Dear Rebbetzin Weinberg,
My husband and I are very devoted parents. Our children have always been the center of our life. Even now that our daughter is married, whenever she doesn’t feel well or needs help with the kids or someone to babysit, I am there at the drop of a hat. We give them things, too.
Don’t get me wrong: We are very happy to help and to give; we don’t want or need to be paid back. I am beginning to realize, however, that my daughter is very self absorbed. She never comes over just to visit, just because she wants the children to be with us. She only calls if she needs something.
When my daughter lived at home we spent time together, whether working as a team in the house or just enjoying each other’s company. Of course I am glad she has a good marriage and is happy with her husband. But what’s wrong with wanting her to come over once in a while on her own initiative? I don’t like having the feeling that we are being used; it is starting to eat at me. I am writing to you in hopes of avoiding the deterioration of our relationship with bad feelings and uncomfortable silences. Please help.
Dear Good Mother,
You had a wonderful relationship when your daughter was home, and of course you are glad that she is happily married, and there’s nothing wrong with wanting her to come over. I think what has happened is that you have become aware that your daughter is not the perfect person you thought she was. Then again, none of us are.
The best thing to do is simply to understand that this is how your daughter is. Get rid of your expectations that she be an A-1 child. Accept her the way she is and validate the wonderful relationship you have with her. Don’t say anything about your uncomfortable feelings; such words have no business in this relationship. Just tell her you love it when she comes over, that you love to be together.
Be honest in your dealings with her. That will eliminate your feeling of being used. When you are able to help, do so gracefully, but also make it clear ahead of time that there will be times when you won’t be able to. If she asks you to come over at an inconvenient time, say, regretfully, that you can’t do it. As long as you can be honest with her, I don’t think your relationship will deteriorate. I think it would also be good to make yourself judiciously unavailable – for your daughter’s good, not yours – so that she can learn to manage on her own.
So, just enjoy your daughter as she is and enjoy your grandchildren, whenever they show up. It’s called acceptance. It may not be easy to do, but the ability to accept people the way they are – loving the good in them and turning a slightly blind eye to the bad – that is the secret to good relationships.