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ASK MERRILY/ The Other Side of Mother-in-Law Issues

Merrily Preston
By Merrily Preston
Posted on May 05,2009
Filed Under Personal Development , Opinions,

Dear Merrily,
Good work on the M-I-L column.  Another side to the issue - the Mother who does not bond with the child because the MIL has over-powered her, leaving the Mother with resentment toward the MIL and the child.  My live-in Grandmother was the better caregiver.  I knew she loved me.  I never felt those feelings from my mother.  Who knows what might have been different without Grandma.  

Mom and I do the best we can.  We have good talks on the phone.  When she asks whether 'we are all right', I say of course!  But frankly, I am afraid to visit her.  Too much baggage too close to the surface.  Why can't I stop feeling guilty?
Dear Guilty,

If the dynamic between mom and MIL prevented mom from claiming her motherhood, this was a devastating loss for both of you.  Although it would have been different without Grandma, we can’t know if mom would have learned to nurture on her own.    

It is not unusual for adults estranged from their parents to be anxious about visits.  The fear is how they will react if the parent pushes historic buttons.  Will they will yell, withdraw, or say something from anger that they will regret forever?  Or, will they be able to be present with what is going on and respond rather than react?

If you have similar fears, then of course you shy away from visiting.  The telephone offers a safe place to keep your reactions to yourself and close the conversation (visit) when you are ready.  

If you and your mom decide you want to be in relationship, a therapist could be helpful.  You could determine if the two of you can and really want to work together to create a nurturing relationship.  It would require courage, open-heartedness, patience.

As to guilt, allow yourself to listen to and follow the guidance of your heart.  If it is in your highest interest not to visit, then not visiting is best for all.  

You may enjoy The Secret Life of Bees, which offers the freeing perspective that our true parenting comes from our own hearts.
Merrily Preston is an Intentional Life Facilitator, who lives in Woodbridge. Her column is exclusive to Local Kicks. Email questions to, or use online form at

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