Grandma Trying to Play Guilt Trips.

Updated on November 01, 2009
T.A. asks from Lake Oswego, OR
9 answers

So, this is my perspective of the situation. I feel my mother is being unreasonable when it comes to my two boys. I feel like she doesnt understand that it is alot of work to take the boys out, and being that i do online school, i need to be home to do that.

The new thing is that she wants me to drive the boys out to her house this weekend. I have told her that she is always welcome here and that it would be easier for her to come here. Then the boys are in their own space, have all their toys, and if need be they have their beds also. Recently we have been havin car trouble with my fiances car. So on the days that I don't have appointments he takes the car to work. Being that I wont have a car this weekend she said she would come get the boys and me for the day, which I find silly. She wants to drive 30 mins here 30 mins back just for us to come there, when i have told her it would be easier just to stay here. Now she is crying saying I dont make an effort. She usually wants me to transport the children to go see her. She also is unwilling to watch both boys so my fiance and I can have alone time, or even just time for me to study for school.

Shes constantly trying to make me feel bad. Giving me guilt trips, even lately she has told me that she was purposely trying to get on my nerves. I'm so frustrated with the situation and what she is doing.. does anyone have any advice on how to handle the situation?

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answers from Portland on

Rebecca's suggestion is good. You could try an even simpler approach, which would probably weaken your mom's emotional stranglehold (especially if used repeatedly).

You could try a statement like, "Mom, I love it that you want us to spend time at your house. And no, it just isn't going to happen this weekend."

If said in a kind, calm, firm, cheerful, grown-up voice, your mom will have very little to argue with, because you aren't giving her reasons, excuses, or rationales. You are just stating a fact. You are acknowledging her wishes. You are using the magic word "and" between her wish and your decision; much more inclusive than "but."

Of course, she could go on to pout, gripe, wheedle, cry, threaten…. But she's already revealed that she's trying to manipulate you.

The big question here is about you, not her. She will do whatever it is she does, and you have no control over that. You do have some say in how YOU will react.

I know this isn't easy, T., because I let my mother manipulate me to some degree for at least 50 years of my life, and only gradually learned in the past few years how to extricate my own not-always-healthy need to be "the good daughter." But she doesn't play those games with me now (some of which were unconscious on her part, and some of which I probably only imagined), because I'm not playing.

It feels great.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Portland on

I understand what you are going through, but I also can understand her hurt feelings. I have the same issue and I'm starting to realize that my Mom is hoping for some "visiting" time, not just Grandma time. She complains that we don't do much when she comes to visit and I'm reading that as, "hey, can't we go out to eat or to a movie with the kids or something more interesting than fold laundry while I'm here?"

She never says that, but there are little hints here and there and I'm trying my best to make more time for her. It's difficult to switch from feeling like you have your mother's support all the time, to needing to "support" her, but it's a friendship and I need to do my best to keep it strong.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Portland on

Sometimes our own parents have a hard time stepping out of the role of being the center of our attention, and may desire to have lots of control in order to feel secure with the new state of things, esp. now that we have children. Although we may have changed monumentally as adults through our transition from 'person' to 'parent', our own parents may be less emotionally equipped to deal with this change. Their connection with their pregnancy and early parenthood has faded, and the propensity to try to relive the "family" dynamic you grew up with is very strong. (This is why so many of us dread going home for the holidays...we have that feeling of not being allowed to be our own adult persons, instead our parents revert to treating us like children.)

Sometimes our parents are able to flex and change with us. I can see how you feel that your mother doesn't respect your schoolwork or your preference to keep the boys at home, where parenting and visiting with others is much less work than being at someone else's house. And your anger at feeling disrespected is natural and healthy.

On the other side, her desire to control the situation by being at her house is also natural. I know lots of grandparents who insist that the kids playing at their house is fine when it isn't. I think it stems from a feeling of insecurity; if she feels that she can be on her own turf and call the shots (being in control of your coming and going/transportation), this can give her a sense of "normalcy" in the parent/child dynamic.

Depending on where she is, it might be worthwhile to arrange a visit with just the two of you in a neutral space to talk about the relationship troubles you two are having. Perhaps explaining to her that you would like her to be proud of you for pursuing your studies and caring so well for your boys, instead of feeling that these things are coming between the two of you. Also explaining to her that this situation with the car isn't 'forever', nor will the boys be so very little and needing so much in regard to attention and familiar playspaces 'forever'. Putting it in the light of "this is me and my family growing, and I'd like your support" might help. And then just talk; acknowledge her feelings and ask if you can't come to some compromises that respect what you and your family are needing at the moment. Maybe that's a half-hour phone call one night a week where your partner watches the kids and she can have your attention...the two of you will have to figure it out.

It's essential to your relationship that you tell her how you feel before there's more tension or a big blow up...those are hard to come back from and feel good about. So asking her for some insights/alternatives to what's "not working" right now and help to find something that does work for both of you will help. Yes, boundaries are important, but then give her some room to come back with some ideas that might work for her. Growth between parents and children is hard at any age, but invite her to do this with you.

And by all means, let her know that while you love her very much, you don't like what's going on in your conversations. And give her some very concrete examples (as in-"When you said XYZ, it really hurt my feelings. I'm doing the best that I can and it feels like you don't recognize this; only that I'm letting you down in some way.")

So sorry; parent stuff is so heart-hard to deal with sometimes.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Portland on


I really understand. I have this same problem with friends. I've been working full time, going to school half time and recently I started a parent coaching business, while doing all the above.

People are getting mad at me for not planning events or attending events.

I suggest you say something like the following to your mom, this phrasing has helped for me:

"I understand seeing the boys and me is important to you. I miss you too and look forward to your visits. My current complications are ________ (car, homework, housework etc, list it all!!!). Since I cannot do what I need to do at your house because of ________, but I want to see you, can you help me think of workable solutions?"

Often people don't really realize how much work being a Mom & going to school really is. The deadlines alone!! By spelling everything out in detail, your Mom may see your reality differently and be more helpful.

I hope this works for you! I really know what you're feeling.

Good Luck

R. Magby

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Portland on

I hated to hear the following statement when I was in therapy and was defensive at first but once I discovered that this is true I was glad that the counselor said this. No one can make you fell bad/guilty without your permission.

Yes, I still do feel bad/guilty at times but I've learned how to take care of myself so that it happens less often. When I realize that I'm feeling bad, I remind myself that I know that I'm OK and do not have to continue feeling this way. I give myself a pep talk about the situation and then stop thinking about it.

It seems that some people are really good at laying on guilt trips. I think it's because they don't know how to get what they want in a direct way. They may not even be aware that they are manipulating us. We can choose to ignore what they've said or how they've said it. Doing this is especially difficult when it's our parent or someone important to us saying it. We want their approval. However, pleasing ourselves and someone else is not always possible. Pleasing ourselves should be a higher priority. When I say pleasing ourselves I mean taking care of ourselves. Your mother does seem unreasonable in her requests in light of your life and your needs.

I'm a grandmother. I'd like to suggest that you try to look at her requests from a different angle, one in which both of you are reasonable. I very much like having my grandchildren at my house. This visit is different depending on whose home we're in. I also like to visit with my daughter at my house as well as at her house for the same reason.

Your reluctance to drive 30 minutes to your mother's house is also very understandable. Your time and energy are limited. So I suggest that you focus on your reasons when you think about this situation. At the same time allow your mother to have her reasons for what she wants. Don't try to talk her out of what she wants. State what you can and/or cannot do. Try not to make statements that sound like excuses. Just say, "I cannot drive to your house this weekend. I know that's disappointing for you." or something like that.

Perhaps she wants to spend time with you. That's reasonable. Arrange for time that you can visit with her. Perhaps she could come over a couple of times/month and spend a couple of hours with you and the babies with you putting aside other activities to specifically spend the time with her.

My situation is the opposite. My daughter complained that I spent lots of time with her children but no time with her. Since both of us have made a point of putting time to spend together on our calendars she is feeling better and I'm discovering that I do enjoy her company with and without the children.

My daughter needs me to spend time with her for her to feel loved. When she's not feeling loved she is cranky and difficult to be around which caused me to avoid spending time with her. It's a vicious circle. After we had spent the time together at several different times we discovered that both of us had our needs met.

If you can be clear about what you want as well as what you're able to do and at the same time allow your mother to have her preferences the two of you can work out a compromise. Keep in mind that you are an adult now and have responsibility first for yourself and your family. That responsibility includes your own happiness. Your mother is responsible for her own happiness. When your focus is on your own life you'll be better able to let your mother's words and inuendo have less meaning for you.
When you're not feeling that you have to defend yourself you'll be able to spend better time with your mother.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Portland on

Tell her you love her and are glad that she's a great Grandmother to the boys.
Tell her you would love for her to come and spend time with them at your house and she is welcome to do that. Then say at this time it's not an option to drive to her house with the boys and you are so glad that she understands and supports you in all you are doing in your life.
If she gets negative, guilt trippy, etc...
say: I'm sorry you feel that way. That's the best I can offer for now. and walk away.
Don't depend on her or ask her for babysitting. Minimize her in your life if she's not supporting you.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Portland on

Don't play her games. Just stop having her watch the kids. Trade time with another parent have their kids over & then have them take your kids. Do what she actually accuses you of stop making the effort until she gets your point, which is you love her & would like her in your children's life but, you don't need her.



answers from Portland on

Rose's response was dead on.
First of all, it seems that your mother does not understand what your difficulties are, so make sure she understands by spelling it out for her.
Secondly, you should not rely on her for anything, just be appreciative if she does step up and decide to take the kids for you. If you need babysitting, you can arrange babysitting swapping with another parent once a month so you have a free night to go out on the town. That way you don't have to pay for it!
Most importantly, please do not take the advice of anyone who says that you should exclude her whatsoever, that will only make matters so much worse! She obviously loves her grandkids and wants to spend time with them.
How about her coming and picking them up for an afternoon? And then you can talk to her about all of you planning a fun outing together. Or you could suggest taking turns at each others houses- that seems like it would be a fair compromise!
Either way, I hope you can work it out, as I am sure that whatever your mother's insecurities are, I am sure she loves you and the kids very much or she wouldn't be making such a big deal out of this!
Good luck...



answers from Portland on

I am sorry that you have to deal with this. I have a difficult mother and its impossible! I think that there is something else going on that is making her act this way. Need to talk and find out what that is. Maybe she is feeling inscure about something and needs to be vaildated or in control. I say talk to her from the heart and try to find out what the real reason is.

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