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I Found Out My Mom Was Talking Trash About Me to My Kids

Photograph by Twenty20

When I hear people say, "I just really need to talk to my mom," I have no idea what that feels like.

My mother and I have had a strained relationship most of my life. While my friends were able to count on their mom for support after they had children, I was not. I don't spend a lot of time with her and when I do, I need a major break—I'm talking like weeks or months. And during that time, I don't miss her, I don't care to see her and there have definitely been times when the thought of running into her has given my hives.

You see, when I was a teenager I confessed a family secret: her father had been touching me in a way he never should have for years, and our relationship suffered greatly because of that truth. It's a hard pill to swallow, I know. But I've always felt she blamed me for it, took his side and just wanted me to stop talking about it and pretend like it didn't affect me the way it did. She was asking me to make it right for her—and I couldn't.

Ever since then I've always felt like she genuinely didn't like me. I was too much for her—too loud, too energetic, too in touch with my feelings.

When I got pregnant with my first child, then held him in my arms, all I could think was, How could she? How could she take his side? She never loved me the way I love my child because if she did, she would have walked through fire to make sure I was okay, to make sure I was healing.

But she didn't. And she never will.

While I have forgiven my mother for the sake of my sanity, I've kept trying with her because she is a human being that makes mistakes and deserves to be loved anyway. I tell myself she is my mother and she loves me the best way she can.

She also loves her grandchildren and they love her. I've thought about shutting down their relationship but I want them to know her even though she has disappointed me so very much.

It was manipulative and wrong and it let me down in a big way.

She knows I don't fully trust her, but I wanted so much for my kids to have something I never had—a relationship with their grandparents, so I gave it a try.

While things have been okay for the most part, my kids did tell me a few years ago that she was talking about me behind my back. Saying things that weren't supportive like, "Doesn't your mom ever take you to the doctor?" or cry to them because I didn't want them spending time with her new boyfriend (she has a new boyfriend every year), and was asking my young children for advice on how to get me to want to meet him. This was after I was very clear about not wanting them to get attached to all the different men that were in and out of her life.

It was manipulative and wrong and it let me down in a big way.

I really wanted her to do better with her grandkids. I don't expect perfection but I do expect respect and talking ill of me to my kids was not the way to go about that.

So I had to confront her. It wasn't easy, but I did it for my kids' sake, not really because I care if she approves of the way I parent. I approve of the way I parent and that's all that matters.

Since our talk, she doesn't do it anymore, especially since she realized my kids always come to me and let me know what she says. It only happened twice and I feel I put an end to this dysfunctional behavior very early on.

I had to because that is what was best for me and my children. There's no way in hell I'm going to let them get caught up in the relationship issues I have with my mother. I know they'll feel the tension to some extent and I can show them the right way to deal with hard issues between two people.

For me that means giving my mother the benefit of the doubt and room to have a healthy relationship with her grandkids. But I won't tolerate her badmouthing me to my own children. And if that means she stops spending time alone with them, so be it.

We can't protect our kids from everything but we can show them strength and support when we put an end to something or someone who is causing unnecessary harm behind our backs.

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