Annie's Mailbox: Mother is the Opposite
Dear Annie: My husband and I are successful professionals with no children. Our mothers are both well off and have been generous to our siblings, who, for various reasons, have needed a lot of help. My husband and I tender free professional and some financial assistance to both sides of our families.
My mother-in-law takes opportunities to show her appreciation by paying for meals or offering to reimburse costs. She is a delight, and we see her often. My mother, however, is the opposite -- always a guest, never offering to reimburse costs or pay a share. She has even invited us and others to events and then stuck us with the bill. My husband does not complain, but I am ashamed of her stinginess. Subconsciously, we do not seek out my mother, and our visits are becoming rare.
Both mothers are up in years, and I do not expect any changes. Writing to you is therapeutic, although if you have any suggestions, I'd be happy to hear them. -- Anonymous
Dear Anonymous: One of the things our column does best is allow people to vent. Our only suggestion is to accept your mother as she is. In some families, it would be unthinkable for a senior parent to reimburse financially successful children. (Of course, too often, the reverse is true.) Your mother may not realize that these are your expectations, so it doesn't occur to her that you would be anything less than generous. You don't have to admire this part of her character, but she is still your mother, and she isn't getting any younger. Please make a conscious effort to be with her when all you are spending is your time. You'll be less resentful, and in years to come, you'll be glad you had these moments together.
Dear Annie: I have read the letters in your column about mothers-in-law and would like to add my two cents about boundaries.
My MIL liked me while her son and I were dating. When we became engaged, she wanted control. She made changes to our wedding plans right up to the ceremony, even though my folks were paying for it. When I was pregnant, she grabbed my arm and hissed, "I will NOT be a grandma!" At the baby shower, she informed the whole family that if it was a girl, it isn't her grandchild, because her boys don't make girls. I laughed. She was serious.
We had a beautiful girl who looks just like my husband. Over the years, I tried to be kind, but when she started taking her hatefulness out on our children, we set up big boundaries. Our children have grown up barely knowing this set of grandparents, but have been fortunate to have others be role models.
One thing I have learned is that I will not be that mother-in-law. Moms, please raise your kids to be loving and caring adults. Just because you aren't happy, doesn't mean you need to make them miserable. Now that my mother-in-law is older and failing, my husband visits, and she still tries the guilt trips. She even offered to pay for a divorce. He thanks God for our family and our marriage. -- Lisa
Dear Lisa: We don't know what motivates some parents to require so much control that they push their children away. Nor can they understand how to undo the damage their behavior is causing, partly because they cannot admit they are at fault.
This Classic Annie's Mailbox column was originally published in 2015. To find out more about Classic Annie's Mailbox and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit Creators Syndicate at www.creators.com.