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How to Face the Challenges of Co-Parenting with Your Own Parents

Like most parents, when I gave birth to my son more than three years ago, I never would've thought that I would be raising him with my mother. However, four short months after he was born, my husband passed away, and I was alone with my little boy and had to go back to work a week and a half later. I didn't want to leave my newborn son soley in daycare. In fact, I couldn't have afforded it even if I wanted to. Since my mother lived downstairs in my house, we both decided that she would help me raise my child.

But while I am ever so grateful that my mother sacrificed her freedom to help me with my son, some challenges exist. I must admit that my mother and I never had the easiest of relationships. We argue like typical mothers and daughters do. Even today, with me at 40 years old and my mom at 73, we seem to have some of the same arguments that we had when I was 17. We instantly revert back in time when an argument is triggered.

So, what did we do? We took this relationship between a stubborn mother and daughter and put a little baby in the mix! I want some things done a certain way with my child so I make sure to tell my mom. "John shouldn't eat a lollipop everyday because it's not good for his teeth," I say. Sounds reasonable, right? Not when I say this to my mother. She's the grandmother, and she doesn't want to upset my son. She also feels that when I say something is being done incorrectly that I am criticizing her as a parent.

For instance, six months ago, my mother and I were about a year into trying to potty train my son. He was being stubborn about it, and the more we tried, the more he wanted no part of it. I tried every trick in the book: Cheerios in the toilet, blowing bubbles in the bathroom, and having him sit on the toilet and stand beside it. Nothing seemed to work. A friend suggested that I let him be naked all the time and put him on the potty when we noticed he had to go. I thought it was worth a shot.

My mother hated this idea. She was convinced that he would pee on the floor and the laminate floor would buckle. My position was, perhaps he might pee on the floor, but we had to try, at least. This was a back-and-forth argument that came up every week or so. She would agree with me for a while and then revert back to her original opinion.

I tried my best to be as routine oriented with the potty training technique when I was home, but I worked. So I wasn't at home for about 10-12 hours a day. As strict as I am, I have to lean on my mother. I decided that I had to put my foot down. Eventually, after months of us going back and forth, she relented. I am glad to say that my son is mostly potty trained now, although he's not a fan of underwear.

While not everyone can relate to having their parents being the actual second parent, many couples have their parents as their daycare providers because they don't trust a stranger to take care of their children. These same dilemmas come into play. Parents often want the grandparents to take their instructions when most grandparents think they know better. Sometimes that's the case, and sometimes it's not. So what do we do then?

In my experience, it comes down to communication and compromise. Even though I do appreciate my mother's help with my son, I don't always tell her. I have to make sure I do or her feelings inevitably get hurt. I have to pick my battles. Not every difference in opinion is one that needs to be argued over. But when there's something really important to me and my son's well-being, I ensure that my way goes. I'm still learning, and I can't say that I am expert in communication or compromise, but I know we'll get there one way or another.

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