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how to take things less personal with my parents?

I have a tendency to take things very personal and snap, especially when it comes to my parents. This tendency creates lots of tension and conflicts between me and my my parents and it has only gotten worse since I've had my baby for the past 6 months.  I would like to figure out how I can improve my mindset to care less about what they say AND what to say in the moment to regain my social power.

They often comment on what we (my husband and I) should and should not do when it comes to taking care of a baby. Sometimes they are right, most of the times they are not. And to be honest, there might not even be an absolute right or wrong way but it should be a personal decision because it's my baby. Their argument is that it's their grandchild too so they want to voice their opinion. They have toned down their opinions a lot too because I voiced my frustration with their constant comments.

Every now and then, they would make a passing comment on how my baby hasn't learned to roll yet, hasn't gained a lot of weight, shouldn't be held this way or that way, looks uncomfortable when she's lying tummy down, should smile more, etc... I feel like everytime I call my parents I am being judged on how good of a mother I am. Deep down I am still seeking for their validation an I hate myself for feeling that way but I just can't help it. So my coping mechanism - not a good one- is to snap whenever they make a judgement.

What should I say in those moments? And what can I do outside of those moments so that I can take these things less personal? I come from a culture where people consider commenting to your face how you should live your life is an act of kindness and love.....

How to not take things less personally is like the holy graal.

There are a thousand articles, YouTube videos and books, but no real and easy actionable step.

General mental self development does a lot, meditation helps, higher self-esteem/confidence helps, knowing judge power dynamics help... But it's all things that take time.

What helped me a lot though one thing my mother said:

You'll always be a child until you rebel to your parents

Think about that.

Do you still want to be a child?
Can you afford being a child now that you have to be a mother to one?
Do you want to still be a child?

Finally, albeit this will be very politically incorrect and probably come across as super conceited, but still, it's the truth.

And what helped me most was to process that:

  1. My mother isn't exactly the greatest person or the smartest thinker
  2. I am so farther ahead than my parent

Put the two together, and it means that their judgment simply shouldn't carry too much weight on you.

As for what to say, I'd simply reply "I will always be willing to accept your opinion and will always consider it seriosuly, as long as it's respectful and you can also accept that the final decision is mine".
If they say that they're grandparents, I'd reply "you're right, which is why I'll always listen if it's respectful, and why I as the mother will take the final decision" (if worse come to worse, just hold the frame that mother > grandparents.

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John FreemanJackBeldsnw2022Power Duck
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It's a great thread, and a super-helpful answer for me also.

The idea of needing to rebel to parents to lose the "child position" is also strikingly similar to something I heard Jordan Peterson say:

For a child in adult age, there should be practically no difference - in the child's mind - between the subjective worth of his parents' advice or thoughts, and the subjective worth of the advice or thoughts of any friends of the parents.

In other words, part of becoming adult consists of internally becoming one's own parents.

And to do that, we all need - some less forcefully, and some much more - to detach and lose our "child" archetype.

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Lucio BuffalmanoJackdsnw2022Power Duck

Thank you guys - super helpful and enlightening responses from you both.

I think deep down I still haven't outgrown that 'child' mentality hence my struggle with seeking approval from my parents and hating myself for feeling that way.

Still the tricky thing when dealing with my parents is that they will not outright voice their disapproval or their "suggestions" (as they like to call it). Instead, they would tend to make passing comments to my baby. For example, during a video call with me recently, my dad would solemnly say "oh granddaughter, why do you not look happy like you do in the picture"  or "oh granddaughter, you don't remember your grandparents who took care of you during your first two months of life". Mind you, she's a 5-month-old baby. I would be fuming when hearing such responses while I know the psychologically healthy way to address is to ignore those comments and not let them get to me. At the same time, I want to voice my frustrations or at least draw my boundaries so that he doesn't do it again in the future.  Not just for my mental health's sake but also for my daughter. I don't want her to grow up and have to constantly listen to grandparents judge her like she has something to prove.

How would you guys respond in those situations?

Bel has reacted to this post.

Thank you, dsnw!

Me, personally, I would interpret this behavior as a sign that there is a possibility that my child could be gaslighted in the future to bring him against me.

I also absolutely agree with never ignoring these things. The common "cultural advice" of "not letting things get to you" is absolutely wrong, if one sees things from a power dynamics perspective. Just the "self-cementing" effect compels one to address these comments.

Let me add that since your child is unable to understand at this time, the comments seem really directed at you.

I would have a serious talk with my parents and tell them in no uncertain terms that this behavior is not acceptable, and that they have to keep in mind that their parenting (over me) is over, and that I expect a friendly, equal and respectful relationship from now on.

If they don't accept it, I would be prepared to walk away from them, and tell them they can either have a respectful relationship or no relationship.

I'm sure though that there are many intermediate steps one could take here before going with the nuclear option.

Starting from replying every time one of those comments is made to surface the intent and clarify they are unacceptable:

You: Dad, can you explain to me why are you telling my child - and me - that she is not ok?

[let him answer, and - whatever he says:]

You: Because, let me tell you, when you say that it can only mean that in your opinion I'm not doing a good job as a mother. And that's the last thing I expect my very own parents to say to me.

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Lucio BuffalmanoJackPower Duck

Yeah, I agre with Bel, I wouldn't let that slip.

Something like:

Dad, the baby doesn't speak yet, was that some kind of indirect message to me?

He may deny, of course.

But now:

  1. You surface the game, that you know, that you don't like
  2. You take the moral high ground (indirectly) communicate that it's sneaky to play that game. You can even say that straight up, and you may even add that you don't want your child to pick up the habit of being sneaky!

He may deny it was "ever his intention of course" -the people who own their sneakiness and change approach get all my respect, but it's a tiny minority I'm afraid-.

So the next step is that:

3. You say that it feels exactly like it was an indirect attack to you, and that it feels offensive to you
4. You ask to stop (if they care at all about you)

When you move to personal feelings you can't be wrong, and because it feels to you like an attack, you can demand to please stop.

However, I personally wouldn't start from personal feelings like the usual "assertive approach" because you'd lose the chance of properly uncovering the game, self-frame as higher quality, and approach it with higher power.

So instead: first high power call out the game, then say you don't like that sneaky game and prefer your child to grow up in an environment where people have the courage to speak straight and respectfully, and then to move to feeling and ask/demand to stop.

If they don't stop, next time you can start talking about the consequences that you do not want to take, but that they are forcing you to take.

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BelPower Duck
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Hi dsnw. How are things going?

First congrats to being parent. This is a long journey! I'm myself a father of two little daughters.

First I remember that the first 6-12 months were the most difficult. Well every time a new type of difficulty. But at first, it's completely normal. You discover parenthood, you want to do well, you overthink, overcare. You don't sleep well, get tired and irritable easily.

So set boundaries right at first. Don't wait for frustration to grow. Be direct and tell "well these subtle comments don't help me nor your grand daughter dad" if it goes too far don't hesitate to voice a "you know that they call this toxicity and this is why so many grown-ups are still insecure...."

Cut some conversations/interactions  short if needed. You are more powerful than you think. You have a child to look after. She is taking your time, you are adapting to her rhythm. Don't hesitate to use that power : your daughter first... Then the grand parents stuff.

Do your things. You are already so much busy and tired. You dont need extra stress. If you take some distance, you will see that the grand parents will start missing the grand daughter. (not even you. Lol) they may then soften.

Call your parents when the kid has eaten and slept. Theses are her primary needs. It will be easier, she will be happy, your parents will be happy, and you too because you will be displaying how good you manage things.

As time goes, your confidence will grow. You will also be less tired because your body will get used to these signals. And you will learn know how to say stop, because your child will be your priority and you will learn to take other things more lightly.


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Lucio BuffalmanoJackMats Gdsnw2022
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