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Thursday, 22 March 2001

When a Child Prefers The Grandmother to The Mother

Written by  Harriet Meyers

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QDear WholeFamily Expert,

I've raised my granddaughter from birth. Her mother was always too busy with her own life. When Savannah was 8 months old her mother moved out. She said she had no way of taking care of her.

Right now the baby is almost three years old. Her mother came to take her to the park on Mother's Day and then called to say that she wasn't bringing her back.

I know that I have no choice in this as she didn't legally abandon her and, legally, she isn't an unfit mother. I can see the baby any time I want and let her stay the night or weekend. Every time she is here, she is real distant at first and then everything becomes like it was before. When it's time to leave, she screams and cries that she wants to stay at "her house" (my house).

This gets so bad that I end up crying. All her mother says is that she'll get used to it.

My main question is whether it's better to stay away, hoping that she will form a bond with her mother, and take the chance that she'll think I don't love her or want to see her. I'm afraid this will tear up her heart.

I tried picking her up and dropping her off at daycare, but when she heard that her mother would come later, she screamed, "Me don't want mommy, me want nanny!" (Me.) She was hysterical. The teachers at the daycare center were crying. I kissed her and told her I loved her. I left and cried all the way to work.

I knew then that I would do whatever was best for the baby even if it meant not seeing her until she forgets that she ever lived with me.

Please send me some kind of answer as soon as possible.

Thank you,


ADear Rita,

Please do not give up your relationship with your young grandchild. She needs you. Her mother abandoned her once already, although she had the good sense to leave her with you. (Incidentally, what is the guarantee that she will not do so again?)

If you maintain a loving contact with the little girl you love, and your daughter has no objection to your ongoing involvement, the child will gradually adapt to two nurturing people in her life.

I would also recommend that you try to heal the rift between you and your daughter. Children sense when there is bad feeling between people around them. What a gift to her, then, when grandmother and mother get along well and share her upbringing in a decent manner!

Harriet Meyers

Last modified on Wednesday, 20 April 2011 18:03
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  • Comment Link Sunday, 29 May 2016 21:15 posted by Lynda Yorks

    I would take the position that the mother lost her rights with the child when she chose to do abuse drugs. I would go after custody of the child and send the mother away from the child unless she cleans up. She is using the child and you are not helping the situation by letting her be in your home and continue to do drugs.

  • Comment Link Friday, 10 April 2015 12:46 posted by Bee

    I am living the same situation. My grandson, who is 3, has lived with my husband, myself and his mother since he was 7 moths old. I have taken on all of the responsibility of raising him. His mother has been in and out of jail, has a drug abuse history and when she is around does not put him first. She will say out loud "I am your mother, I made you". Other than that she does just about nothing with my grandson. I feel awful for him, I think he realizes she is his mother but knows I will always be there for him. I do not want him to grow up confused but I refuse to let him be neglected. We have called cps and they say as long as she knows we are caring for him they cannot do anything. I love this little boy so much and I want him to have a relationship with his mother but not the way she is now.

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Harriet Meyers

Harriet Meyers MSW has worked as a family therapist for many years. She has three grandchildren and a great-grandchild.

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