Mother's jealousy will end outings with creative, loving...

PARENT Q&A

September 23, 2001|By T. BERRY BRAZELTON, M.D. | T. BERRY BRAZELTON, M.D.,NEW YORK TIMES SPECIAL FEATURES

Mother's jealousy will end outings with creative, loving grandmother

Q. I'm in the middle of a circumstance with my daughter-in-law and my grandson, who is 15 months old. I care for him two or three days a week. I am a retired preschool teacher and am having a ball introducing to him to concepts he eagerly absorbs.

Our state offers many wonderful children's activities, which we enjoy visiting. My daughter-in-law is a wonderful mother. However, through my son, she makes comments about how hurt she is that she can't do these things with her child. My son asks me not to speak to her about the activities I do with my grandson.

I can understand the longing she must feel, but she needs child care and I am a thinking, creative grandmother. I ask permission before I do anything with him. He is safe, and I keep strict resting and feeding schedules.

She is off four days a week but her activities with my grandson never include the ones she complains about me taking him to.

I am about to stop the activities with my grandson so as not to cause a stir. I can't help but feel a deep sadness. I have spent many years with preschoolers and toddlers with great success doing the same things I am doing with my grandson. Why is this so different?

A. Your daughter-in-law is still grieving about having to leave her son in someone else's care. She will continue to grieve, I suspect, when he is in any other child-care setting. Most working mothers today feel this way about having to share a child they are so passionate about.

If your daughter-in-law could talk this out with her husband, it might help. But he may feel vulnerable about it, too, so you may have to just bear their jealousy. Because you are so close to your grandson and so good with him, you are more of a threat than another caregiver would be. I call this jealousy that arises between two adults who care deeply about the same child "gatekeeping." It is both normal and expectable and can arise between husband and wife, parents and grandparents, day-care workers and parents and teachers and parents. The only way to mitigate it is to talk it out -- but your daughter-in-law may not feel comfortable doing that. Try not to take it personally, and just remind yourself that this happens because your daughter-in-law is so passionately in love with your grandson.

I hate for you to have to give up your outings with your grandson, but I can understand how painful this competition is for all of you.

Address questions to Dr. T. Berry Brazelton, care of the New York Times Syndication Sales Corp., 122 E. 42nd St., New York, N.Y. 10168. Questions of general interest will be answered in this column; unpublished letters cannot be answered individually.

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