Hi all, any time I turn up here I get really excellent advice (been lurking for years), so I thought I'd give it another shot. I first posted here many years ago in college when I was having troubles in my relationship with my girlfriend. Well, she is now my wife, we're 30, and we have a nearly 2-year-old daughter. This isn't about her. We couldn't be happier and more optimistic about our life together.
This is about my mom, whom I love dearly, but I've found that I've been...just generally angry at her since our daughter was born. Some important background: my dad, her husband, died in 2012 when he was hit by a car. It was obviously a traumatic experience for everyone, and she is now dating a man 10 years older than her (he is 70+) whom she doesn't like all that much but doesn't really want to break up with either.
On the surface, she is such a wonderful mother in so many ways, and genuinely IS and WAS a wonderful mother. This isn't about abuse in any way or anything salacious or violent. She read to me as a child, took me on nature walks, loved me deeply, cared for me with every ounce she had. She is intelligent, wise, and kind. But she is passive aggressive, deeply, incontrovertibly passive aggressive. She also has a nasty and unpredictable temper.
My wife is in nursing school and I work full time (from home) so my mom watches our daughter a few times a week. This goes along with the passive aggressiveness. She acts like it's no big deal, like of COURSE she would love to watch her granddaughter, but she will make snide little side comments sometimes that are hard to even pinpoint because it is so passive aggressive. She'll say our daughter is being "terrible" or a "brat" right in front of her. She disagrees with how we keep her on a fairly tight routine as far as naps, meals, etc. She never YELLS at our daughter, but has occasionally lashed out at me in front of her.
And this is dredging up all kinds of stuff from my childhood that I believe made me the way I am today. My parents fought a lot, and loudly, way more than I realize is normal being a grown, married man myself now. I have serious trouble dealing with stress. I see a psychiatrist for significant anxiety and I'm on two different drugs to control it. I can tick off my parents' biggest fights off the top of my head today. Almost no holiday or family dinner went past without a squabble. I can remember dozens of times standing between my parents begging them to stop fighting, and they still wouldn't. Even when they weren't fighting there was a tense silence, knowing an argument could break out at any moment. I often woke up to a door slamming, immediately going into fight or flight mode. Like I said, I think this directly contributed to my anxiety today.
And my worst nightmare is for my daughter to suffer the same way I have. I know that my mother isn't raising her, but I can't stand it if there's even a hint of what I went through as a child. I don't want her to fear that the people she loves will suddenly morph into terrifying, angry beasts who can't be calmed. I've tried to take what I learned growing up and make myself a better parent based on it. When I have a disagreement with my wife, I always try and talk about it behind closed doors, like reasonable adults.
What really got me upset and compelled me to post here tonight, though, was that I mentioned in passing to my mom that my wife might be getting a really good nursing job in a town about an hour and a half away from where we live now (my hometown). My mom IMMEDIATELY went to how it would affect her. Basically along the lines of, "Well, once your brother is done with school, I guess he'll move away and then my boyfriend will die and it will just be me. I mean, I value family, I think that's just as important as an 'opportunity' but some people are different, I guess. I can't drive to visit you, so I guess I'll see you like once a year. That's OK." And I immediately have to start consoling her by saying something like, "Well, it's not a guarantee that she'll get the job," essentially abetting my mom in rooting against my wife.
This is a beautiful town with far better schools. It's an idyllic place to grow up. It would be a perfect place and opportunity for my wife to start her career. And all my mom can talk about is herself, immediately. And I feel bad for even posting this because in so many ways she is a great mom, but it goes right back to that nexus of guilt that I was raised with. She would never say it out loud, but I think she feels that I owe her in some way because she raised me. Yes, it's horrible that my dad died and it affected everyone deeply, but now that I have a wife and daughter they are my first priority. I can't let what happened stop my life. But then in the back of my mind, I still feel like I'm somehow abandoning my mother.
Aren't there other parents that would privately maybe be a little sad but genuinely happy about their children growing up and moving on? This is the way I want to be, but I'm afraid I'll turn out like her, just because it's what I'm used to. And I can't have an open discussion with her about this, because she is about the most defensive person I've ever met. She'll just shut it down by saying "Well, I guess I'm horrible then." I just have to manage her feelings, kind of like she is a child. I hate to say my relationship with my mom is toxic, but I guess it is in a way. Does anyone have any similar experiences?