One recurrent topic on my daily radio program has to do with the grandmother “issue." Here's the typical scenario: The matriarch has two children, one female and one male. In their respective marriages, they each have children. The wife of the male child is quite disconcerted that Grandma seems to favor the children of her daughter over those of her son.
At first, I always ask, "Can you think of any reason that your mother-in-law might be more comfortable at the other home?" The daughter-in-law caller will frequently say no at first, and then mention moments of tension as they might disagree about style of parenting and there may exist tensions in the relationship between mother and daughter-in-law.
When a mother has a married daughter, they have been in a relationship for decades. There may be some typical ups and downs, but they know each other quite well and have worked out kinks and simply feel very connected. They are also pretty much in agreement with the concepts of childrearing, styles of family relating, mutual expectations, and problem resolution. They also have worked out how to relate personally.
The daughter-in-law is the woman who takes over her mother-in-law's position as most important woman in the man's life. They have not known each other for decades and they differ in backgrounds, life experiences, styles of communicating, and expectations.
A healthy, reasonable grandmother understands this intellectually, but feels the "shove" anyway. She generally feels she has to walk on eggshells with her daughter-in-law lest she say or do something that triggers any sense of offense or challenge . . . and then the husband is placed squarely in the middle.
I have been somewhat amused by how many daughters-in-law complain about how Grandma takes care of the kids because she married the man that Grandma raised. Unless Grandma belongs in one of the popular horror movies and not in anybody's life, it is curious that a woman can love the man, but not the woman who had a lot to do in making him the man she loves.
Misunderstandings and hurt feelings between women in general happen so easily — especially when husband/son/grandchildren are in the mix. I tell the grandmother to smile a lot and agree so that her son is not torn apart by the two important women in his life — and so that Grandma has access to the grandchildren.
I remind people that love may or may not develop, but respect and kindness should go both ways for everyone's sake. For goodness sakes, just be polite!
Communication is so important. Don’t be negative. Grandma should never say, "You never let me do anything.” Instead, she should try, "I understand you might not feel comfortable with me taking them for the day. How can I make this feel good to you?"
Never think you are going to win points by using criticism, threats, or general negativity. Grandmas are very important to the health of the marriage and the well-being of the children. We just can't have enough support to get through the trials and tribulations and surprises life throws us.
Both sides have issues. Simply being kind, thoughtful, and polite go a long way to making life easier for everyone.
Dr. Laura is a well-known radio personality and best-selling author whose full name is Laura Schlessinger. She is interviewed regularly on many of the biggest television shows and publications. Read more reports from Dr. Laura — Click Here Now.
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