Something troubling you? Share it with your new BFs, Jo Davison and Molly Lynch. We’re not experts, but we’ll listen, then tell it to you straight...
My situation is really challenging me. I am a loving mum to my daughter of 29 and granny to my grandson of 18 months.
I have chosen to reduce my hours to have my grandson once a week and I also love to have him once a month for the weekend. However over the last six months my daughter’s partner, who has always been controlling over what they do and what they eat, has become worse than ever. He has told my daughter she is not to let me look after my grandson. He says I am not capable and will not care for him as they do.
They are both stay at home parents. My daughter is working hard to set up her own business and he keeps going for jobs but not getting them, which means he can play the down-trodden man who has to stay at home to be daddy. I think he’s not getting the jobs so he can be around and stop me having contact with them.
My daughter seems very withdrawn and appears to have given up challenging him. It’s really hard to get to see her on her own too. I don’t want to make it hard for her so I have been going along with it. But I am worried about the effect this will have on my daughter and grandson. I don’t know what to do. I’m having nightmares about it and worry that doing nothing is wrong but doing something will escalate things. I don’t know who to turn to. I am usually a very strong, resourceful and level-headed woman yet right now I feel useless.
This domineering, controlling man is stopping three people who love each other and have a hugely important relationship from seeing each other.
The question for me is what makes someone want to do something so extreme and hurtful?
You don’t mention any row or disagreement which has preceded his decision to bar you from your grandson’s life.
I really hope there have been none. Because if there is a background to this story and you have chosen not to mention it in your letter, then you too are being controlling - you are censoring the story to ensure the reply is favourable to you.
But assuming is there is no history of fallings-out and you have been neither the mother-in-law from hell or the dictatorial granny, and he is indeed a man determined to wreck the relationship you have with your daughter and your grandson, for me the big issue is still this: why is doing it?
What is his motivation? Get to that and you may start to find a way forward.
He must be massively insecure. Most bullies and controlling types are. They come across as strong, but they cover up their weakness well and trying to make others do and think exactly as they want means they won’t be challenged.
Such a person could well feel hugely threatened by a ‘strong, resourceful professional businesswoman’ of a mother-in-law. So much so that he wants you out of his partner’s life. By making your daughter forgo the one person other than him that she leans on for advice and support, he effectively makes himself her only port of call.
This is the last thing you want to happen, so don’t play into his hands. You clearly have a low opinion of him. You deride his attempts to find a job. You even suspect he’s deliberately failing at interviews so he can stay at home (a pretty harsh condemnation). But if he picks up on that, it’s going to make him even more determined to get you out of his family’s life. The end result will be him becoming even more controlling and your daughter becoming even more isolated. She and your little grandson will be lost to you.
Your family need you around. You need to persuade your daughter to open up and tell you what goes on behind closed doors and what her hopes and fears are for the relationship. If she wants to leave him, then help her to do it.
But if she says she loves him and wants to stay with him, then you’re going to have to button your lip and put all your energy into supporting her in this - even if you think she’s making the wrong decision.
To me, the root of this problem is a petty, insecure bloke with too much time on his hands.
That might sound a bit harsh, or judgemental, but I only had to read the letter once to make up my mind about this heartbreaking situation.
No grandparent should ever be denied the chance to enjoy quality time with their grandson and your daughter’s partner needs confronting.
Being around when they’re little is so important, too. I can speak from experience of family fall-outs to emphasise the importance of nipping his behaviour in the bud as soon as possible.
Some of the best memories I have are times I spent with my darling Nana - my dad’s mum. For what seem like very silly reasons now I didn’t meet my maternal grandmother until I was five and despite still being pretty young I don’t think our relationship has ever really made up for that lost time. I had already come to look upon my other grandma’s house as a second home, whereas I never really learned to feel comfortable in the other.
You’re clearly a loving grandma, the sort plenty of people would kill for, so it’s only fair that you get to spend that time with the little one.
But you have to remember that it’s a privilege, not a right, so you might have to tread a little more carefully than I’d usually recommend.
From the outside this man seems like a controlling bully, possibly even threatened by the fact you’re working and you’re successful and he isn’t.
Blokes seem to have a bit of a complex about being the breadwinner and his frustration is probably manifesting itself in this ugly attitude.
Unfortunately, he’s still the father of this baby. And so tact is required to ensure that you don’t end up looking like the archetypal meddling mother - which he no doubt wants.
You need to chat to your daughter alone and find out what’s really going on. He might be around a lot but you could arrange a girly day out like afternoon tea, spa day, or claim there’s a two-for-one offer at a restaurant as a polite indicator his presence is not required.
Then it’s time to come clean.
Be honest about how you’re feeling and concentrate on that rather than his role in the problem, as your daughter might go on the defence. I know it’ll be tough, and I know the answer is nothing, but I suggest you ask her what it is you did wrong and whether there are ways around it.
At the very least it could help you get those visits back, but here’s hoping it gives your daughter the courage to open up to you.
Nicky Valantine (46), of North Sheffield, a ‘feel the fear and do it anyway’ trainer and coach, advises:
As difficult as it is, take it one step at a time. It’s your daughter who needs to take responsibility. Be ready and waiting to support her when she is ready. In the meantime, keep a diary/log of events. It may help you spot patterns. Trust your intuition. If you fear for their safety, contact the free 24-hour National Domestic Violence helpline 0808 2000247. This may sound extreme; see it as a chance to talk with someone experienced.