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My mom makes fun of my 3-year-old daughter because she doesn’t like dresses and dolls. She thinks she’s not girly enough and that I’m spoiling her by allowing her to choose what toys he wants to play with.
It was awkward coming from her, considering we had a gender-neutral parenting debate when I was pregnant. We eventually agreed that raising kids regardless of gender stereotypes right from birth is the way to go now. But it’s evident that she still doesn’t respect my choices in general. To see it spill over to how I raise my child hurts.
I’m so pissed right now, and I don’t know how to handle this.
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I have become an expert at the 'smile and nod' response to unhelpful comments or suggestions. I try to listen and take on anything that can be helpful but also filter out the not-so-helpful information. When it comes to families, sometimes it is better to not make it a big issue - especially if they are being genuine and really just trying to help (even though its annoying).
I agree that you should take some time to gather your thoughts before you approach this topic with your mom. Trying to approach her when you have such strong feelings yourself, and you are feeling controlled, can escalate the situation where words will be said which are harmful.
I did have a similar situation with my mom-in-law, when my oldest daughter was just starting to learn to walk. She insisted that I get her a walker so she could learn faster, and "the right way." We lived in a split-level home at the time, and had a lot of rooms which had steep step-downs, so I was afraid for my daughter's safety. I remember vividly standing in the parking lot of the local grocery store when, during the heated exchange, my MiL told me that I "was out in left field." I agreed with her, and she looked shocked. I told her that I did think differently than she did about how to raise MY daughter, and that just because I was a young mom, didn't mean that I did not think through things logically and try to see every side. She was actually shocked that I spoke up, but we were able to have a conversation after that, a genuine one where she listened to my reasons, and began to respect my opinions. This was a turning point in our relationship, and she was my best friend, until she passed away.
Approach your mom with respect, and ask her if she will allow you to share why you feel the way that you do, and then ask her for the same. I hope there is a compromise to be had in the situation, so that relationships can flourish and grow stronger. Good luck with this!
Your mom is obviously struggling to overcome the gender stereotyping that was so prevalent in her generation and as a result she is saying things that are unkind. When my kids were younger I decided to listen politely to all the advice that I was given, and then to discard most of it and do what felt right to me as a parent. Often I would find myself upset by a comment or a criticism, but after calming down I would realise that it came from a place of love. Bad or outdated advice was often as a result of ignorance or fear and I tried my best to keep that in mind.
There is plenty of information out there about the value of raising children without enforcing stereotypes and about making sure that your kids have the choice to play with the toys that spark their interest and curiosity. Perhaps you can find some of this information online and share it with your mom. Our world needs individuals that have diverse interests, and encouraging our kids to explore their world to find what excites them is a great thing, even at age 3!
First of all, take time to decompress and sleep on your thoughts before confronting your mom. I'm sure it is hurtful and distressing that she makes fun of your daughter. Surely, she realizes that as humans, we are all different. I used to have polar opposite opinions from my mother and mother-in-law about my children and parenting style. Although I did not agree with either (I was somewhere in the middle), I would listen to each and nod my head. That seemed to pacify them somewhat. I figured it was easier than arguing with them. So my advice would be to pick your fights. If this is a hill that you want to die on, then calmly point out to your mom that her opinion on this topic is overstepping. Explain (once again) that you are raising your daughter to be the woman that she is designed and wants to be. Although you respect your mother's input typically, this is one area that you do not appreciate her advice. I hope that your conversation on this topic goes well for you.