My ex was married to his mother, which is a big part of the reason we got divorced. When we were married, she told me how to decorate the house, how often to have sex with my husband (I kid you not), and how to raise my kids. My ex never once tried to set boundaries with his mother, who has gone officially bonkers since we split up and I got primary custody.
She has moved in with my ex and is doing everything she can to replace me; she picks the kids up from school, helps them with their homework, and puts them to bed at night. If this weren’t bad enough, she calls the kids everday when they’re with me and has apparently bad-mouthed me so she’s undermining my authority. “Grammy says you should let us watch more TV;” and “Grammy says you make us go to bed too early” are just two examples. This woman clearly has an agenda to hijack my kids. How do I keep her from turning them against me?
The best way to keep your ex’s mother from turning your kids against you is to stay calm and go about your business. You must be clear and comfortable with your boundaries: “In this house we go to be at 9:00 a.m”; “In this house we have a one-hour TV rule.” The more you worry that she’s going to usurp your parental role, the more you are likely to let your kids feel your — understandable — anxiety and anger at their grandmother’s intrusiveness.
If your kids keep after you with “Grammy says this” and “Grammy says that,” resist the temptation to tell them what’s really going on; that Grammy is an insecure woman who’s afraid of becoming obsolete!
Instead, tell them that Grammy is the expert of Grammy and you are the expert of you. If they have issues with you, they need to come to you directly, because you are the person who runs your house, not Grammy. This will teach them invaluable lessons in healthy boundaries and limit-setting, which are clearly not lessons they’re going to learn from Grammy!
You mentioned that Grammy calls your children everyday that they are with you. Although you may be tempted to keep them from talking to her, putting the kibosh on the phone calls will likely strengthen the alliance between your kids and their grandmother and make you seem like the bad guy. Instead, put limits on the calls; calls must be made during a certain time frame and any calls coming after the designated time period will not be answered.
People like Grammy love to stir up turmoil and invite negative reactions from others — that makes them feel important. So the best way to remind Grammy that she is not the center of the universe is not to let her see she’s upset you. Don’t argue, don’t get defensive, don’t get competitive. Continue to be calm and clear about your house rules and expectations. You are your children’s mother, and you run your own home — despite what Grammy thinks.