Friday, April 4, 2008

More Bees with Honey

Dear Aunt Babz,

I am a 39-year-old single mother with a 6-year-old daughter. Over two years ago I moved in with my mother to go to school full time and get a degree in respiratory therapy. My mother and I agreed that she would help me out with my daughter when I started working because of the 12 hours shifts that I work in the hospital. Now I am working and I don't like the way she takes care of my daughter when I'm not here. (Basically she ignores and neglects her just like she did me). I am so mad at myself for deluding myself into thinking that my mom would be any different now.

Now I'm trying to decide whether or not to go back to school for a career that would pay much less but allow me to work 9-5 with weekends off. I make enough money right now to live on my own, but I need my mother's help. If I change careers I won't need my mother's help but I probably won't be able to live on my own very successfully. I don't want to go back to living on the edge financially. Am I making a mountain out of a mole hill?
Dear Reader,

No, I don't think you're making a mountain out of a mole hill. I can understand your concerns for your daughter.

When it comes to our kids, rarely does anyone fit the standards or the way we would love and care for our own children. I was even funny about my own Mother or Mother-in-Law as well, watching my own children. My Mom was rather mean, strict beyond strict and she didn't show equal amounts of love, the love I felt is so necessary, along with that strict discipline. Yes, eventually, a kid will get the idea that you don't care too much for them if all you do is discipline them.

This is a tricky question, simply because I don't really know to what degree your Mom is being negligent. I mean no neglect is right and children need interaction to thrive. Neglect is a harsh word, one which implies so much or the lack thereof. Neglect can in fact be a criminal matter, in the fullest content of the word. So, I guess my question would be is she really "neglecting" your daughter and not caring for her needs or is she just not spending enough time with her?

I hope that she is not out and out neglecting her, in a criminal aspect? If she is, I'd advise you to get out and do the proper thing by removing your daughter from the situation. Only you can answer the real ramifications of this.

If neglect is not the proper word for this situation and your Mom is simply ignoring her but does care for her, then I would propose offering a more structured routine for your Mom to look at. A proposal of activities, possibly, may be in order. You could ask Mom to help your daughter with some activity stating that you are tapped out?

Is it possible to speak to Mom, letting her first know how much you appreciate her help but then lowering the boom? You could/must do it diplomatically. She doesn't even have to know that your ulterior motive is to get her to do more. But you could state that you feel your daughter needs a little more interaction, more activities other than sitting and watching T.V. or whatever. Go the distance and maybe buy some activity books, cards and so on and bring them out and ask her if she'll help your daughter with them. Quite possibly, you could even tell a lil white lie and say the school has asked your daughter, to do this and that and because of your schedule, you're having a hard time, getting everything done. Stretch it a bit and say you had a conference with the school and their suggestions require your daughter to do at home activities, i.e. flash cards, etc. Then you ask could Mom help out? You have to kind of fluff her ego by telling her that you realize she already does so much but if she could help you with this, it would make all the difference?

It's commendable for you, as a single Mom, to go back and try to improve your life. So, I would surely hope you can find some half way point, some sort of compromise. To take steps backwards will not help you and your daughter later, down the road.

Mom just may need some directives and a knowing need, an appreciative need for her extra help. Then, you try to stay on top of the program by asking your Mom for progress reports, at the end of the day. In other words, in front of your daughter, you say something like, "So, what did you and Grandma do today? Did you use your flash cards?" Make this question part of your regimen, your end of the day conversation with your daughter. See, I think if Grandma knows there's an accountability, to a certain extent, as to what was accomplished each and every day, she may get into the swing of things, activity wise.

I don't have any real answers other than showing your Mom the way but not letting on, that in fact, you are challenging her to more interaction with your daughter. But you just can't let on that your motive is what it is. Yes, it might be a sneaky move but acting as if you need her and not in a demanding or accusatory fashion, may be your only way.

Sometimes, you have to be smarter than the average bear. Sometimes, you fight fire with fire. But you'll always get more bees with honey than vinegar. One more cliche'; Flattery will get you everywhere. Yes, use flattery to get what you desire with your Mom. Even if you have some resentments from your own childhood, wouldn't it be refreshing and empowering to control the situation by getting results with that flattery? I mean really, wouldn't you have the sense of control by turning the tables? If you tell Mom that you so appreciate all that she does for you because you couldn't reach your goals without her help, the psychology behind the mix would dictate that she'd feel almost obligated to fulfill or make good on those compliments. See, she'll begin to think to herself, that, "Hey, maybe I should do all these things that she's saying such nice things about."

It's almost reverse psychology, you see? Imagine if your boss thanked you for things, gave you credit for things you'd not really done yet? Then imagine what your thought process would be: "Oh, I'd better get to work here and actually do these things, my boss keeps complimenting me about." Yes, more bees with honey!

Keeping It Real,

Aunt Babz

No comments: