Adapted from a recent online discussion.
New mom gets clobbered with cruelty from her own mother
Q: A brand-new grandmother visits her daughter who just gave birth, and proceeds to make critical, borderline cruel remarks on everything the daughter is doing wrong, from the way she cares for her child to the amount of weight she still needs to lose. Daughter, understandably upset and dealing with slight postpartum depression issues, banishes Mom from the home, despite many voices of reason telling her she's overreacting. Is there anything a closely involved third party can do to help resolve this?
A: Lock the windows so Grandma doesn't fly in? Support the new mom a little! Even without "borderline cruel" mothers or PPD, new parents need a hand from the "closely involved." Leave the mean-grandma issue alone for a while so the daughter's emotions can settle and so she can establish her footing with the baby, and see where that leads.
If you or another third party has a channel to Grandma, then it would also help to notify her that the banishment stands at least for a while, and that you'll tell her when new mom might be receptive to a big fat abject groveling face-in-the-dirt-so-she-can-eat-it apology. Cheez.
I mean really — is "You make a beautiful mom, congratulations" so stinkin' hard to say?
Anonymous: I can't believe some witch would make unkind remarks to any new mother, much less her own daughter! She needs some time out — by herself — to consider her behavior.
Carolyn: Done deal — timeout is already in progress.
Anonymous 2: Please tell me one of those "voices of reason" wasn't the baby's father. If so, you can add him to the list of people who owe the new mom a groveling apology.
Carolyn: Especially since Grandma is unlikely to evaporate — or sprout compassion — anytime soon. These are formative years for parents, too; if this mother feels isolated now, without remedy, then expect the impression to last.
Depressed husband has outburst, alienates friends
Q: My husband has been dealing with depression for years and one of the "side effects" is the alienation of friends and family. He'll get mad about something and go off. Most recently he told our friends (and dinner party guests) that all lawyers need to die. They are lawyers, and so they quickly left. My husband doesn't see anything wrong with what he did and refuses to apologize. Do I apologize for him? Do I just allow another friendship to die?
Apologies for husband
A: You apologize immediately to these friends and do what you can to salvage your individual friendships with them, since you need lifelines.
Then seek specialized support, because it doesn't sound as if your husband is "dealing" with his depression. Check the National Alliance on Mental Illness site (www.nami.org) to find local resources on depression and family support, and call the Help Line to talk to someone about steps you could be taking on behalf of both of you, including good counseling.