'I feel sad for my daughters': Mother-in-law 'sidelines' granddaughters for new grandson

Photo: AureliaAngelica / Getty Images/ iStockphoto
Photo: AureliaAngelica / Getty Images/ iStockphoto 

A mum is upset that her mother-in-law sees far less of her daughters since another grandchild arrived, asking "how to approach" the situation.

Posting to Reddit, she says that since her nephew was born two years ago her mother-in-law has done a "complete u-turn" in her behaviour towards her five and 13-year-old daughters.

She writes, "Before my nephew was born my MIL had a good relationship with both my daughters. She would help with childcare one or two days a week before they were in school, take them for the odd days out in the summer, [and] invite them to sleep over sometimes. Once my nephew was born this all stopped and I just don't understand why."

She then catalogues a list of things her mother-in-law does with her nephew that she no longer does with her daughters.

"She has him overnight at least once a week, looks after him three days a week and talks about him all the time, whereas now with my daughters she only ever sees them when we take them to see her (probably twice a month)."

So things have changed a lot, that's for sure and it's not that they're shy to ask.

"If we ask her to have them she'll say she's too busy, or they can't stay overnight anymore because there's no space (she's has two spare bedrooms!)," she laments.

Her reasons for being upset are understandable - it's about the loss of relationships with the girls.

She continues, "I just can't understand the complete u-turn in the behaviour to our kids, and I don't really know how I can bring it up with her without causing upset (she hates any type of confrontation and is quick to turn on the tears)."

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But her feelings for her children are taking over and she needs advice.

"I feel sad for my daughters because my eldest especially has picked up on this herself. Has anyone dealt with something like this before? How did you go about it? I'm getting to the point now where I feel like I'm holding it in whenever I'm around her and resent her for it."

The advice from Redditors is considered and kind, even if it is hard to hear.

"From an outside perspective, flip this around: you had 13 years of support and hands on child care help with your kids. Your sibling-in-law now has a two-year-old, so she is offering that same level of help to them that she offered to you. She (for her own reasons) can't do both."

They continue, "Obviously she needs to keep the relationship alive and strong with your kids, and it is worth a chat to let her know how they feel, but otherwise this sounds completely normal and appropriate to me. It isn't "unfair treatment of your kids", it is that your kids need to share grandma now and that is hard."

Others agree that the baby and toddler years are when people need help the most and that it is well and truly the new grandchild's turn for that attention.

But it doesn't solve the dilemma that the relationships with the girls seem to be slipping away.

One person advises her to have a gentle talk with her. 

"Try to stay factual and avoid being too judgmental. Just say, 'I've noticed that lately you don't seem as available for the girls. Has anything happened?' Also, leave any comments about your nephew out of it. That will just sound accusatory and she will get super defensive and mad. That will not end well for you."

Others ask if MIL has a "preference for a certain age range or gender," and whether these things could be factors. Other agree while also suggesting, "It could be she is just getting older and can't handle everything."

The OP admits that it feels like her girls' "value has gone down" and it had occurred to her that having a grandson was reminding her of being a mother to two boys.

She writes, "I did wonder if it's a gender thing, she didn't have girls of her own. She had two sons and - not wanting to sound judgmental - but she's always been very much 'her precious boys.' Maybe having my nephew makes her feel like motherhood did. It's just hard to watch my daughters feeling sidelined - will definitely have to try and have a kind word like you say."