up, maybe had some mental health problems! They were unwilling to have a relationship with my daughters until they were older. I realized it’d be dangerous to teach my kids that forced relationships with abusive people are healthy.
“When I read letters that baffled grandparents send you, I empathize far more with their kids and wonder if the grandparents are narcissists too.
“One day I’ll have to explain to my children that I’d have loved for them to have a grandparent(s) relationship, but it’s because of my love that they don't.”
Tip of the day:
A mother who loves the limelight can be fun... until she’s not. Tell Mom it’s time for her grandkids to shine, and to encourage them.