Thursday 29 October 2015

Maternal Terrorism

"How will I get grandchildren if she doesn't get out there?"
I received an email the other day from a Single asking me to write about the scenario in which a Single's mother:

A. tells people in front the Single that she didn't think her recent-college-graduate daughter would ever marry

B. nagged the Single, an only child, about giving her grandchildren.

Regarding A:

My head nearly exploded. Yarg! Yarg! I am mother age. Let's see ...  I am teenagers' mother age. But I know very well how wicked, cruel, mean, insensitive and downright terrorist it would be to predict that my own twenty-something daughter will never marry. To others. In front of her.

This is not the maternal vocation. The maternal vocation is to say, "My daughter is so lovely and bright, I can only hope she finds a man worthy of her in this day and age."  Men may object to this statement, but too bad. This is what mothers are supposed to say about their daughters: lovely, bright, worthy of a good man's love.

Regarding B:

This mother did not give her child any brothers or sisters, and now she is demanding grandchildren? Say what? 

Okay, so it could be that God gave this woman only one child, and she never used birth control in her life, and longed for children. She didn't adopt, however, or bring up foster children. Maybe she was a Single mother, or divorced. Nevertheless, the child grew up alone, possibly in a situation in which it was just she and Mom, and naturally Mom had all the power. Do your homework. Go to bed. Give me grandchildren.

My parents ruled their children as if we might rise up and defeat them, but this sensation gave us the illusion of power. Five of us, two of them. Ah ha ha ha! But naturally they did a heck of a lot of work; goodness knows what a fortune my father would have amassed had he not spent his income supporting a family of seven. And I do know how much work my mother did to keep us all fed and clothed. At one point she had to iron school uniform shirts for four children, plus my father's shirts, which makes at least 25 shirts a week.

If my mother had looked at her five descendants, aged 18 - 30, all adults guzzling the annual bottle of champagne at Christmas, and said "I miss little kids. I wish some of you lot would give me grandchildren", she would have been within her rights.

But had she deliberately had only one child--and as I am the eldest, that would have been me--and demanded grandchildren, I would have told her to stick her demands in her ear.  In the most filial and pious way of course.

I conclude:

The essence of family life is not letting it all hang out but each member treating all the other members with due respect. The children must mind the adults because the adults usually do know best, but the adults must make allowances for the children being children and not expect them to be mini-adults. Neither children nor adults are allowed to humiliate each other in public, although I think parents are within their rights to scold a naughty or lazy child in front of the child's primary school teacher or any other in loco parentis authority.

Once the child becomes an adult, this mutual respect becomes more important than ever. The adult child must not behave like a dependent, living off his/her parents without contributing anything to the household by way of money or chores, and the parents must start treating their own children almost as peers. Many mothers enjoy fussing over their adult children, washing their socks and cooking their dinner, and they shouldn't be robbed of that, if they enjoy it. But they absolutely must not act as though they own their children's social lives or as if their chaste, unmarried children are somehow robbing them of grandchildren. Give me a freakin' break.

How to cope with a terrorist mother? Speak up. Get in her face. Say, "How dare you humiliate me in front of those people? How dare you predict that I'll never marry? That hurt me, and you owe me an apology." Even maternal bullies are cowards, so she might back down. As the only child, you're her insurance plan. Nobody wants their insurance plan to walk out on them. If she keeps up hurtful comments even after you tell her to quit it, move out. If you have moved out, see less of her. If she complains, say you would like to see more of her, but not if she hurts your feelings.

When you were a child, and you weren't getting along with your peers, your mother had the right to scold you for being too shy or too snobbish or whatever it may have been. But when you are an adult, your mother no longer has the right to comment on your success or lack thereof with your peers, unless you ask. If you ask, you have to take your lumps. But if you don't ask, she should leave the heck alone. She can get your sister to suggest---. Oh, wait, she never gave you as sister? Too bad, then. She'll just have to stew in silence.


  1. Aw, poor girl!! That's terrible. :(

    I will say, though, that I don't think being blessed enough to have more children (either through birth or adoption) gives mothers-of-many the right to ask for grandchildren. You don't somehow earn grandchildren by doing more laundry than the mother who only gets to have one or two children. What are your children supposed to do? Go out and marry the first person they see or find a guy at a bar to get pregnant with? I can understand wanting grandchildren, but if your kids are going to get married and have children, they will. Just be patient. Is expressing that desire really going to help a single daughter (or son) who would love to be married with children? And if your child does get married and can't have children, you're just adding to their pain by making it clear how much you want grandkids. And if they aren't married and don't care, or are married and don't want kids right then, bugging them about it isn't going to force them to have children. Telling your children that you want grandchildren is really only helpful when they're actually pregnant. Personally, I think parents who are in the grandchildren itch stage should look for a fun hobby to distract themselves until it finally happens.

    1. Someone once made a comment on Seraphic Singles about how her mother was bugging her for another 'granddog' and, while I'm usually not crazy about the whole 'furchild' thing, I thought that was adorable. Ask for something your kids can actually do something about.

  2. Well, when it's one little mother telling five adult children what she wishes, I don't think the five would feel ganged up on as much as a Single woman would. For my own amusement, I have told young men of the parish they ought to have children, and they have managed to defend themselves with good humour. Naturally I would never, ever rib a girl that way.

    1. That's fair! I can definitely see where guys would care much less than girls do. And I'm sorry if my comment came across harshly-partly responding to a personal situation involving that sort of thing. :(


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