Dear Snarky – Smotherhood

dear_snarky_logoDear Snarky,

My 12-year-old niece was coming to visit her cousins at the end of the month and my sister-in-law, who the family has nicknamed Smother, recently called and told me that the only way she would feel comfortable letting her daughter stay with us for two days is if she comes along to “watch.”

Before you think we are a  bunch of freaks or something and that’s the reason why she wants to “watch” I need to tell you that I’m a registered nurse and my husband is a freaking pediatrician! We have twin girls – also 12 and I would call us a normal and safe family. So yes, I’m insulted and I’m mad enough to tell her to take a hike. Should I suck it up and tell Smother that, of course, she’s welcome?

Signed, Not Happy

Dear Not Happy,

First, do not feel insulted. This is not about you. It’s all about Smother. I find these kind of mothers that keep their kids in a philosophical hammer lock from birth on have their own set of problems including some abandonment and pathological control issues.

They also believe, with all their heart, that constantly clutching their child to their breast, in the mother of all bear hugs, makes them a better parent than 99.9% of the population. Nothing you do or say is going to make your sister-in-law release the death grip on her child. 

So, yes, for the sake of cousin love you do, indeed, have to suck it up and welcome Smother into your home for two days. Good luck and I hope you have wine, lots and lots of wine.

If you have a question for Dear Snarky email me at



6 thoughts on “Dear Snarky – Smotherhood

  1. Smotherhood Survivor says:

    I had one of the those mothers and let me tell you as soon as I hit college I went WILD! It was bad and it took me about a decade of therapy to get my act together. So, you’re right, the smother moms aren’t doing anyone a favor especially their children.

  2. Pearl ;) says:

    Sounds like Smother doesn’t want her daughter “sharing” any info. Sad and sick. As a nurse and Dr, I would be tempted to share various medical journal articles on “smothering” and the detrimental effects. If nothing else, that child will have 2 days, 1/2 off the leash.

  3. Sylvia Sun says:

    You might be able to actually do your niece great service by “entertaining” Smother while the girls have a little fun. Maybe a real life demonstration of 12 yr olds not committing felonies if left in the other room without Direct Parental Supervision could at least help your nieces’ self esteem. Parents that don’t allow their children to make any choices while they are growing up aren’t helping them learn how to make good choices.

  4. bea says:

    Are other people really comforted by the simple statement “I would call us a normal and safe family”? What crazy relatives wouldn’t make that claim? (For a pop-culture example, see: Everybody Loves Raymond.)

    Even if the family is totally vanilla, maybe the visiting kid isn’t and the sisters-in-law don’t exactly have the kind of close relationship (you know, without mean nicknames?) where one can discreetly give the other a heads-up. For example, a tween wearing genderqueer outfits is pretty harmless, but showing up dressed to the hilt like a dude in a very traditional setting could be uncomfortable for everyone and damaging if not handled well. Religion, guns in the house, letting kids taste alcohol or ride without seatbelts– all things my own family handles different ways, and unless a 12 year old is remarkably mature, it’s unfair to expect them to handle certain foreseeable situations with the needed aplomb. Add in a “what happens here, stays here” attitude and innocent cousin love might call for some risk management. After all, if the visit goes pear shaped, they can’t exactly break up; they’ll always be family.

    Worst case scenario for the letter-writer: you *are* a problem and don’t know it; best case, the “smother” has a problem and doesn’t know it. Either way, your “Suck it up” is good advice.

  5. Cheryl says:

    Can I please send you my 12 year old for a few days? In the interest of not rocking the family boat, invite her along. My sister and I gladly take each others kids without issues, if anything I feel like it’s good for everyone to have a break but some people aren’t comfortable with this. I wouldn’t take it personally!

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