Family Guilt Tripping Over Grandchild — The Bump
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Family Guilt Tripping Over Grandchild

I see this board is not very active at the moment but I'm going to give this a try. Hopefully some of you have some advice. 

I have been married for almost 7 years and my daughter is 3.5 years old. My husband is in the Navy and will be for over 20 more years. Almost a year and a half ago we moved to our first duty station that was really far away from our family. Our first ever duty station was only 8 hours away. We'd see our families every 4-6 months or so. (And we were getting guilt tripped then too) Our duty station now is almost 2000 miles from our families. Now, every single time I post a picture of my daughter on social media, or every time I speak to a family member, I get guilt tripped about living far off. Every time the holidays roll around I get phone calls, texts, emails, etc begging me to come home and telling me that my family is missing out on my daughter's life because I'm keeping them from her. 

The truth is, traveling with my daughter is very difficult and expensive. Our families cannot provide a place for us to stay when we visit so we have to stay in hotels which are expensive. We have special dietary needs that our families ignore so we have to eat out almost every meal, also expensive. So because of that, we cannot visit home often. We do budget for travel but things happen (family emergencies and things like that) which cause us to spend our travel fund. We have allowed our families to 'borrow' money from us with the knowledge that they are using the money we would have used on plane tickets. Then when the time comes for us to travel, we have to listen to the sobbing over the phone and accusations. 

My mother is the worst one. Literally every single time I talk to her she brings up how fast my daughter is growing and how much she misses her. She gets all upset over what she's missing. Then she asks when we are coming to visit. I try to tell her gently that I don't know and we miss her too, but she flips out and starts crying. She's begged me to leave my husband and just take my daughter and come back home. She's told me that I'm a bad wife for not budgeting properly for travel money (so I should stop feeding and clothing my child so I can stick her on a plane?) and made other accusations like, "maybe you just don't love us anymore...". She loves to bring up the fact that my grandmother is going blind and tells me that soon my grandmother won't be able to see at all, so I need to bring my daughter home so my grandmother can look at her "one last time". My husband says we may get stationed overseas next and I told my mother that, hoping she'd be grateful that for now we are still in the country. She told me that would be the worst possible thing to ever happen to her and flipped her wig and started crying. I've offered to pay for her and my brother to fly here and stay in our home, but she refuses to because she can't bring her dog with her on the plane, is afraid to fly, can't get the time off work, etc. 

And yes, I do get that they miss us. I miss them too. And I tell them that. I call them and keep them updated on her progress and I send photos. I post at least one photo almost every day on Facebook or Instagram for my family to see. I HATE social media and I stay on for the purpose of keeping them updated. I send them things she makes for them, we do webcam so she can talk to them and see them. We videotape almost every cute thing she does. We have a youtube account with over 1000 videos just of my daughter for my family to look at. It's a lot of work, really. We try very hard to keep them involved. We have paid their airfare, gas money, hotel bills, etc when they visit us. I don't know what else I can do. 


It is really hurtful that they can't be understanding of the situation. I get all the blame for my husband's duty stations ("why are you letting him stay in the Navy?") and when we can travel. If my family finds out that I spent money on a large item for our home or for my daughter she gets upset and tells me I could have used the money for saving for plane tickets. It's very frustrating and I feel I have to keep things from my family now to avoid getting a lecture. 

What can I do? I dread speaking over the phone with certain family members now because of this issue. It's also so hurtful for me. But I have no idea how to tell those family members how I feel without hurting their feelings or them getting defensive. Many of them don't understand what its like to be in the military but oddly enough, those who have never been in the military or had military parents are the most understanding!! My mother moved all over europe and the US with her dad who was in the army, and my father was a marine, but she is the #1 worst one about guilt tripping me! 

If you have advice, any at all, I'd love to hear it. Thank you!
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Re: Family Guilt Tripping Over Grandchild

  • I am so sorry you are having to deal with this. What your mom/family needs to understand is that when you married your husband, it was to be a family with him. While you will always love your family, you and your DH have a family and that is clearly your #1 priority now. I get that your family wants to see you at the holidays and throughout the year but they also need to respect your feelings and your budget (even though they don't need to know what your budget is), especially if they are going to borrow money from you. Being a military family comes with its own set of challenges and you have to remain a united front while firmly yet nicely putting your foot down. I personally would stop giving them money if they are going to guilt trip you, in a sense they are trying to have their cake and eat it too--you give them money and then don't have the money to travel, yet they give you a hard time.

    My dad was in the Navy for 6 years during the Vietnam War and he got to travel all across the Pacific. He is constantly encouraging DH and I to travel as much as possible. Social media, email, and Skype/FaceTime make living far away much easier to stay in touch. I think it's horrible that your mom is encouraging you to leave your husband--I don't really know how to respond to that except I think it is EXTREMELY out of line and disrespectful to you, your husband, and your marriage.

    I would personally tell your family to back off and live your life the way you think is best for you, your husband and daughter. Best of luck!
    rachellemonspulling2gether
  • That's when my mom's dad was in the Army. During Vietnam and after too. They spent a lot of time in Europe and her father's mother (her grandmother) left her husband back in the states to travel with them for a short while before going back home to her husband, and her other set of grandparents just so happened to live in Florida when her parents were stationed there and they lived only 5 minutes apart, just because of fate working in their favor. Her dad also left the Army at one point to become a minister. But my husband wants to retire with the Navy. 

    There are a lot of huge differences so she does not understand why things are different for us. She knows my husband is an officer and he is allowed to choose where we are stationed (Sort of. It's not that simple but she doesn't get that) but he has to choose based on where he wants his career to go. I've tried telling her that and she comes back with telling me that I shouldn't be with someone who cares more about his career than his family!! So crazy! There's no Navy base anywhere in the state my family lives in (there are recruitment offices and that's all) and she goes off all the time about how we can't get stationed there because there's no base. 

    I have cut back on allowing them gifts of money simply because we can't afford it, but unfortunately my younger brother has special needs and has to live with my mother. I give her money to help support him and take care of him. I'm afraid of what might happen if I didn't. So. It's complicated. I just don't know what to say to her to help her see how much it hurts me, and honestly I'm not sure if she would empathize with me anyway. 

    Thank you so much for your response. 
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  • This whole thing is really, really unfortunate. I'm not sure what to say, either, to make mom take a step back, but I can sympathize. My DH is the active duty one in our family, and his mom is constantly laying on the guilt thick about us not being closer to her, or coming to visit more often. Now that we are expecting our first child (thankfully NOT her first grandchild) she has taken it to the next level. She will never come and see us, because she won't fly. She has no reason to not fly except she just won't. And anything over 3 hours drive is "too far" (she is in CA, we are now in WI, so...really too far). And now anytime he speaks with her she asks when we are bringing the baby for her to see. She's making it sound like we should be traveling out there with a brand-newborn during his 10 days paternity leave. Like we should leave the hospital and go straight to the airport directly. She also acts like we have chosen to be away from family just to spite her. She knows we are on a very tight budget but also says that we should be making it a priority to have money to 'see family'. But when she says that, its only her she means us to see. DH has been back to see them 2 or 3 times in his 11 years in, and the ONE time I went to see my sister (for the birth of her twins) all we heard for months was that it wasn't fair that I took money for traveling when 'we' (he) could have seen her. So I really really do sympathize.

    All I can say is the way we handle it is when she starts in on when are coming to visit we tell her we don't have the finances or the ability for him to take leave and she is welcome to come visit us. When she starts in how she can't travel and we're being selfish we just turn it back on her and tell her she is being selfish, asking us to take on the monetary burden of travel (not to mention arranging leave, she's retired, her whole days are free). DH points out he's made a few trips out there and she has never come to see us. If she continues he tells her that if she's going to keep harassing him about it he's going to end the phone call. Then her only choice is to accept and move onto another subject or stop speaking with him altogether. She has tried to come back around, sneakily, to the subject a few minutes later and he just cuts her off "mom, I told you, I'm not discussing that anymore. I'm going to go now. Love you. Bye" and hangs up. It feels like we are training a child. So far we can't tell if its working or not, but that's what we are doing.
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  • Congrats on your little one and thank you for your response! Maybe I need to be more firm with my mom? At least maybe I wouldn't have to hear it if I just got off the phone with her. 
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  • My parents weren't used to me living so far away with their grandkids. But we just kept tell them" if you can find my husband a job that pays as much as his does plus very good health insurance plus free housing(we live on base), then we will move back home... But if you can't do that then you will have to get used to it." They got used to it and now we are about to move with in 5 hours of them instead of 15 hours. So they are now super happy.
  • ^ this is a good idea, too.

    I do the same conversation stopper with my dad. My dad and I disagree wildly on a lot of subjects not connected to the military. I've told him that I won't discuss those subjects with him cause we just both end up hurting and angry. Sometimes he brings them up and I say the same - I'm not discussing this with you. If you want to talk like this I'll just go. I feel bad about basically smacking my dad down, he's my dad - I don't want to hurt him. So I usually start out polite about it and move closer to firm as I get frustrated. DH tends to argue more - "no. You're being selfish". I tend to just repeat that I'm not discussing it a few times before I suggest we cut the call off if he has nothing else to talk about.

    It's honestly successful maybe half the time with my dad, but I feel better for asserting myself and standing up for myself, while simultaneously feeling guilty for 'arguing' with my dad. More better than guilty, tho. I am at least able to shrug off my discomfort easier than when we would argue about the other stuff that hurt my feelings so much. I don't know how hubby feels when he says it. I don't talk to my MIL and try to stay out of the way of their relationship.

    Maybe also just start out with a heart to heart. "Mom, it hurts me when you say... You make me feel bad... It's a guilt trip... I love you and don't want to be sad or upset when we talk and this subject always upsets me... Please let's not discuss this anymore, OK?" Then you have the foundation set to shut down the conversation if it happens.

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  • I hear you!!!!!!! My husband is Air Force and our first duty station was in Phoenix, AZ. Both of our families live in WA state. My husband is doing a new job now where there are very few bases for his job and none of them are close. He joined the AF initially for a better job and so we could travel. Now that we have a son + another on the way, my family always gets soooooo defensive and upset when we want to travel. His family is super supportive and understands that the military sends you where you have to go and this is a huge deal for us to live and travel on the government's dime. Our next PCS is to Florida, which I'm really excited about, but he had the chance to trade someone for England. I would love to go, however he's going to be gone a LOT and that's the only reason I wouldn't want to be there by myself with 2 little ones. My mom and sister were against it not because of any concern for my husband and I but because they wouldn't be able to visit as much. They still aren't excited about FL and would rather us be in BFE in NM if that means the kids being closer and less cost for them. Even in AZ, they didn't come visit us often, so I don't know why it matters. I have just adopted the mindset that I have to do what is best for my family and not anyone else. I used to feel guilty about it and let it affect me but I have learned that I can't live my life that way.
    KaLikeAWind
  • mellymar said:



    I've told him that I won't discuss those subjects with him cause we just both end up hurting and angry. Sometimes he brings them up and I say the same - I'm not discussing this with you. If you want to talk like this I'll just go.

    Maybe also just start out with a heart to heart. "Mom, it hurts me when you say... You make me feel bad... It's a guilt trip... I love you and don't want to be sad or upset when we talk and this subject always upsets me... Please let's not discuss this anymore, OK?" Then you have the foundation set to shut down the conversation if it happens.

    All of that ^^^

    Have you talked to your dad about her behavior? Can he advocate on your behalf to get her to back off?
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