From Horrid Mum to Horrid Grandmother

I have a difficult dilemma and am not sure how to handle it.

I have a great marriage and two daughters I love to bits.  My problem is with my horrid mother, who has grown into an equally horrid grandmother.  When I had my first child my husband and I talked through how much, if any contact my child and I  would have with her.   I felt there should be some, not least because I didn’t want to deprive our child of a grandmother.  My husband agreed and also felt the change in status might encourage her to be a better person.  I felt quite skeptical about this. 

Sadly the relationship between my mother and I has become increasingly strained.  We live a three hour drive away from my parents’ home so tend to stay longer than we’d like to.  I start feeling tense as soon as we are on the way and remain so throughout the visit wondering what she is going to say next in front of my girls, either about me or how I bring them up.   It belittles me and is awful for them to hear.  

Instead of seeing our visit in a positive light, she tries to prove she is still in charge and is often spiteful and mean.  Last time she offered the children chocolate biscuits but walked past me saying in conspiratorial tones to them:  ‘We think mummy’s much too fat to eat biscuits, don’t we?’ which they didn’t know how to answer.    My husband moved to sit next to me, held my hand and said:  ‘We think mummy’s lovely,’ a comment my mother ignored.  Each visit is as bad or worse than the last.

Now our daughters are seven and five they’ve asked me on the way home why she is‘always’ so unkind to me and criticises everything I do.  It’s touching how they stand up for me, and I try not to show I’m upset.    

My problem is I don’t know how much to tell them about my mother’s behaviour  when I was their age.  I also don’t know whether to leave them at home except during the summer holidays and around Christmas and just go myself.  Or cut my mother out of our lives completely.  


It is a good idea to have a debriefing session in the car on your way home. 

But we don’t think you should tell them the details of how she treated you when you were young.  Let them form their own view of their grandmother and protect them when necessary. 

If your children get upset by the visits, cut them right down.  Try short phone calls or Skype instead.  But the number of times you go is up to you. We don’t recommend trying to explain the situation to your mother as she will only blame you.   


Please share your views on this difficult subject on our forum.