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Help a Mom: Grandma not involved in her grandkids' lives

Posted November 22, 2011

I love all of the great advice and questions that readers have shared since we resurrected the Help a Mom feature a month or so ago. Thank you!

Here's a timely question as many of us prepare to see extended family during the holidays. This mom is concerned that the only time her kids see their grandmother is during the holidays or family gatherings. Otherwise, she's not involved. Here's what the mom wrote:

"My children's grandmother lives near us, but never sees the kids or makes much of an effort to be involved in their lives, except for family gatherings at her house to celebrate birthdays or major holidays. We have invited her to countless school events, the kids' games, and other outings, but she either comes up with an excuse not to attend or she commits, then backs out at the last minute. She has never spent one-on-one time with them. Are there others in this situation? How do you deal with it?"

Have you had the same problem? Can you help this mom? Please share in the comments box below. (If you don't see the comments box below, you'll need to log in or sign up for a WRAL account. You can do that by going to the top of the page and clicking on either "log in" or "register").

Help a Mom features questions from readers every Wednesday. If you have a question that you'd like to ask Go Ask Mom readers, click here to email it to me.


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  • Raleighmommy Nov 26, 2011

    The definition of grandparent makes all the difference in this discussion.  Some people think a grandparent is a person to read with, talk with, and develop close bonds with as they learn about the past and help each other.  Some apparently think the relationship is just about buying a gift for birthdays and holidays and they're done.  
    How you parent may be how you grandparent--close, loving, respectful, and involved, or distant, self-absorbed, and critical, or anything in between.  My MIL and FIL moved further away from us to live very close to my brother-in-law and his wife, the month our first daughter was born.  The grandparents never call and rarely visit us, and only on big occasions like holidays so they can maintain the illusion that they're good grandparents.  They criticize our kids for mispronouncing words, even at two or three years old, "when are you going to learn to speak English?"  They don't know the kids at all but they think they do. We can't make them love

  • gopack10 Nov 24, 2011

    I have the opposite problem. My mother in law complains because we are not over there every weekend or calling everyday. We have a wonderful family with my husband and our 2 kids and we stay very busy during the week so the weekends are a great time for us to actually enjoy each other, being together and doing fun things. We do make time for them but it is not as much as her other grandchildren so to her it looks as though we are doing something wrong. We make time and always spend every holiday, birthday, etc. with them but she still complains. This puts my husband in a really bad position and she knows it and I wish she would enjoy her retired life and have a little respect for our family and where we are in our lives too.

  • boatrokr Nov 24, 2011

    Reading on, I find the diatribes about "ridiculous excuses" and rants about grandparent obligations. They owe you no excuse at all. Could their reluctance be from pressure? Maybe your demands on their time ("hey, they're retired, there's no reason why they shouldn't come to x event...") are annoying or just unreasonable. When did they become accountable to THEIR children (you)?

  • boatrokr Nov 24, 2011

    Some women feel they've done their time after they've raised their kids (you). Most women work outside the home now, and want to take some "me" time after the nest is empty and they've retired. This doesn't make them mean or selfish, or that they don't love their grandchildren. My suggestion is to stop pressuring your mother about the grandchildren, and simply make the most of the time you, and they, DO have with her.

  • Platinum Nov 23, 2011

    The sad thing is that having children or having grandchildren doesn't necessarily change a person from being basically selfish to being a loving, caring, giving person. Some grandparents have their own priorities that don't involve their grandkids, or are too intimidated by their grandkids' various interests or individuality to try to forge a deeper bond. I think it's a special relationship - like no other, yet my own children do not have good relationships with their grandparents either. I loved both sets of grandparents and was very fortunate that they were loving, kind, caring people who always had time for me and were happy just to sit in the same room with me and the other grandkids, without an agenda or needing to be catered to. I think a good grandparent is very precious and should be appreciated - seems they are not as common as you might think if these comments are any indication.

  • raleighlynn Nov 23, 2011

    You can't force Grandma to spend time with the kids. That's the tragic truth. My mother could give a flip about her grandchildren and great-grandchildren. My six grandchildren mean the world to me. No way I could ignore them. I help my kids when I can with diapers, groceries and formula. They are all very responsible young men and women, but kids are expensive! Can't imagine a grandma not showing the love. I am so blessed.

  • cmt2hm2 Nov 23, 2011

    She most definitely has a reason. She may have a problem with either Mom or Dad or maybe one of the children. Someone could have said something to her that made her want to stay away. It could be any number of things and daughter should have a serious talk with Mom (the grandma). You may be surprised about the answer you'll get. Sometimes things are said or done that might be trivial to you, or might have been taken totally wrong. The reason may be much more than you realize.

  • rosie48 Nov 23, 2011

    These stories of absentee grandparents truly saddens me. I adore my 3.5 grandchildren and spend as much time as I can with them. They have brought so much joy to my life and I fully intend to attend every soccer game and dance recital in the future. The absent grandparents are missing out on so much and denying their grandchildren their "wisdom". I hope this discussion might improve some of these relationships.

  • righthere1234 Nov 23, 2011

    I understand how you feel. My MIL complained for years about how she never saw my SIL's kids because they lived out of state. My husband and I live 15 minutes away and have 2 kids, and there are times it's like pulling teeth to get her to see her grandkids. I can't understand why because she complained for years before our kids came along about how she never saw her grandkids. She does the same thing to our kids. Where she'll say yes and then back out at the last minute. I told my husband that our son who is 5 is old enough to start hearing no from his grandmother.

    My parents want to be involved with our kids and that's good enough for us.

  • Glass Half Full Nov 23, 2011

    I had a similar situation. My x-husband's mother was never involved in our childs life. At birth, she lived in another state. Never came "home" to visit. Then her sister passed away and it was time to get some money so she moved back "home". Still had very little contact with my child. Then she got sick and died. My x wondered why our child didn't want to hang around for all the events surrounding and including the funeral. Why would a child want to expose themselves to a grieving adult when they have no emotional connection to the deceased? I realized early on she wanted nothing to do with her only grandchild and made sure my child had the love and attention of the grandparents who wanted to be a part of her life. The one who died without knowing her only grandchild is the one who lost out.