Note: Mumsnetters don't necessarily have the qualifications or experience to offer relationships counselling or to provide help in cases of domestic violence. Mumsnet can't be held responsible for any advice given on the site. If you need help urgently, please see our domestic violence webguide and/or relationships webguide, which can point you to expert advice and support.

I want to be nicer to my mum

(41 Posts)
heidipi Sun 18-Nov-12 13:51:12

That's it really. Every visit or weekend when we get together I think this time I am going to be serenely calm and smile through every random observation and question, respond firmly but politely to every criticism of my SIL (DB can do no wrong) and generally not get wound up. I fail every time and end up hating myself.

This time I've been with her since Thursday, she's here til Tues and thank god I'm out at work all day tomorrow. Just nearly blew in the supermarket, feel like a stroppy teenager, and she's coming for 6 days at Xmas. She is probably dreading it as much as I am, and I need a strategy to get through it before our relationship gets properly damaged.

Basically her heart is in the right place, she is kind and generous (including to SIL, but criticises her and members of her side of DB's family constantly to me - she is jealous because they live closer and see more of them), is fantastic with DD and DB's kids and they all adore her. My dad died a few years ago, she has lots of friends and is busy socially but I know she also feels lonely and sometimes would rather stay home and have us all visit, so I visit a lot during the year (mostly overnight during the week with DD as DP gets bored there and this way means I can just focus on her and DD) but she spends Xmas with either me or DB.

She just drives me nuts and I know this sounds really petty - asks me random questions all the time, makes inane statements about everything from the weather to politics (mainly informed by things she read in the Daily Malicious years ago) to which the only responses are either "What??!" or "mmmm", also she is getting quite deaf but is in denial so pretends she has heard what I've said when she plainly hasn't, which makes conversation tricky (I am of course patient about this but it does make the logistics of just talking more difficult than otherwise).

We've just had a heated discussion about SIL, where I said I thought she was too hard on her and DB has a mind of his own so things aren't always down to SIL. It ended with her saying "ok we'll just leave it then" as she hates confrontation. I'll have to address it again as she will now think that everyone is ganging up on her.

I want to be able to take a deep breath and answer her calmly or just say "mmmm" but for some reason I fail. How can I be nice for a whole week in December? And also for ever afterwards if possible.

Thanks if you have read this far, I know I sounds like a bitch and I'm really not usually - there's just something about our relationship.

OK, am bracing myself for a flaming. Thanks in advance.

Schlock Sun 18-Nov-12 13:55:20

Sounds like a pretty normal mother/daughter relationship to me, especially if you don't live very close to each other. My mum would come and visit for a few days at a time (lived 300 miles away) and I would really look forward to seeing her but then be irritated within 10 minutes.

Yes, I would advise that you are nice to her and try really hard to enjoy her company because they're not around forever and you might have regrets when she's gone, I do.

Mintyy Sun 18-Nov-12 14:02:33

It is very very hard. You have all my sympathies! I can only do it by seeing my mum for maximum of three days at a time. I found it equally impossible to spend a lot of time with my late father ... perhaps the common factor is me! I sometimes think, re. my mum, will I regret not having a better relationship with her when she is dead? I guess I probably will but just don't know how to deal with the enormous amount of irritation I feel in her company. So, sorry, I can't give any practical advice but am watching your thread with interest smile.

Princessishavingababyboo Sun 18-Nov-12 14:05:49

Are you me?? My dm has this knack of winding me right up, exactly how you described! I will be watching this thread carefully and making notes!

Charliefox Sun 18-Nov-12 17:10:50

Same for me here. It's so so hard. I always berate myself for being so impatient and snappy and want so much to be kind. This is going to sound so trivial in comparison but I lost my beautiful dog yesterday. We knew the day was coming but it still felt like I couldn't breathe when it actually happened and I've spent the last 36 hours sobbing and heart broken. I would honestly give up everything I own to be with him for another 5 minutes but I don't have that choice anymore and that thought feels like being hit by a lorry. What it's made me see is how important it is to take every moment with the ones you love, cos the day you think will never arrive, does arrive and I for one want to look back with no regrets. I've been a lot more patient and kinder in the last 36 hours with my old mum and I'm going to hold on to that thought when the going gets tough :-)

RichardSimmonsTankTop Sun 18-Nov-12 17:21:08

Yep, me too OP.

My mum's nothing like yours, by the sound of it, but she winds me up with a mere word - she always has. I piss her off, too. Sadly, I hardly ever see her as she lives on the other side of the world. So our time together is often fraught and then I go away feeling extremely guilty and sad.

I'm seeing her in less than a month and am really giving some thought into how I can make our time together happy.

heidipi Sun 18-Nov-12 18:34:14

Oh thank you all - no flaming and at least it's not just me.

I suppose it does sound fairly normal but I seem to be surrounded by female friends who are really close to their mums and enjoy spending lots of time together.

Part of the reason for wanting to be nicer to her is because I know I will regret it when she isn't here any more, definitely. And just because I know she means well.

We had a bit of a chat about SIL, so hopefully she will rein in the comments a bit. She also said she thinks she'll only come for 4 days at Xmas, which made me feel bad that of course she doesn't want to spend longer with me (aargh!) but it's prob the best.

No How To Be Nice tips yet then! Maybe we can turn it into a support thread for guilty bitch daughters instead?

Charliefox Sun 18-Nov-12 19:01:19

Can you give her a big hug and say something like, I know we have our moments but I do love you, you know. Often, making physical contact like this makes it harder to be harsh with someone.

Mintyy Sun 18-Nov-12 19:07:12

I was wondering if you could simply make your sil an out of bounds topic? Just say "we are going to have to agree to disagree on sil, mum, I think she's great" or something like that? Lots of people have certain things they cannot discuss with significant others in their lives just to keep the peace.

heidipi Sun 18-Nov-12 19:21:49

Thanks mintyy and Charlie those both make perfect sense. I will definitely do the hug and use something like that if/when SIL comes up again.

I'm partly dreading Xmas because am pg so can't drink my way through it this year!

heidipi Sun 18-Nov-12 19:23:30

Very sorry to hear about your dog Charlie btw, hope you're ok.

kernowgal Sun 18-Nov-12 19:37:10

Oh yes I'm with you all the way! I love my mum to bits but she sounds a lot like yours. I bite my tongue as much as possible (as I'm sure she does with me) and we usually enjoy each other's company.

I find it most difficult when we go shopping together as we have completely different tastes and I hate turning my nose up at everything she points out to me (for me), I feel really rude and ungrateful. For a 60s Mary Quant girl she's also hilariously prudish about skirts above the knee and once referred to my slightly-above-the-knee FatFace denim mini as 'bumskimming'. If only she'd seen the really bumskimming one I already had...

I hate hurting her feelings though. She knows I love her to bits and god knows how she puts up with me whingeing on and on during our weekly phone calls. The woman's a saint.

mermaid101 Sun 18-Nov-12 20:33:28

I have a difficult relationship with my Mum and part of this is very similar to your experiences.

I have to be very patient and in control for my job and so employ techniques I use at work to avoid massive confrontations which would be caused by any loss of temper on my part. These include:

Thinking of my answer before I speak.
Always using neutral or positive language whatever I am saying
Responding using body language rather than words (i.e facial expressions to show displeasure, or nodding and smiling along to things I can't possibly bring myself to agree with out loud.)

I also work very hard to keep the conversation on things which she will be happy to talk about but will cause least disagreement. I will be strategic in the timing of these conversations. For example, I will introduce a topic as we approach the entrance to a shop, or where ever I feel there is the most scope for her to start discussing thing which may lead to difficulty.

You have my sympathy. It is exhausting. However, on the surface I have a fairly amicable relationship with my DM, but i make sure I do. It is not by chance.

Would any of these work for you?

Anna1976 Sun 18-Nov-12 21:57:36

Mermaid, I think I need lessons from you. I'm another guilty bitch daughter here... i can't find nice things to discuss with the bloody woman, I just go into hunched silent teenager mode with her, because she talks endlessly and criticises rapaciously, storing up details of anything you say so that she can then throw it all back in your face with the most resentful possible spin. I can't stand being in the same room as her, and can't ever imagine going shopping with her... which is sad, because it's not far off until she will need to be taken shopping.

I had a phonecall with her and my father yesterday, where Dad went off to answer the door and I found myself thinking "argh, what on earth do I talk about?" - she filled the silence as usual by bitching about and belittling my father, so I said calmly that if she had a problem she should discuss it like an adult, and I wasn't going to buy into her passive-aggressive nastiness, so she shouted at me and flounced off...

I find myself deliberately concealing almost every normal, boring detail of my life from her and my father, just because I can't stand the feeling when they twist all the details and throw it all back in my face - partly through rapaciousness, but partly just through enthusiasm and their own context of resentment and constant negativity. Then I feel guilty because I'm doing things that they'd probably really enjoy knowing about, have recently been meeting people that my father would probably really like (but would then obsess about and annoy them, then my mother would resent those people and tell him he should hate them and not see them, or alternately decide they're HER friends and he's too stupid to know how to be their friends)... it's all such a mess and i just have no idea how to improve the situation. sad

akaemmafrost Sun 18-Nov-12 23:42:29

My Mum loves nothing more than recounting arguments, run ins and her suffering at the hands of aggressive butchers or post people hmm. Loves nothing more than a family feud.

But yesterday she visited me and brought my Christmas sweet tins with her, all my fruit and veg for the week and took my dc shopping to buy me some Christmas presents because she knew useless ex wouldn't do it. I was looking at my tins today and it hit me how much she brightens up my life and how kind she is to me and dc. She's lovely.

tigerdriverII Sun 18-Nov-12 23:51:23

You are definitely not alone! I dearly love my mum but she drives me bonkers in minutes of seeing her. If its not Daily Fail based xenophobia, it's single parents or something else that's caught her imagination. I just try to steer the convo into something neutral and then head off to "my" room to do some very important work (lying in the bed and drinking if possible).

Anna1976 Mon 19-Nov-12 00:17:04

tigerdriverII, akaemmafrost, others... - I'm really bad at this - can you suggest neutral topics? confused

scorpiomyrtlock Mon 19-Nov-12 12:38:09

My DM is majorly irritating but its wierd its not for the sort of things that any of the other posters mention, which again always makes me go back to thinking it must be me. Yes - everyone else thinks she is wonderful, she doesn't criticise me but just keeps on saying how wonderful I am, and what a busy life I have. Trouble is she just keeps repeating this again and again without really knowing anything about my life so it winds me up no end. When she does ask me anything I'll try to tell her but she'll start going off on some endless story about what her neighbours son did and how she knows exactly how I feel because of what some teenager 100 miles away did, OR that she had the same experience as a GP 20 years ago (she didn't - being a GP has absolutely no relevance to what I do for a living) She will then promptly forget any relevant detail and start the whole conversation all over again the next time I see her. Then she has some quite loony extreme left Guardian reading views which she endlessly recycles - to make things worse she is very political, and cannot see how anyone could possibly disagree with her, when challenged this usually comes down to "I know because I was a GP". I am political but I keep my opinions to myself unless asked, my views are opposite to hers but I like to think I can discuss constructively and appreciate that others have different viewpoints.
Sorry about the rant when I read it does make me sound like an ungrateful bitch daughter.
The only things I have found that have helped me to an extent are to pretend selective deafness myself - like OP my DM is quite deaf, to plan outings and events like theatre and cinema trips when she's here so we don't have to talk to each other and have something to focus on , and to invite people so that I don't have to talk to her. Over the years I've reduced the time she stays to maximum 2 nights. I also try to arrange for her to take the kids out on her own without us so she actually has to talk to them (instead of reading the Guardian the whole time she's here and then telling me that she doesn't know what to get them for presents because she doesn't know what they're into) Oh and the other thing is I have to hide the wine because after 2 glasses she starts crying about how much she misses her ex H my StepDad who died 18 months ago and absolutely hated me and my family so you can imagine how well that goes down!
I do keep trying to tell myself that I'll miss her when she's gone but I honestly think it will be more the guilt that I wasn't nice enough to her, writing and admitting that just makes me feel even more awful and guilty.

heidipi Mon 19-Nov-12 19:03:55

Welcome aboard to the new ungrateful bitches!

Scorpio I feel exactly the same re when she's gone I'll feel more guilty than actually miss her. That makes me feel terrible too.

My grand plans for calm serenity haven't lasted today either - this morning I just had to get DD to nursery, me to the docs and then to work to a running commentary of what I was doing and wasn't I rushing, I should slow down. Got home tonight after being an adult at work all day, first question she asks was "did you have any lunch?" So minor but all my plans to think before answering turned into "of course I've had lunch!", then her "i'm still your mother!" and me "i'm 43! I can organise my own lunch!"

And now she looks all sad, and I've only got tonight (but i've got to send some work notes out and phone a colleague "what? In the evening?") and tomorrow morning left to be nice, then she's gone til Xmas.

I feel awful, she's gave me money on Thurs and everything. sad

mermaid101 Mon 19-Nov-12 19:04:27

Anna, I could have written almost every word of your post and applied it to myself. i know my sister feels exactly the same. She feels she simply cannot have any sort of conversation with my Mum and says, as you do, that she finds it almost impossible to share even the most basic detail of her life for exactly the same reasons as you.

i get round this by discussing my friends with her. I tell her all their news, how they are getting on at work, house moves, relationships etc which gives the impression of sharing information about my life, but really it isn't. Once I have exhausted that avenue, I move on to asking her about her about her friends. I wring every last drop of conversation I can out of this subject, to the point i often ask her about the same thing a few times and pretend I have forgotten what she said the first time.

If she is negative and critical about others then I force my face into a vague half smile and say, very evenly," oh dear, yes that sounds like a problem" or "It sounds like this is difficult for you". I can tell it annoys her, but she can't fault me for it.

However, she sometimes still manages to find a way to be critical and undermining of me and, as yet, i have not found a fail safe way of dealing with this and resort to the stroppy teenager mode you mention. I think it just makes me so hurt and reminds me, very vividly, of being younger and being, essentially under the control of someone who is extremely selfish and damaging.

Ironically, my mother thinks we have a very good relationship.

I don't know how helpful any of this is to you, but I wish you good luck. It is a trying situation to be in !

DIYapprentice Mon 19-Nov-12 19:23:29

Heidi - it's very hard. My DM is very critical, and obsessive about details and constantly tells me how I 'should' be doing something. I counted one day, in 1 hour I had over 30 rather forceful suggestions on what I should be doing, as what I was doing wasn't right in her eyes - was feeding DS1 who was 14 months old. She claimed I never listened to her advice, I pointed out that it just became unhelpful noise because it was CONSTANT, that I wasn't actually doing it wrong, I just happened to be doing it differently to how she would have done it and actually how SHE would have done it didn't matter one iota as she was the grandmother and I was the mother. When her DSis (my very NON 'D' Aunt!!) came over she tried to get some support from her and I told them both to but out. I told DM afterwards to NEVER pull that stunt again or I would walk out and go to my DMIL's house. (I was staying with her for 5 weeks, as she lives on the other side of the world). That particular Aunt is pure poison to me, and DM usually accepts that so not sure why she tried to pull this stunt.

After a number of confrontations I've learned to try to say 'Drop it mum, it's not up for discussion', or completely ignore it.

I've found it easier and safer to focus on certain topics that we can discuss. I've asked her questions about her childhood, schooling, her work as a teacher, etc. I ask about elderly relatives when they were younger. I take her down memory lane, and give her something different to focus on. I now feel I understand her better - she had a very difficult childhood, and although I love my DF I can see that he was a bit of a useless husband to her and a hopeless father to the us.

She has got better, or maybe I've got better at not biting so she doesn't 'poke' as much. Either way the last few trips have been a lot better.

heidipi Mon 19-Nov-12 22:37:29

Thanks DIY and Mermaid - I admire your ability to steer the conversation to safe things, especially in the face of such criticism.

Tomorrow is another day and at lunchtime I'll wave her off then go home and lie down in a darkened room, feeling alternately elated and wracked with guilt!

Thank you again everyone, this is really helping smile

DIYapprentice Mon 19-Nov-12 23:12:05

Ask her about her first crush or boyfriend (go on, dare ya!!! grin)

ccarpenton Mon 19-Nov-12 23:29:48

I feel for you! I always thought that was all mothers though? It's like, everything out their mouths is meant to make you feel small, right?

I just tell myself that it's because she's insecure and can't cope with the idea that I might be even equal in intelligence to her ... let alone smarter ... which I am. wink

DH, DS (16) and I live my my DM (84). Over the past 3 years we have managed to achieve a Modus Vivendi, which requires avoiding any contentious subjects for discussion, and we focus on stuff she enjoys doing. We talk a lot about the past, her family etc and we look at photos together. We chat a lot about the garden, household maintenance and other day-to-day issues. I do a daily shop for her, and sort out household bills and other paperwork. Her memory is becoming very bad. sad

Once a week I do a big roast dinner for us all to eat together, we all go out for a meal once a fortnight and to the cinema or theatre every month. We make a very big fuss of family birthdays, and I make sure she keeps in touch with family - they all live abroad apart from us.

Join the discussion

Join the discussion

Registering is free, easy, and means you can join in the discussion, get discounts, win prizes and lots more.

Register now