Could the Other Grandmother please back off?
August 2, 2022 1:44 PM   Subscribe

I'm going to visit my daughter and one year old granddaughter for the first time in a year! Yay! But my daughter's partner's mother has decided to visit at the same time. Boo. Help me navigate this situation and/or persuade her to change her plans.

My daughter and her partner had a baby in July 2021. They live on the east coast; I live on the west coast. I was able to be there for the baby’s birth but I have not been back until now. I’m leaving next week for two weeks with them and really looking forward to it, as is my daughter: we are very close. I work full time and money is tight. Therefore, I started planning this trip last year. I bought the plane ticket in May.

My daughter’s partner’s mother – let’s call her the Other Grandmother - lives about four hours away. She also owns a vacation house about 40 minutes away from them. She has not been up to see them for five months but they saw her in May when they went to visit other family where she lives and they have seen her fairly regularly over the last year. She is retired and financially secure and could come visit any time.

My daughter just told me that the Other Grandmother has suddenly announced plans to be there during my visit. I am irritated. I barely know this woman (we all had lunch before the grandchild was born and I saw her briefly a few times during the whole immediate post natal period.) I want to spend this precious time with my daughter and granddaughter. I am staying with them but I also have other close friends in the area and want to see them as well. My time there is limited and I’m not interested in becoming the OG's new pal.

The thing is, this is a pattern with her. When my daughter went to visit her grandparents in May, the OG insisted on being included in activities and sulked when she didn't get invited to everything. When daughter and partner first got together, the OG wanted to meet the whole family, right away. When daughter's father was visiting her last, the OG managed to show up. I find this creepy and so does my daughter.

I asked if my daughter could get her partner to speak with his mom. He did, and as a result she grudgingly agreed to come five days later but then stay for the duration of my visit. She is also pushing for us to come stay the weekend at her house. That is not happening.

For the purposes of this question, please assume that Partner is kind, non neurotypical and handles his mother by tuning her out. He also outsources all emotional labor. Just go with the idea that he has done everything he will do by asking her once to change her plans.

I am not happy. My daughter is furious. She says that we are just going to carry on with our plans and the Other Grandmother can sit and stew up in her vacation house. I feel like this would be unforgivably rude and while I may not have to deal with this lady much, my daughter does and will for, basically, ever.

There have already been some conflicts between daughter and OG. Daughter and I are very attachment-parenting sort of people and OG is a very "put the baby in the crib and let them cry; they'll learn to stop" sort of person. So daughter does not want to let her babysit. Also, there was a big debacle around daughter's January birthday when OG showed up unexpected in a snowstorm and announced she was cooking dinner that nobody wanted. She means well. I recognize that she must mean well. But she is awfully hamhanded at communicating that.

I know that there is almost certainly nothing I can do about this but smile and be pleasant and that’s what I will do but just in case you are better at this sort of thing than I am, can you think of a way we can head her off at the pass? Really, she could visit any time. Just - not for those two weeks. And do you have any ideas on a) how daughter can manage to have a cordial relationship but enforce some boundaries and b) how the OG could politely be persuaded to back off the family thing in general?
posted by mygothlaundry to Human Relations (27 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I mean, if your daughter is happy for her to sit in her vacation home and stew, I think you should be ok with that. It doesn’t sound like this person respects nicely put boundaries and your daughter - as you point out - will be dealing with her frequently. Letting her firmly set boundaries, even if it feels rude to you, will be a blessing for her entire life! You might need to grin and bear it, but the bearing it part is probably just bearing your own feelings of being rude, not putting up with OG’s presence.

It’s ok to be rude to uninvited guests, especially when they’ve been made aware that they’re not welcome.
posted by Bottlecap at 1:50 PM on August 2, 2022 [70 favorites]

Can daughter tell OG to fuck off herself? I mean, it didn't work when son did it, maybe it'll work hearing it from daughter? This is utterly unacceptable, IMO, I'd be LIVID and would clearly tell OG to shove it.
posted by tristeza at 2:00 PM on August 2, 2022 [6 favorites]

...Other Grandmother can sit and stew up in her vacation house. I feel like this would be unforgivably rude...

OG is a very "put the baby in the crib and let them cry; they'll learn to stop" sort of person.

Different people have different styles and respond to different things. It might be that OG needs, even benefits from, being put in her "crib" (vacation house) and let to cry until she learns to stop, however uncomfortable this may be to you and your daughter to implement.

I also come from a hospitality culture which would have a hard time doing this, but I truly feel like if one is dropping in without regard for other people's plans (especially, for an extended period of time!) one has to be willing to accept that they may have plans of which one is not a part.
posted by gauche at 2:01 PM on August 2, 2022 [23 favorites]

Best answer: I am not happy. My daughter is furious. She says that we are just going to carry on with our plans and the Other Grandmother can sit and stew up in her vacation house. I feel like this would be unforgivably rude and while I may not have to deal with this lady much, my daughter does and will for, basically, ever.

Your daughter's relationship with OG is her own to manage; her wishes take precedent here. If nothing else, remember that you too are a guest on this visit, and decisions about hosting are the exclusive territory of the host.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 2:03 PM on August 2, 2022 [69 favorites]

Best answer: OG is not visiting you, therefore none of this is your call to make. Your daughter has made decisions about how to manage this and your job is to support her in those decisions.

Also, to send her to r/JustNoMIL because she 100% has a Just No MIL,
posted by DarlingBri at 2:05 PM on August 2, 2022 [20 favorites]

Get OG's phone number. Say to her: you live 40 minutes from our children; I've been waiting a year to visit them. Please give us space. I'd love to spend a bit of time with you - how about we go to lunch a couple of times while I'm there?
posted by at at 2:06 PM on August 2, 2022

Do not, as your daughter's mother, directly call her mother-in-law just to tell her not to visit. I can't imagine that helping with the situation, on anyone's side.

I agree with everyone else here - it sounds like your daughter has made a call here, and all you have to do is support her.
posted by sagc at 2:18 PM on August 2, 2022 [59 favorites]

Yeah, follow your daughter's lead here, but perhaps extend an olive branch by offering to get lunch one day with OG.
posted by coffeecat at 2:18 PM on August 2, 2022 [4 favorites]

Echoing coffeecat’s suggestion - you let her know what times the two of you will be available. - lunch one day, maybe a dinner near the end of the visit. No explanation necessary beyond a general, non-committal ‘…we just have a lot of catching up to do and I’m afraid we’ve already blocked out more than we have time for. But it will be great seeing you for lunch, if your schedule allows it.”
posted by Silvery Fish at 2:28 PM on August 2, 2022 [4 favorites]

Best answer: I feel like this would be unforgivably rude and while I may not have to deal with this lady much, my daughter does and will for, basically, ever.

there was a big debacle around daughter's January birthday when OG showed up unexpected in a snowstorm and announced she was cooking dinner that nobody wanted.

Everyone else has given you great advice. This is not your relationship to manage. As another grandmother, the information you have shared about the mother-in-law makes her sound unforgivably rude. That birthday stunt? I broke up with a new beau who pulled something similar by showing up on my birthday when I had already told him I was busy. Who does that?

My daughter had a fraught relationship with her ex-mother-in-law and staying the hell out of it turned out to be the best choice I could have made. Remember, your daughter has to fight this battle. Please do not second-guess her choices because not one of us actually knows the best course of action. Moreover, there may not be any one best course of action given the other grandmother's poor behavior.

Don't make your kid feel pressured by both grandmothers. Let her do her thing, support her as best you can whatever she decides, and enjoy your hard-earned family time to the best of your ability. Good luck!
posted by Bella Donna at 2:32 PM on August 2, 2022 [17 favorites]

It would be much, much ruder in my eyes for you to intervene and try to change the other grandmother's travel plans than it would be to follow your daughter's lead. This is hers to manage, and if she's fine with you two proceeding with your own plans then that's the right thing to do. Just trust your daughter to handle this and support her in what she's decided will work for her.

If you have it in you to do one meal or activity together during your two weeks that would be a kind gesture toward building a pleasant relationship with the other grandmother, for your granddaughter's sake. But if not, oh well, your trip is all planned out, too bad, maybe you'll see her next time you're in town.
posted by Stacey at 2:53 PM on August 2, 2022 [3 favorites]

Best answer: a) how daughter can manage to have a cordial relationship but enforce some boundaries and b) how the OG could politely be persuaded to back off the family thing in general?

It sounds like, as others have said, daughter's plan to basically honor the plans that you and she have made at the expense of OG is a perfectly mannerly way of handling it.Your daughter is enforcing boundaries. If OG is a sulky pill about it (after committing her own rudenesses, which are not the first rudenesses your daughter has had to endure), that is 100% on her.

It's possible OG means well, it's possible she does not. You should not have to be a mind reader about this. Most people, when told their behavior is a problem by people they care about, try to work with those people to find a solution that works for everyone, or mostly works. It's less clear if daughter's partner indicated that five days later WAS the compromise position that would be acceptable or if he accepted that as the only thing OG was willing to do. What is clear is that she has a pattern of this sort of disruptive behavior and it shouldn't be on everyone else to tiptoe around her while she is the only person acting like this.

I understand you feel like it may be "unforgivably rude" but realistically, this is not your relationship. If your daughters partner is as you say, your daughter may have to do more of this kind of boundary-setting work in the relationship and if that is ok with them, it should be ok with you. And this is also the answer to your second question. You can't make anyone do anything but you can establish and enforce clear boundaries, hopefully lovingly at first, and if those aren't respected, those boundary enforcements can get slowly less loving. Because, honestly, you don't get to the point where you're "cooking a dinner no one wants" unless there are some people in the equation who put up with or tolerate it and that may be a pattern that takes a while to break.
posted by jessamyn at 2:53 PM on August 2, 2022 [13 favorites]

I don't understand why your daughter hasn't told her MIL that those two weeks aren't available for visiting. That would be the obvious thing to do. Is there a reason she hasn't done it?

I'm not saying pressure your daughter on this, but I'd ask why she hasn't taken this obvious route.
posted by fingersandtoes at 3:09 PM on August 2, 2022 [11 favorites]

I am a mother, and I am also the daughter of a mother who sometimes takes on my fights as her fights (especially when it comes to a complicated relationship with my stepmother). As much as is humanly possible for you, you need to center your daughter and do exactly what she wants in word and spirit. Try to minimize your irritation with OG. Try to support your daughter. Try to remember this isn't about you.

Here's the most important thing: you are not in competition with OG. Most of us have two grandmothers and navigate this fine and don't feel like we grade or rank them against each other. You are close to your daughter, so you will have access to this grandchild.

The best thing you can do is cultivate a friendly relationship with OG. Do not rant or complain about her to your daughter or her partner, ever. If you need to rant, please do it elsewhere. Don't add to your daughter's burden by asking her to help you manage your feelings.

There are legit concerns here. But you don't get to not want the OG around but also worry about being rude. Pick one, whichever your daughter wants. It's up to her, period. ALWAYS defer to her. Always always. Her partner isn't being great either, and that's also not your battle.

Your daughter has a solution. "Great, sweetie, I fully support you and am excited to spend time with you. Let me know how I can be of help."
posted by bluedaisy at 3:31 PM on August 2, 2022 [13 favorites]

Best answer: It seems very likely to me that the OMIL will turn up bright and early every morning and insert herself into your day, every day.

I would expect things to go best if daughter said, “I think it’s better if you don’t visit when my mom is here - I miss her terribly and want to catch up one on one with her. We’d love to host you the following week and if you come on Mom’s last day we could have a dinner party.”
posted by nouvelle-personne at 3:34 PM on August 2, 2022 [13 favorites]

Can you and your daughter take a few days away somewhere else at an air bnb, just the two of you and the baby? It's unfortunate to have to leave partner behind to deal with OG, but it's his mother after all, and if he can't keep her from visiting when she's not wanted the least he can do is cover for you guys while you nip off and take some alone time.
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 4:15 PM on August 2, 2022 [13 favorites]

I would ask your daughter to speak to her and be truthful but vague. “I get to see my mom so infrequently and she and I would really like time alone and with the baby.”

And then throw her a bone by suggesting you all get together for one night during your visit. Maybe even let her cook so she feels needed.

Good luck.
posted by terrapin at 5:02 PM on August 2, 2022 [1 favorite]

My daughter is furious. She says that we are just going to carry on with our plans and the Other Grandmother can sit and stew up in her vacation house. I feel like this would be unforgivably rude

It reads to me like your daughter is trying to protect her child and relationships from her partner's manipulative abuser as best she can under what may be complicated circumstances. That's not rude.

Did you raise your daughter to put being polite over having boundaries? This is a person she would not leave her child alone with, at least in part because she is very close to one of this lady's children and that person is not a huge fan, for reasons you don't know but are ready to write off as insignificant because you perceive the partner as not willing/able to do the work rather than choosing the right safe path for themself.

Your daughter also does not want a particularly close relationship with her. It's not her obligation to make this "work" just because she's a woman and there's a baby now. It would be reasonable for her to not desire her child to have to endure whatever her partner has. Your daughter - and apparently you and the rest of the family - have already endured this woman's strong-arming and intrusive behavior, manipulative tantrums, and attempts to control any situation she can get her hands on. There is precedent here for boundaries to be deployed.

Your daughter is not wrong to do this. It sounds like for whatever reasons - private and not your business - her partner hasn't chosen to go no contact and mostly sticks to gray rocking instead. That's between them. All you can do is stand behind your daughter and what she wants. You may have to be a little uncomfortable in order to do this, I promise it's a hundred times harder for your daughter. Your support in this might be exactly what she needs to feel more confident in drawing those lines and feeling justified and empowered to do so, this might also be something her partner picks up on.

Like, burning the appropriate bridges here would probably be a favor. Do not go around behind your daughter's back being conciliatory and undermining your daughter's authority, apologizing for her having boundaries and trying to fix this or make it be nice. Practice telling this woman your trip was not to see her, and that she could have chosen any other time that you were NOT there to make plans (not that your daughter wants that, and it appears she can mostly get this woman to leave her alone except when there's some kind of Event she can leech herself onto), and frankly a single courtesy dinner together is the extent of the obligation you feel toward her. Maybe you never get the opportunity to deliver that speech out loud, but it should be front of mind instead of "how can I make this not so awkward". Let that woman be awkward, stare at her open-mouthed. Practice your Resting I-Smell-A-Fart Face. She's not your teammate here.

Yes, it'd be great if everybody here was able to more clearly stand up for themselves, but it's really difficult and scary and there may be trauma involved along with crushing societal pressure to not be rude. There may be other complications in play, like about money. But pay closer attention to what your daughter is trying to tell you than to concerns that someone might not like you because you won't take their shit. Being disliked by terrible people is a much shinier badge than the alternative, but it IS a little terrifying when you have to live in close range to them.
posted by Lyn Never at 5:05 PM on August 2, 2022 [14 favorites]

Best answer: In addition to what is done during this trip, your daughter needs to come up with a policy with her partner on information sharing with his mother.

The OG is doing this - and has done this - in the past because she has been given the information that you will be there or that your daughter is travelling to visit her grandparents, so she inserts herself. The simplest thing is for your daughter and her partner to just not tell her. Tell her very little. She can't force her way into things that she doesn't know about. If it comes up after the fact, your daughter can make up a reason why they didn't tell her.

We do this with my partner's snoopy mother a lot and it works well. We once fabricated a fake Thanksgiving when my mom was coming to town for real Thanksgiving by claiming a friend was in town for the weekend before and we wanted to invite her. Worked a treat. We just don't tell her about things we don't want to discuss with her.
posted by urbanlenny at 5:50 PM on August 2, 2022 [21 favorites]

Best answer: It's not up to you to get into this fight. Your daughter has to deal with her and you need to go with whatever your daughter is up to doing. She's going to be fighting this battle for the rest of her life, after all. My advice to you is to follow her lead, keep your mouth shut and smile. I'm not sure what your plans are, but if OG absolutely can't stay at the house at the same time as you and has to go home to sleep (god, I hope), use that 40 minute drive time to wake up very early and GTFO out of the house so by the time she "drops by," partner dude can be all "Oh, gee, everyone went off to somewhere or other for the day!" Hopefully partner dude doesn't spill the beans on where you go so she can "drop by" the restaurant or house or wherever. Have some good excuse to not be able to stay at her cabin for a weekend, if y'all can come up with one.

Look, people like this aren't going to take no for an answer. OG is gonna bulldoze her way in because she so badly doesn't want to be left out. All of her behavior says she can't stand to be left out and she's not going to allow it if at all possible. Five days will probably not happen (I bet she shows anyway), the point is for her to be there at the same exact time as you so the baby doesn't like you better than her, or some such logic, probably.

However, it's up to your daughter to decide what battles she wants to fight here. The son has learned from years of experience that fighting back hasn't worked and he's not going to get into that war. I can tell you from experience with bulldozer people that they're gonna do what they wanna and you have to set off a nuke and start a war to get them to stop (IF that works).

how daughter can manage to have a cordial relationship but enforce some boundaries and b) how the OG could politely be persuaded to back off the family thing

I don't think either of these is possible, that's sane thinking. Bulldozers don't listen to no's. I've been lectured my whole life by people about "boundaries! you can set some!" and I'm all "so what do you do when you say no and people just keep on coming?" and nobody will answer me on that one. I've had to go to some crazy awful emotional blow-uppy places to stop bulldozing behavior, and that set off a war for months at times because bulldozers don't forget a slight. Was it worth it? God, no. With bulldozers, you need to think ahead about stuff like, "do I want to hear about the incident of the elf shoes for the next umpteen years if I object to her buying the baby ugly shoes?" You need to have excuses that in her logic are acceptable, whatever those might be. Your daughter needs to decide if fighting this particular battle is REALLY worth the drama and hell she's gonna get over it.

I feel very badly for you that OG is gonna horn into your time, but hell if I know how to stop her from coming unless y'all totally vacate the area for 2 weeks and don't tell her where you went. Managing HOW much time she spends per day may be a more reasonable goal, stuff like, "Can we meet you for lunch before we take baby to the doctor?" sort of stuff, to head off the urge for her to show up at 6 a.m. with breakfast, lunch and dinner fixins. Give her designated times to get attention and hope that satisfies enough that she doesn't decide to camp out on the lawn, basically. Good luck.
posted by jenfullmoon at 9:00 PM on August 2, 2022 [5 favorites]

Can you postpone your trip by 2 weeks? I know with plane trips and multiple peoples’ lives, this might seem impossible, but we just changed plane tickets -twice! - with less trouble and expense than expected.

Could you just avoid this problem by avoiding it entirely?
posted by vunder at 10:02 PM on August 2, 2022 [4 favorites]

Best answer: Have daughter tell OG that your plans have changed and you’re going to be there two weeks later. Watch how quickly SHE decides something came up and she’ll be there two weeks later too. Then stick to your original visit and tell OG after the fact that you managed to come at the original time after all, isn’t it great how it all worked out. And in future, OG should be kept on an information diet, it’s not her business what guests come and go.
posted by Jubey at 5:10 AM on August 3, 2022 [20 favorites]

Hi. Your daughter's primary obligation is to her husband and her child, not you. You don't know the "OG" at all but you seem to know an awful lot about her from what is apparently a regular river of information about her from your daughter that is negative.

Your daughter and her husband need to manage this as a couple, and your daughter has made a call. Perhaps it is part of the way you and she bond to complain about the OG, but that undermines her relationship with her husband and puts her new baby daughter in a bad spot before she is even two years old.

If your daughter has made a decision, go with it and do what is best to help her support her marriage and her new family: don't bitch-and-scheme-as-bonding.
posted by desert exile at 6:24 AM on August 3, 2022 [1 favorite]

I think Jubey has thought of the exact right solution to this problem right there.
posted by jenfullmoon at 10:37 AM on August 3, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I wonder if OG might also be non-neurotypical, if her son is.

I've observed some non-neurotypical women from previous generations in my own family tree tend to cling a little harder to the set of Social Rules they were taught (like, "show up and make dinner when times are hard!" But also "everyone likes your enchiladas, they are a reliably correct thing you can cook" and then freaking out if someone doesnt eat meat, or "the one right way to treat a screaming child is this one method I used," or "the more the merrier for a family gathering!" even when everyone would prefer to celebrate in smaller groups, or "you should be close with your in-laws!" even when those in-laws would rather not.)

I say this to frame my agreement with others here: I recommend your daughter plan to be direct, and I agree with her plan. "Sorry, can't meet up with you today (or all week), I have plans with my mom and she's only in town rarely! Let's you and I see each other next time you're in the area." is not necessarily cruel.

If you assume she is oblivious, rather than a bully, you might be able to find a better feeling about your daughter's method and a way to appreciate it - the exact same directness and boundaries you would set with a bully can be a way to help her understand the new rules, rather than feeling like a retaliation against her for breaking them.
posted by Lady Li at 3:32 PM on August 3, 2022 [3 favorites]

Just a note that the other grandmother might also be neurodivergent, including maybe autistic -- it runs in families and women are often not diagnosed.

I say this not because her behavior is appropriate, or trying to say that setting boundaries with her would be inappropriate or anything like that.

However, I think people are making a lot of intense assumptions about her behavior being intentionally shitty or selfish or knowingly inappropriate but I'm just not reading that from this.

She may have been trying to be friendly and welcoming and showing that she wants you to be part of the larger family, and pouting because she just isn't getting the hint and is confused.

I also think that setting clear boundaries and being really explicit (which your daughter seems like she wants to do) may be the best way to go about this even if it feels rude to you.

In the future I would maybe consider bringing this up with your daughter so that if she agrees that it's a possibility, she can more effectively get in front of these situations -- "please don't show up to our house uninvited no matter what" for example may be something she just needs to say.
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 10:47 AM on August 4, 2022

If you assume she is oblivious, rather than a bully, you might be able to find a better feeling about your daughter's method and a way to appreciate it - the exact same directness and boundaries you would set with a bully can be a way to help her understand the new rules, rather than feeling like a retaliation against her for breaking them.

This is such a great insight and answer. I am someone who sometimes really needs to be hit over the head with a sledgehammer to understand something. I would be mortified to know someone felt bullied or pushed around when I wasn't properly reading their response to me. I would definitely appreciate direct and firm words! It may be that OG won't respond to that, but perhaps she will?
posted by bluedaisy at 1:04 PM on August 4, 2022 [1 favorite]

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