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#81691 - 09/16/11 02:18 AM Baby sometimes prefers grandma over me
clee03m Offline
Super Elite Member

Registered: 01/21/11
Posts: 706
Hi, my son is 18 month old, and his grandmother watches him while my husband and I are at work. Lately, I have noticed that he seems to prefer her when all of us are together. Many nights she stays late to have dinner with us and help us clean up. Baby would want her to read to him instead of me, or want her to play with him instead of me. I have to be honest. It really kills me. And it seems to me that grandmother enjoys this preference.

To make matters worse, ever since I night weaned him, baby seems to prefer dad over me to comfort him at night.

I am going to try to take one day off per week to spend more time with him. I can't help feeling bitter towards my mother in law for not leaving right away, and towards my husband for not making any money (he is starting a law practice from scratch which is taking way longer than either of us imagined).

I swear that my mother in law is trying for a second chance at motherhood with my son. I of course know that there is a chance I am blinded by my jealousy. But she acts like she is the mom (in the 50's sort of sense where they are the primary care giver), and I am the distant breadwinner husband, and my husband is just some dumb kid who happens to be around. Even though my husband and I have already chosen a potty training method and time frame, she is reading 10 books on potty training and thinks with "our next child" we should start early potty training at 3 months of age. Despite my best efforts to distract the baby, he always cries when she leaves because she will repeat her good bye routine at night until baby wails.

I think I need to have a talk with her about how I really need her leave when I get home. But she moved here from far away to take care of the baby, and she doesn't have a lot of friends here. Essentially, I would be asking her to eat dinner on own every night I am not on call. Is this OK? I don't know.

#81692 - 09/16/11 03:07 PM Re: Baby sometimes prefers grandma over me [Re: clee03m]
southernmd Offline
Super Elite Member

Registered: 02/04/10
Posts: 1418
That's such a hard call. I definately understand how you feel with wanting to be preferred. I go through this a bit with my husband who stays at home. I don't think you should have to apologize though for wanting private time with your family when you get off or are not on call. Most families do not have their mother-in-law eat with them even if they are local. Just because she moved here to help - I am not sure that should change this. You still need to develop/enjoy your family unit, which involves you being the primary maternal figure.

I'd have an honest talk with her. Let her know that you are not feeling like you are getting enough time being the mama. Maybe this ring home for her? Perhaps it is optimistic, but I'd like to believe that all mamas know what this could feel like.

#81699 - 09/16/11 09:13 PM Re: Baby sometimes prefers grandma over me [Re: southernmd]
lyn2006 Offline
Super Elite Member

Registered: 05/03/10
Posts: 513
Loc: New England
Clee03m, your post could have been written by me! My mother in law watches my 19 month old son almost every day (my husband is also a resident), and I sometimes feel like he prefers her. OK, I often feel that way. We also live next door to them, so he is trained to walk right over there first thing in the morning since we do that at least 3 days per week. It's all "nana, nana, nana" starting about 2 hours after he wakes up if we haven't gone over. So, I give in and we chat over coffee... reinforcing him I guess but oh well.

One thing that has helped a bit, that may be an option for you, is we started him at daycare 2 days per week. Those days he doesn't go to nana's house at all. He often asks for her when we pick him up though.

It does hurt when he definitely wants to see her every day- and I never get to hear him ask for me! However, my husband and mother in law claim that he does smile. Maybe your son does want you when you're gone - and grandma when she's gone. The grass is always greener, right?

Anyways, try talking to her. A real heart to heart. We were eating dinner with my in laws for awhile almost every night when we were super busy. I felt like we weren't our own famiy and talked to my mother in law about it. No one's feelings were hurt and we were both happier (I think she was at least!). It may be a bit harder since your mother in law would eat alone - but at least try to bring it up. Otherwise you will continue to feel this way. Good luck!

#81702 - 09/16/11 10:21 PM Re: Baby sometimes prefers grandma over me [Re: lyn2006]
sahmd Offline
Super Elite Member

Registered: 06/15/05
Posts: 1647
clee03m, I can understand your feelings, but I think you should count your blessings! It is really wonderful that your MIL moved from far away so that she could help take care of your family. And she apparently has a very positive relationship with your baby, which is a good thing! I assume that she will also be taking care of the new baby, too.

Your feelings are totally valid, but I wonder if they are more about your own discomfort with the distant-breadwinner role than with the help your MIL is providing. I hope there is some way that you can arrange things so that you feel better about the situation without hurting her feelings. It kind of sounds like disinviting her from dinner would hurt her feelings. I would tread very carefully on that one, unless you know that she would welcome the time away from your family. But working a little bit less and spending more time with your baby could be a win-win.


#81703 - 09/17/11 12:48 AM Re: Baby sometimes prefers grandma over me [Re: sahmd]
Emily2651 Offline
Super Elite Member

Registered: 02/27/04
Posts: 1121
Loc: California
Oh, man. This is a tough one. Of course you want your kiddo to have a strong and loving bond with his grandmother. But I can totally see where you're coming from too ... maybe it's time for a little part-time preschool? The extra day at home each week sounds great too.
The cure for anything is salt water: sweat, tears, or the sea. -- Isak Dinesen

#81705 - 09/17/11 01:14 AM Re: Baby sometimes prefers grandma over me [Re: Emily2651]
sah Offline
Plus Member

Registered: 07/30/10
Posts: 32
This is opinion from mom that doesn't have luxury of family care and I am going to be brutally honest: Having someone that loves your child take care of them is something that few have. I cant tell you how hard it is to find someone who actually will care about your child as part of the job. And that is crucial to their overall development as a confident human being to be taken care of by people who love them.

I think you should also think about the impact that your conflicted feelings could have on your child. You chosen this path (md lifestyle) and your child had no choice and so your number one obligation is to minimize its effect on your child, not on you. If your interactions with your child include a large part of this negative focus, then that is going to further impact their lack of bonding with you. Asking your mother in law to take a hike during dinner is really not cool. I would recommend that you focus on loving and learning as much about this unbelievable little person as you can, as opposed to worrying about who they prefer. And mostly, they will, when push comes to shove, need Mama. So be Mama-the person who loves them more than anything.

#81711 - 09/17/11 12:02 PM Re: Baby sometimes prefers grandma over me [Re: sah]
Melbelle Offline
Elite Member

Registered: 02/12/09
Posts: 346
Loc: Oregon
My cousin went through this recently with her mother and her son. Our grandmother actually called and told my cousin's mom that she needed to back off and give them some alone time. Now when she gets home from work her mother makes herself scarce elsewhere in the house - totally disappears for a bit - and my cousin and her baby get to spend some alone time together. It makes a special time for both of them, and my cousin's mother seems to understand - and doesn't get booted.

That said, I think talking to her is completely reasonable. I think you are right to question your thoughts of her trying to take over, but it is still a difficult situation.

I don't have kids yet, but am interested in the subject, because my mother is thinking of moving closer once the baby comes. She is definitely the type to tell me how to best raise my child, and I am sure there will be conflicts at some point. I could see her showing up with 10 books on potty training, summarized into a handy list for me. smile

Good luck, and keep us posted!

#81712 - 09/17/11 03:54 PM Re: Baby sometimes prefers grandma over me [Re: Melbelle]
asunshine Offline
Super Elite Member

Registered: 07/02/02
Posts: 1900
Okay, if it were me, I would definitely take an extra day off during the week, and also sign up for some mommy-baby yoga/swim/basketweaving class in the evening so I had an excuse to leave and have some alone time with my kid. That's plausible, right? wink

I don't know if you necessarily have to have some "come to Jesus" kind of conversation with your MIL. Maybe just start introducing the idea (along with hubs) over a few weeks, maybe confide in her that you really miss your boy and are trying to figure out ways to maximize your time with him and does she have any ideas, etc. or what was it like when her kids were little, etc. so she feels a part of the plan or at least gets some empathy for you. Hopefully the longer she lives in your town, the more connections she'll make in the community and the more comfortable she'll be doing non-family things.

Re: the drama over grandma leaving...That would totally drive me batty, but I would try not to take it personally. He's probably learned by now that the more he fusses, the more kisses and loves he gets from Grandma. What about instituting a "granny's leaving routine" where he gets one story with her, then she puts on her coat, then one hug and one kiss, and then you take him away to bathtime? He'll probably holler the first few times, but in the end, it might be more healthy for everyone involved.

Anyways, that's JMO. I think you are wise in wanting personal time with your kid, but not wanting to have your son to be caught between you and your MIL (a la a messy divorce). Big hugs; keep us posted.

#81714 - 09/17/11 04:14 PM Re: Baby sometimes prefers grandma over me [Re: asunshine]
Emily2651 Offline
Super Elite Member

Registered: 02/27/04
Posts: 1121
Loc: California
The evening mommy-and-me class is a totally genius idea.
The cure for anything is salt water: sweat, tears, or the sea. -- Isak Dinesen

#81715 - 09/17/11 05:24 PM Re: Baby sometimes prefers grandma over me [Re: Emily2651]
AmmaMD Offline
Super Elite Member

Registered: 12/25/09
Posts: 718
I think this is a scenario that hits home for a LOT of parents, from a variety of situations.

I agree with the above commenters noting that a lot of your discomfort is probably mostly related to your feeling guilty about not being there more - not that that makes it any less valid, but I agree that when I look back at my own experiences with this, the times I would get all upset that my caregiver would rush to comfort after a fall when I was RIGHT THERE AND THE MAMA were times not when anything else was all that different, except that I was feeling more overworked and torn and guilty. Other times, I could feel nothing but gratitude that the person with her so much of her days would of course swoop in and was so devoted - how would I feel if they *didn't* have that instinct? Remembering this was mostly useful to me in terms of helping me to realize when my perceptions weren't really that accurate, I think.

In terms of the issue of whether or not to have a direct discussion... that's a tough one. I think a lot of it depends on personality types. One thing to keep in mind perhaps is that I'm sure all these interactions are not lost on your MIL, as well... but without a frank discussion she may not be sure how to read things. It would be a shame if she were to see your irritation but take it to be eg that you felt she was doing a poor job and weren't good with the child or something. All the risks of talking openly aside, if it's at all acceptable in your family culture, it might be safer than not. After all, nothing that you have to say comes down to "you're a crappy person to take care of a child" - it boils down instead (if you frame it right) to "you're doing such a good and all encompassing job that I feel like you're starting to squeeze me out a bit". As ego threats go, that's a pretty soft one! Depending again on the context, you can even play up the "expert" role a bit - "I know being a mother is something you've done so well and for so long that it feels really natural to you, but it's something I'm just getting the chance to learn - and sometimes it feels like you can just step in and do so much of it so quickly that it doesn't leave a lot for me to develop my own abilities or style" or something less formal sounding than that =).

The big question that's left, though, is what specifically you want to ask her to do (if anything - it could be that just acknowledging how you're feeling would at least keep your irritation from being misread and might lead to her come up with ways to help on her own). Changing the goodbye routine seems innocent enough - especially if you can do something that preserves a little formality to it (she doesn't want to be cast aside at the end of a hard day's devotion, either, I'm sure) but then still has a point where you return you child's focus to you and she unobtrusively says goodbye to your husband and leaves (eg). In terms of dinners... perhaps starting with some specific nights each week that are protected family time, but others where she's with you? And then perhaps as her social network grows, she'll start having other things she wants to do more anyways (I'm sure anything you can do to hurry this along would be reasonable, too... I wonder if there are any ways you can help her to meet people she might enjoy spending time with... other full-time grandmas, people with other joint interests...?).

Finally, one other thing I found helpful was to try to remember to really work hard to force myself to try to take my caregiver's perspective, too. I mean, yes, you're the mother, and that's a HUGE role identity. But... so is your job. Think how much passion and devotion you bring to that. This is her more-than-full-time job, as well... to devote that much time and love and patience and yet know that all along at the same time you're expected to be working to actually preserve the bulk of the credit and devotion for someone else... who also gets to make all sorts of decisions about how you should do your job down to a million little details (what they eat, how you handle diapers, blah blah blah) - think how crazy that would make you at your job! It's just an incredibly hard position to be in. At least you know that no matter what happens, when it comes down to it, you still still be the mama, and you get to make the fundamental decisions. Her position is a really tough one, too.

I'm sure this is almost all things you've thought about a ton already... but it's such a tough spot that I thought at least hearing that others have gone through the same battles, had some of the same thoughts (and come out feeling good about things!) might be helpful.

We'll be thinking of you! Good luck!!

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