Life Advice



The Grandma Who Isn't Good Enough

Annie Lane on

Dear Annie: My heart and prayers go out to the "Grieving Grandmother" who is tired of the apathy shown by her daughters-in-law. Those girls are incredibly rude and selfish when they ignore her at family gatherings, but I am impressed that Grandma gets holiday and family birthday meals at all.

My two daughters-in-law have each said that their own mothers are their best friends. They call their mothers several times a day, and those other grandmothers get first dibs on all holidays and first consideration for any celebration. The situation is complicated by animosity that developed between one of my sons and the other's wife early on, which is a justification on the part of each not to spend time with each other and the whole family.

I have been a widow for over 20 years and have spent many holidays alone while my sons and their families celebrated with my daughters-in-laws' families.

My sons have managed time to vacation with their wives' sides of the family but find it hard to schedule a single meal with my side of the family. I realized early on that I would never be "the" grandmother but have tried to fit in and basically take what I can get.

My greatest regret is for my third son, who has not married. He continues to do everything in his power to bring us all together. My oldest grandson recently was married, and I feel the pain that my daughter-in-law now suffers as she adjusts to being a mother-in-law herself. I recognize that she will not be "the" grandmother to her future grandchildren either. Unfortunately, that old adage, "A son's a son till he takes a wife," is all too true for many of us.

I find myself looking back and wondering if my lot is payback for failing to give my own mother-in-law her proper due. I don't think I neglected her, but I do recognize that what I did for her was not always what she really would have preferred. She had raised a fine son who grew into a good husband and father through very difficult times. I wanted to give her some happiness and tried so many things that I thought would have given her pleasure, only to end up feeling unappreciated for all the effort. I doubt that she or my daughters-in-law will ever realize just how much more I could've -- and would've -- done for them if they had only included me. -- One Grieving Grandmother to Another


Dear Grieving Grandmother: Your situation is not fair, yet it is all too common. You feel left out and unappreciated, and those feelings stir up anger, resentment and sadness. Like you signed your name, you are "grieving." But you have it within you to stop mourning and focus on the positives. Your third son is eager to organize a family reunion, and you should offer to help him plan one. If another of your sons dislikes his sister-in-law, there is a chance he will bury the hatchet for the sake of his family.

You should consider counseling to sort out what are real or imagined slights, whether done to you or in how you treated your own mother-in-law. Forgive yourself and your daughters-in-law, and focus on whatever makes you feel good about your interactions with your family. You may be surprised that you attract more love and invitations.


"Ask Me Anything: A Year of Advice From Dear Annie" is out now! Annie Lane's debut book -- featuring favorite columns on love, friendship, family and etiquette -- is available as a paperback and e-book. Visit for more information. Send your questions for Annie Lane to




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