Family

When Your Own Child Fails Spectacularly At Motherhood

Photo: Oleg Golovnev / Shutterstock
elderly woman

Your daughter was an amazing mother when her child was born. She had some hardships in the past with drug use and depression, and she is doing far better than you ever expected. You are proud of her, stepping up, even though you didn’t believe she was ready to be a mother.

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Then it happens, something shifts, something changes, and she isn’t engaged with her child anymore.

As her mother, this is something extremely hard to comprehend. You have dreams for your children; all mothers do. You have fallen in love with your grandchild, and now you are in the precarious position of stepping in to parent your grandchild and hurting your child in the process.

As the matriarch of your family, you have to set your feelings aside and look at the big picture: What is best for your daughter? What is best for your grandchild? What is best for your family? And what can you do to facilitate all of the above?

First and foremost, you didn’t ask for this unfortunate situation: your child is struggling and it is impacting her child. Your grandchild deserves safety and an abuse-free life, even if your child doesn’t intend in harming your grandchild.

Your friends and other family members may not understand the circumstances but quite frankly, that doesn’t matter; family issues are complex.

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When you step in to raise your grandchild, you can’t leave things vague and unclear, especially when your child (your grandchild's mother) is an addict. You need to pursue legal guardianship. Your child can take your grandchild away anytime they feel like it, and with the struggles of addiction or mental illness, those decisions aren’t always made with the best intentions.

You need to be able to register the child for school or seek medical attention if the child so needs it. Sometimes if you are lucky, this very step of pursuing guardianship makes your child take steps to recovery.

The role of a matriarch is so complicated. Everyone involved are my loved ones, they all have my heart. But sometimes you have to hurt one to help another one — and the head of the family seems to be the only person who can muster up the courage to do so.

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Currently, my daughter is taking small steps in the right direction to regain the parental rights of her daughter, and now the hard questions are coming up, like, “How could you do this to me?”

I have to remember: I didn’t “DO” this to her — she did this to herself while I tried to keep her child out of foster care and without Child Protective Service's involvement. I was protecting my family. It's always easier to point the finger at someone else rather than to accept the consequences of your own actions.

Matriarchs aren’t afraid of difficult questions. They don’t hide from choices they made and if they make a mistake, they will own it. We have years of experience on our side, and as we age, fear doesn’t control us as much.

I hope that my daughter comes out on the other side of this someday. I want to have those hard conversations. In the meantime, she is free to make her mistakes without dragging my grandchild along for the ride.

Lisa Holliday is the Founder of helpinggrandparents.com, which offers support and resources to grandparents who are advocating on behalf of themselves and their grandchildren. 

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This article was originally published at Medium. Reprinted with permission from the author.