This is a story of a grandparent who became estranged from their own children and consequently their grandchildren, it is written in their own words.
“I separated 17 years ago from my husband and farming partnership. We
had 2 girls aged 15 and 12 years. I moved into town off the farm and
the girls came too. I was always their mainstay and indeed felt like
a solo parent nearly all of the time I was married. My husband worked
long hours off the farm our entire marriage and I worked on the farm
and I came to the conclusion he did not want to even have a meal with
us as after my eldest was about 11 years old. I realised that it
wasn’t going to happen unless there was a guest for dinner, in which
case he would show up at the last minute and take centre stage (as if
it were always like this).
Anyway, I probably stayed in the violent, abusive, isolating marriage
far too long and in the end he was happy for me to go and indeed
helped push me out as he had someone else in the wings.
Never-the-less, the separation was civil as we always tried in front
of the children but once he was on his feet and didn’t need to be
civil, he reverted to his old self and we became estranged. To the
point that even if there was something important to discuss re the
girls, he would not want to give me the time to even talk to him and
would insult me immediately saying more or less don’t take up his
time. I know him of old, and was of strong character so quickly
realised that I could not include him in any parenting decisions.
Moving on from this, my girls stayed with me for about 2 years but
chose to go home to the farm pretty well every weekend. I respected
this decision as it was not their fault that their parents split and I
moved them away from their home (even though they were happy to go
live in town after years on an isolated farm) . During this time,
they started not wanting me at their netball games (which I had been
the junior coach , instigator, taxi, sideline mother since they were 8
years old). Also, my eldest told me she phoned her dad even though
she knew he wasn’t home just to hear his voice on the answer phone!
This rang alarm bells for me and I told her so (as kindly as I could
as she was acting like a jilted lover would do). Her dad already had
a live-in lover. However, we didn’t argue about it and my eldest
(then 17) decided to leave school and move out to the farm
permanently. Again, I did not oppose this, feeling that this was her
right if that is what she wanted to do.
However, (as I thought would happen), she ended up being very lonely
out there and just picking up, doing chores, cooking etc for her dad.
So what she did then was pull my youngest daughter to move back home
too. Going out of her way to pick my youngest up and take her to
school from my house in town. Phoning her all the time and not wanting
to talk to me or see me and making out that I was not up to scratch as
a mother (although, there was no reason and no altercation between
us). My youngest was quite happy living with me but at 15 years old
(and close to her sister), she decided to go.
I didn’t hear from them at all unless I phoned and mostly they just
laughed and put the phone down if I dared say anything like motherly
care or concern. This time was like the death of my family to me . I
grieved and was very hurt . However, did not confront them about this
for fear of them showing the disrespect and uncaring behaviour they
were already showing when I expressed any concern over teenage parties
and driving they were doing and where I had no control and could not
talk to their father about either.
I am telling you all this as this is the long lead up to my present
situation. This was the pattern that was emerging from 17 years ago.
They are now aged 34 and 30. They are both married and have children.
I have been allowed back Into their lives off and on ever since –
generated by where my eldest daughter is in her life I.e. If she is
happy, or if she could use me, then I am reeled back in as long as I
am seen and not heard so to speak) and perform the tasks she wants me
to do I.e. Provide a home for her when her flatting situation
collapsed ; help her out financially; help her fight a court case or
job controversy; help her through a broken heart; help with her child
care and purchasing their needs when she was financially strapped;
help listen to her marriage problems and help pay for her wedding. Put
up with her stealing a lot of money out of my account and only
admitted it when the police discovered who it was.
During the past years I have been estranged for up to 3 years at a
time by her, she just dictates the terms and I have no alternative but
to go along with it and hope for any crumbs of recognition/involvement
she chooses to give me. She will be nice when it suits and not when
it doesn’t. However during this time, of course I developed a great
love for her 2 children aged 9 and 5 now and they love me too.
Although at first, my daughter encouraged this, This has become a bone
of contention between us now for about 4 years. Once she realised
that having children is now just a bind to her, her behaviour towards
them has become quite hard and unforgiving / unloving and selfish. I
hasten to add that she does not abandon her children and has to do a
lot with them as she is now bringing them up on our family farm (my
ex-husband has put a house on for her and her family plus a
hairdressing salon as she is a qualified hairdresser now) so she has a
lot to do with the small community school, driving her kids to meet
the school bus, etc. although she does have plenty of help when her
husband is home from work and her dad is also home on the farm as they
involve the children and also look after them when she is hairdressing
or needs to go out. I.e. She usually has a ready babysitter on her
doorstep. Hence my eldest daughter does not need me again now,
particularly as she in as been more and more uncomfortable with my
growing relationship with my grandchildren/ her children. I hasten to
add here that I did not confront her on anything as I know that she
will cut me off as she has previously and I would not see my
However, a few days before Xmas when I went out to babysit the girls,
I took a reindeer ornament for the house. My daughter hit the roof
immediately shouting at me she didn’t want it and was completely
obnoxious to me saying she didn’t want anything I took out to them,
they don’t play with any of my gifts and she didn’t need me anyway. I
dared to agree with her when she said she did not care what her
children wanted. She then subjected me to a barrage of full-blown
bellowing into my face for quite a while, so I slapped it (not hard as
she was right in front of me). She then was completely calm and said
that I was a violent woman and everyone will hear about this. I was
then not allowed to Xmas even though I had travelled 12000 miles to
see them (as I now live and work in UK and they are in New Zealand).
I moved here 3 years ago as it all became too unbearable back then
when she tended to befriend my sisters -2 of whom don’t have children
and they jumped at having a family around them. They have not been
part of my life much whilst I was bringing up my children but have now
come back in to find some sort of family closeness (which has been
sadly lacking as our parents divorced and moved away years ago). They
were not interested in my problems with my girls and loved having the
parties, dinners and family times with my girls. I must admit I was
finding it hard at the time to be the strong provider/mother that my
girls might have liked as I was full time working in a stressful job
as a solo middle aged woman. Keeping a house together with no support.
Where as my sisters had partners, financial support and were well
settled and being treated respectfully by my girls.
As I stated before, this has been ongoing for some time.
My youngest daughter is nicer and more balanced than her sister but
has told me that her sister will always come first as she has always
been there for her when my ex and I split 17 years ago and she will
not discuss her sister with me at all. She will also keep me out of
family occasions if her sister is there which is most of the time.
I am now resigned to a skype call sometimes once or twice a month to
my youngest daughter who also has a baby and has just become pregnant
again. She does not want me to help her as I often offer to come back
home and help out, particularly as she does not have good pregnancies
and her son recently had a bad accident but she does not want my help
and did not want my help when she had him as she and her husband are
good support for each other and want to do it themselves. I did
respect this and realise they have lots of friend and family support
from my sisters, her sister, her father and step-mother, her mother
and father Inlaw and of course her very hands-on supportive husband,
So when I am there, I find I’m just a visitor whom they have to
accommodate every now and then.
This may sound like I am feeling very sorry for myself and that I put
the blame on everyone else for my predicament. I have my theories as
to why it has happened and lack of good open communication and loving
understanding ways has a lot to do with it.
I try to phone my estranged daughter every family birthday but she
just puts the phone down. I send presents, cards, emails, regularly
but have not heard back from her and didn’t expect to – seen as how
she has made this stand. But I send them anyway as that is what I want
I heard recently from my other daughter, that I shouldn’t send so much
stuff as it’s like I want to buy their love!!
I can’t do right for. Doing wrong. In Other words.
Not sure where to go from here. Needless to say, the grief and
overwhelming despair is constantly with me as I struggle to make
sense of it all and keep working and trying to make a life for myself
in UK. Although I know I will want to go back to see my new grandchild
when born next year. Which fills me with fear. I, don’t dare to look
forward to it as I was more or less turned away last year and the year
before. I think It will be a case of not being allowed to see my 2
lovely grand daughters and eldest daughter but being allowed in to see
the new baby of my youngest daughter, hold it, then see and hold it
again before I return to UK, so that my youngest feels she has done
‘her duty’ and that will probably be it meanwhile they will get
together with the rest of the family to see my new grandchild and I
will go to friends to console and busy myself all the while. Wishing I
could be part of my family. and then return once more to UK.
Thanks for reading.”