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Difficult Daughters Can Also Wreak Havoc

In a previous post, author Barbara Greenleaf explained some specific ways a difficult daughter-in-law can create tension and dissension throughout the extended family. She can be passive-aggressive by being unavailable or forgetting an appointment she made. She can be a bully by proclaiming that it’s her way or the highway so everyone caves to keep peace in the family and avoids dealing directly with her bullying. She can play games with the grandparent/grandchild relationship by imposing strict guidelines on visits with the grandchildren.

At the end of my post, I asked readers how they handled difficult daughter-in-law relationships. One reader responded that she didn’t have a difficult daughter-in-law, she had a difficult daughter. Here’s what Evette wrote:

I live less than 5 miles from my difficult daughter (DD,) who gave birth to our adorable granddaughter just 3 weeks ago. I have been able to visit four times since then to offer help or whatever is needed. I have given them food, and money, have sat their dog on too many occasions to list. I also still work with my husband, the DD’s father at least three days a week. I have been out of town once since the granddaughter was born. On three of the 4 visits with my granddaughter, I was humiliated, scorned and ridiculed about a minor issue that had nothing to do with the granddaughter. I was questioned if my hands were sanitized, and if I had a fever. My feelings have been hurt, and I have told the DD that I will no longer let myself be the target for her vitriolic barbs. I have not been the only target. The difficult DD has thrown the barbs at her husband, who was not changing a diaper up to her standards. I think she is quite lucky to have a loving husband who is trying to help with the diaper detail.
Help — please give me some explanation and pointers.

I wrote back to the disgruntled grandma suggesting she not take her daughter’s comments personally. Here’s my response:

I’m sorry to hear that your DD is giving you such a hard time. I hope you can find comfort in knowing that it’s not about you — especially since you have observed that she’s using the same critical and demeaning behavior toward her husband. She sounds like she’s experiencing an extreme case of early helicopter parenting that often happens to overly controlling new moms. Try to use all of your patience and compassion when you are around her. Maybe you shouldn’t be quite so generous with her either and then you won’t feel so unappreciated. Try to focus on that precious little granddaughter of yours. Please keep me posted.

There are always two sides to a conflict. After another reader shared her perspective, I reconsidered my response to this grandma. I confess I was influenced by the grandma’s perspective and may have been too harsh on the new mom.

Here’s how Joy assessed the situation:

Your granddaughter is three weeks old and you’ve seen her four times? That’s more than once a week – that’s about the same amount of visits I allowed my own parents and in-laws when my baby was so tiny.
Give your daughter a break and compassion! She’s given birth less than a month ago. She’s still in the weepy, anxiety-ridden stage of post-natal hormonal changes, she’s not getting much sleep (sleep deprivation is an acknowledged torture method,) she’s still dealing with physical discomfort from the birth, and she has a newborn to look after.
Put your own feelings to one side and have some empathy. The answer to “have you sanitized your hands?” is “yes,” not “how could you ask me that question? I feel so hurt!” Your daughter obviously is anxious her new precious baby doesn’t get sick from the germs that visitors will bring. Acknowledge the anxiety and your daughter will relax. If you exacerbate the anxiety by performing how hurt you are by being asked a sensible question, your daughter will trust you less. Do you want a relationship with your granddaughter? You have to have a good and sincere relationship with your daughter first.

I liked what Joy had to say and thanked her for her wisdom:

You’ve captured the essence of the issue and are able to see both sides clearly. I hope Evette will put aside her ego and cut her daughter some slack for a while. You are 100% correct that if she wants to have a bond with her granddaughter, she must first build a good relationship with her daughter. That comes by showing empathy, respect and acknowledging the good things her daughter is doing as a brand new mom.

What advice would you offer this grandma who’s complaining about her difficult daughter? Leave your advice below in “Speak Your Mind.”

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