For 10 years I have happily chauffeured my four grandkids to and from school and to after-school classes and events. They also stay with me when my daughter and son-in-law travel. Quite unexpectedly, I met a wonderful man, and we are in love. My grandchildren adore him. My daughter, their mother, does everything she can to make me feel guilty about not being as available for childcare. Recently, she “forgot” to invite me to my granddaughter’s piano recital. When I found out and asked about it, she said that she thought I would be too busy to go. Arguing with her is exhausting. I don’t want to miss important moments in my grandchildren’s lives, but I also want my own life. Advice?
Yes. You’ve done nothing wrong. Make that your mantra whenever you’re circling another draining conversation with your daughter. As your thoughts go ’round trying to unearth her resentment, remember that you’ve done nothing wrong. She’s enjoyed free childcare and you’ve enjoyed time with your grandchildren. It’s not selfish to want to make room in your schedule for a loving companion. Your grandchildren get it and have opened their hearts accordingly. If your daughter can’t pull on her big girl panties and be happy for you, well, you’ve done nothing wrong. See how that works?
The only dilemma you must face is sleuthing out your grandchildren’s events. Try their school’s website. If it’s not detailed enough, or if the event isn’t school-related, let your grandchildren know that you would love to attend as many of their events as your schedule allows. Ask them to call or text you directly with details. But don’t cut your daughter out of the loop. Ask her regularly whether there are any upcoming events. Remind her that you would like to attend. If she makes a stink about your new man, tell her that he is a priority in your life, but not the only priority. Then give her a hug. Eventually, she will stop pouting, or risk raising kids who act out, too.
I live with my girlfriend and her three kids. She thinks she is a good mother but her kids have no structure in their lives. They go to bed when they want to, and eat what they want to eat whenever they’re hungry or bored. The two older kids don’t even pick up after themselves. When I talk to my girlfriend she promises to be better but nothing changes. I feel badly for the kids. The way they’re being raised will hurt them later in life. But if I try to instruct them, they say, “You’re not my mom, you can’t tell me what to do.” It’s frustrating and causing a lot of tension in the household.
Did you notice this lack of structure and discipline before you moved in? If so, did you imagine your role to be the authoritarian parent? That’s what’s causing tension and drama—your insistence on the right way to live. Yes, it’s possible that structure and discipline would help those kids. But you should have clued your girlfriend into your plan to transform her household before you moved in. I suspect you didn’t because you knew she wasn’t interested. At this point, you won’t create positive change. So accept the household as it is, or move out. Your relationship with your girlfriend doesn’t have to be over, but the tension and drama deserves to be.