Britain’s most meddlesome mum! Her daughter is 33 and a married mum – but Emma redecorated her kitchen while she was away, tracks her online and even tells her when to have sex!
- Emma Parsons-Reid tracks her daughter through a geolocator app at all time
- READ MORE: Watching your toddler explore their world is good for mental health
First thing every morning, my husband wakes me up with a cup of tea and hands me my phone.
Before I’ve even had a sip, I’ll check for any messages from my only child, Hannah. Then I’ll open the geolocation app that lets me monitor where she is at all times. All her regular haunts are on there, so I get an alert whenever she arrives or leaves somewhere. I usually check in every couple of hours, my eyes trained on the blue dot that represents my beloved child.
It would be easy to assume Hannah is a teenager, and I’m concerned for her safety walking to and from school. Or perhaps she’s a fresher, recently arrived at university and on her own for the first time? But Hannah is neither a student nor a teen. She’s 33, married and a mother herself.
However, this hasn’t stopped me being involved in every aspect of her life. I know her phone and social media passwords. I have a set of keys to her home (we live just a five-minute drive from one another in Cardiff). I make sure we speak three times a day, and I have influenced her friendships, jobs and even approved her choice of husband.
There really is no area of her life that’s off-limits to me.
First thing every morning, my husband wakes me up with a cup of tea and hands me my phone. Before I’ve even had a sip, I’ll check for any messages from my only child, Hannah (centre), says Emma Parsons-Reid (right)
I realise many will say I’ve taken helicopter parenting to the next level – some might view my behaviour as overly controlling – but I believe it’s the best way of demonstrating my love for my daughter.
And on a practical level, I think my involvement makes her life easier. I provide solutions to the problems she doesn’t even know she has.
Last summer, for example, Hannah and her husband took their five daughters to Jamaica for two weeks. I was at her house daily checking on their pets (Hannah used to pay a neighbour to feed them but in my opinion they definitely weren’t up to the job), and I couldn’t help noticing that their kitchen needed sorting out – the cream décor was tired and the cupboards were badly organised.
She hadn’t mentioned not liking the kitchen, but I told myself it would be easier if I just went ahead and sorted it. That way I got to choose the paint colour and didn’t have to listen to her opinion. It’s easier for one person to decide rather than have everyone umming and aahing.
I chose a lovely pale teal for the walls and cupboard doors and tasked my husband, Kevin, with painting them. Then I reorganised all her cupboards; I even moved the kettle, so it was nearer the tap and close to the cupboard where I had placed the mugs.
READ MORE: Helicopter parents should take a step back: Watching your toddler explore their world is good for your mental health, study shows
Hannah and her husband, Scott, were stunned (pleasantly, I like to think) when they returned.
They got home at 2am and, as I understand it, there was a bit of confusion over where the teabags were. But I think they liked the surprise, even if I did have to pop in the next morning to show them where to find the breakfast cereal and the saucepans.
I’ve also rearranged her pictures and ornaments when she’s not there – I just think it looks more homely with my touch, and she’s too busy with her own children to think about details like these.
Although Hannah does move them back to their original place, I’ll regularly return them to where I believe they look best.
It’s not just practical things I’ve been involved with. I make it my business to know about her friendships, too. I think I’m better at spotting a toxic friendship than she is and have told her when she should cut certain people from her life.
She usually follows my advice, though when I tried to suggest a woman of Hannah’s age from my neighbourhood who would make an ideal friend for her, she said she found her too dull.
I was also with her for the birth of all my five granddaughters. Although Hannah didn’t ask me to be there, it was a given that I’d be there cheering her on and stepping in when the midwives weren’t up to the job.
As a mum, you never stop worrying about your children’s health, though I admit I sometimes take this to extremes. Two years ago, Hannah was ill with a kidney infection and Scott had to take her to A&E. I wasn’t able to go with them and I couldn’t sleep all night for worrying.
As a mum, you never stop worrying about your children’s health, though I admit I sometimes take this to extremes. Two years ago, Hannah was ill with a kidney infection and Scott had to take her to A&E. I wasn’t able to go with them and I couldn’t sleep all night for worrying
So, the following morning I went round to see how she was. As it was 6.30am, I let myself in.
It was still dark, but I crept upstairs and, with both Hannah and Scott still asleep, I sat on the end of their bed scrolling on my phone.
The light from my screen must have woken them, and they were certainly a bit startled when they realised I was there, too. Even so, I don’t think either of them were surprised to see me. After all, it’s far from the first time I’ve popped round unannounced.
People might think my behaviour is a bit odd, but I think it’s sweet that I care so much.
Besides, Scott likes me mothering him; he grew up as one of four and sometimes I think he likes the extra attention I lavish on him. Of course, the big question is why am I like this with my daughter when she’s a grown-up mother herself, who is arguably perfectly capable of running her own life?
It’s not that I’m just a bored granny (I took early retirement from my career as a civil servant when I turned 50). I think the origins of my behaviour can be traced to Hannah’s early years.
When I had her at 23, she was very much wanted and planned for. Unfortunately, I split with her father when she was one.
So I had to be both mum and dad, making ends meet on my own. I was the one at every parents’ evening, buying her Christmas presents and everything else. If she was bullied, I would fight her battles.
I wasn’t afraid of confronting other parents – or even the offending bullies themselves.
I threw all my energies into ensuring Hannah was well brought up, loved and protected. Wanting to give her the best possible life was why I didn’t have any more children.
My instinct to be overprotective came as a result of my own childhood, which was fairly chaotic.
My mum never went to my parents’ evenings, and if I told my parents I was having a problem, it felt like they simply didn’t want to know.
I never forgot feeling abandoned, and I was determined to be the total opposite for my daughter. After her father left, money was tight, and there were times I went without food so that she could have a proper meal. At one point, I’d lost so much weight, my periods stopped.
Since then, it’s been impossible to switch off my mothering side. I also cherish the chance to be close to her now because for two years we didn’t speak at all.
We had been close throughout Hannah’s teenage years (back then, I’d keep track of her through frequent phone calls), but she was only 16 when she got together with the father of her eldest daughter, Elise, becoming a mum just a year later.
While I adore my granddaughter, being a mum at such a young age certainly wasn’t what I had planned for Hannah. And I didn’t approve of her partner either. He was six years older and, in my view, exercised an awfully tight grip over her.
However, Hannah didn’t appreciate me sharing my views. She moved out and I had no idea where they went. When I tried to call her, she’d cut me off. I eventually managed to find out where they were living and would regularly send her care packages; my heart would break when they’d come back marked ‘return to sender’.
Eventually, I knew I had to stop trying or I would go insane.
I only got her back after they split up. Time apart had allowed Hannah to miss me and realise she needed me in her life. Since then, I’d go so far as to call us best friends. And surely she would cut me off again if she minded me interfering.
I was delighted when she met Scott in 2009. He used to work in the charity sector and is now a mature student, studying history and archaeology.
I’ll open the geolocation app that lets me monitor where Hannah is at all times. All her regular haunts are on there, so I get an alert whenever she arrives or leaves somewhere (stock photo)
He’s reliable, caring, respectful, puts up with my meddling and lets Hannah and me spend time together.
We don’t need to fix times – I’ll just pop in to make my granddaughters’ tea, walk the family dog, Duke, or have a coffee with Hannah.
Scott no longer worries when he can’t find Duke; he knows I’ll have let myself in and taken him out.
Scott may have been a rugby player when they first met, but he was terrified of me, which I saw as a good sign. When they got married, it fell to me to pay for it, so I planned the menu, found a DJ and orchestrated the guest list.
I even picked Hannah’s wedding dress. Like most brides her age she wanted a strapless number, but she’d recently given birth to their first child, Isabella, so I coaxed her to try a more flattering style with sleeves.
I also picked out the silvery-grey bridesmaid dresses. Hannah wasn’t happy with them, but I repeatedly told her that as I was paying for it, I was choosing them.
I did let Hannah choose the chair covers, but they had to be silver to match the wintry theme. She was caring for a small baby at the time, so I think she appreciated not having to think about the details.
She does sometimes ignore my advice. With their last child, they’d been hoping for a boy. I did my research, then wrote them a plan of what to eat, when to try to conceive and even lovemaking tips I found online for increasing the chances of having a boy.
Of course, they didn’t follow them and Hannah had another girl, who we all love to bits.
Location apps, such as Life360, are an absolute godsend now the family has increased. Hannah, Scott and three of my five grandchildren are signed up, so we can all see where each other is. (When I first had the conversation with Scott about getting it, his response was ‘Oh God!’). But it means if I see that Hannah’s at home, I can pop in. I’ve also encouraged Scott’s parents to use the app, too. However, it has resulted in a bit of competition between us grandmothers as we can see how much time the other is spending with the kids.
It also caused an issue with Scott’s dad – I took him to task for his style of driving while the grandchildren were in the car. After I’d accosted him, he switched off the drive detection feature.
Now my granddaughters are getting older, I try to helicopter them, too (I’ve been known to go to their parents’ evenings).
But this is proving more of a challenge. The eldest, Elise, is now 16 and she says I stalk her. I’ve lost count of the times she’s shouted ‘You’re not my mum!’, and she sometimes refers to me as ‘that woman’.
The trouble is, I can’t relax unless I know they’re all OK.
Would I ever be able to stop being such a helicopter mum? Honestly, it’s so ingrained in me that I don’t know any other way.
I even picked Hannah’s wedding dress. Like most brides her age she wanted a strapless number, but she’d recently given birth to their first child, Isabella, so I coaxed her to try a more flattering style with sleeves (stock photo)
SO, WHAT DOES EMMA’S DAUGHTER HANNAH THINK?
Hannah, 33, works in healthcare. She says: Some days, I want to hide from my mum’s phone calls and double lock the front door.
It’s only natural to want control of my own life. But sometimes she bulldozes me even when I really feel strongly about something. It’s then that things become problematic. For example, she steamrolled her way through our wedding. I’d had this image of a winter wonderland with tasteful twinkling white Christmas trees. Mum said absolutely not, deeming my concept far too tacky. I wanted bows on the chairs; again it was a flat refusal.
She even picked the DJ – a middle-aged woman who only played music from Mum’s era. Even today, when I hear Bon Jovi’s It’s My Life, I shudder because she made the DJ play it over and over.
She also gave a speech reminding everyone that Scott might have married me but she’d always have a say in our life, too.
It meant I laid down the law when we organised the renewal of our wedding vows for our tenth anniversary. This time, I wan-ted things done my own way.
It can be exasperating when she reads our family calendar in the kitchen and simply turns up to the children’s parents’ evenings. The teachers get confused as to why our daughters have three ‘parents’ present.
This was especially confusing during the pandemic. I was on a Teams meeting with one of their teachers, when another window on my screen suddenly popped open and there was my mother, grinning like a Cheshire cat.
And, yes, the girls hate her always knowing their precise location, too, though it’s useful for Mum to have eyes on them if I’m tied up at work.
Because, overbearing as she is, there are some pluses of having a helicopter mum. I would trust her with my life – because she knows every detail – and it is always helpful to have someone there to support me.
Although it was a surprise to come home from holiday to a new kitchen, if I’m being honest it was a nice change from the old one.
I don’t always notice when she has moved things around; I can be walking up the stairs and spot a picture on the wall that wasn’t there before. She’s relentless in imposing her taste on me.
Scott is so generous about her antics and, mostly, doesn’t complain. He likes to joke that most men say they’re losing their hair because of stress from their wives, but that his large bald patch is down to her.
After all, how many men can say they’ve woken up to find their mother-in-law peering at them from the end of the marital bed?
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