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.

How do you deal with a moody and slightly controlling mother?

(20 Posts)
CelticPixie Mon 25-Mar-13 10:50:58

I feel quite bad speaking out about this because from reading some of the things other posters have written in here my mum is probably a Saint in comparison. But in the last couple of years I've reached the conclusion that she is probably to blame for a lot of the issues I have in my adult life.

Getting to the point though, I have spent the past 30 years (my entire lifetime) trying to navigate her "moods". She is a very moody person when things don't go her way and has the ability to drag everyone else around her down when she's "in one". It's hard to explain, but she's like like a raincloud of doom and growing up was often like walking on egg shells because you'd never know what mood she would be in. She'd be happy, smiling and joking one minute and then something would happen, often something really minor and she'd change in an instant to a sulky, snappy, shouting, miserable, whinging cow. She's never been abusive either verbally or physically, but it was quite upsetting being a young child and your mum is being nasty and you don't know why? My dad and I have always bore the brunt of the "moods", she's always nice as pie with my brother. I always go to great lengths to ensure that I don't take out my bad day on my own DDs so don't really understand it.

Also she is ever so slightly controlling. She always has to be right and if she's wrong about something and you point it out to her that sends her into a sulk that can last hours on end. If we go out for a family meal for example and we all choose to go somewhere different to where she wanted to go regardless of how nice it is she will spend the duration of the meal complaining about how bad the food and service is, and how it would be better if we'd gone where she wanted to go to. She'll not really get involved with our conversations and will instead sitthere moaninf, pushing her food about like its poisonous and pulling faces.

I have suffered from terrible low self esteem all my life and struggle with assertiveness and airing my opinions. Mum has never really like me standing up for myself and if I ever did her response was to either scream at me or just tell to shut up. I've had counselling for my esteem issues and am a lot better, but she still has the ability to knock me back down. It's almost like she doesn't want me to stand up to her even though I am an adult and I am entitled to my opinions. When my dad stood up to her over something at Xmas (first time I've seen him do that, I was quite proud of him) her response was to burst into tears and run out of the room.

Sorry for rambling but I needed to get all of this off my chest. She's not a bad mother by any means she's actually a very good one most of the time, but she does seem to have a lot of issues going on and I don't really know how to deal with it all?

CogitoErgoSometimes Mon 25-Mar-13 11:02:59

What do you do if one of your children is in a mood, throwing a strop, playing with their food or yelling at you? Do you fuss around them offering treats and going to great lengths to keep them sweet or do you banish them to their room (or similar) threaten dire consequences and tell them to think long and hard about their behaviour?

It's a form of bullying. Often very insecure people they pull various stunts... tantrums, 'moods', silent treatment ... because it gets everyone's attention and manipulates their behaviour. When someone stands up to them (like your father) they crumple.

So follow your Dad's example. Pick her up on unacceptable behaviour if it's something important, but otherwise ignore the tantrums.

newgirl Mon 25-Mar-13 11:10:41

there is a whole thread on this "stately homes' on mumsnet. It seems that when some of us have had our own children we look back and realise that the way our mums act is NOT the only way.

I found when I had my own children it really brought it home to me that I would never talk to my children the way my mum has spoken to me. It's shown me that it doesn't have to be like that. I can only suggest you learn that you want to do things differently.

I think yes stand up to her or see her less if you like but I know it is not easy. I agree with cogito - it is bullying. She wants to be 'queen bee' and she is being self centred - what she wants is more important than what you want. Quite simple. I think there is a generation of women in their 60s who were raised to be looked after - not work etc - and are a bit lost. It comes out in their attention seeking and trying to get a role in the family that is not always healthy.

ForeverRuminating Mon 25-Mar-13 11:28:36

I too have a less than perfect mother, but who wasn't anywhere near as bad as what others have experienced, so I understand where you are coming from. Your mother sounds horribly manipulative and selfish. Mothers are supposed to put their children and their feelings first, and it's clear that yours didn't.

As others have already suggested, I would tackle her with a combination of confrontation and ignoring, and have a chat with your dad so you can display a firm united front.

Good luck. It's hard when you realise your mother let you down and her behaviour towards you as a child still has repercussions into your adult life. x

CelticPixie Mon 25-Mar-13 12:32:22

My counsellor told me that my mother is "over bearing" and I think that's probably true. To the outside world she's totally different though, she never ever let's them see the moods. I think it probably is her way of manipulating us somewhat but I've recently learned that its easier to just walk away from her when she's in one because I think she wants you to fuss around her, ask what's wrong etc. She continually moans and complains about her life but she has a lovely home without a mortgage, is reasonably comfortable financially and has several holidays a years. She's a lot better off that many people at the moment.

PeppermintPasty Mon 25-Mar-13 12:37:12

I don't think she will change. Detach from her if you can, as much as possible. From bitter experience, it's the only way. Anything else will wear you out.

Failing that, do what I did and move 250 miles away the first chance you get! The ultimate in detaching smile.

Oh, and yes, have a look on the Stately Homes thread.

BTW, you are minimising your mother's behaviour. As it happens, she does sound like a bad mother.

She's not just a bad mother she's an emotionally abusive one instead and like many children now adults of such toxic people you have FOG in spades - fear, obligation, guilt. She is not and never will be the nice kind person you so want her to be because she was not built that way. Her own parents were likely to be abusive themselves and your mother's way of dealing with this was to become emotionally unhealthy herself. They also did the damage by making her the centre of their own emotional universe.

People from dysfunctional families end up playing roles and your dad plays the role of enabler to perfection. He will still likely put her above you and I would not let him off the hook either. He gets what he wants from this relationship with his wife and he has also failed abjectly to protect you from her.

What if anything do you get out of contact with her?. Have you considered going low or even no contact with such people?. You are also minimising her behaviour as a defence mechanism and to protect yourself from the realities of her ongoing abuses at home.

Abusive people are often very plausible to those in the outside world and can be "pillars of the community".

You would not tolerate this from a friend; your parents are really no different.

Would also suggest you look at and post on the "well we took you to Stately Homes" thread on these pages.

Toxic parents do not apologise for their actions nor take any responsibility for them.

CogitoErgoSometimes Mon 25-Mar-13 12:49:46

" I think it probably is her way of manipulating us somewhat "

There's no 'somewhat'... smile The main reason she seems fine to everyone else is that she knows they wouldn't stand for her silly tricks. Tell her that people who moan all the time are very, very boring...

CelticPixie Mon 25-Mar-13 16:15:35

Attila its interesting you mention her own childhood because I've always got the impression that it wasn't all that great. My grandmother was a very difficult woman and knowing what I know now I'm sure she had some kind of personality disorder. She could be very cold, was incredibly selfish and seemed to lack any kind of empathy or even maternal instinct. Some if the stories I've heard from my mum about the things my grandmother said and did are quite shocking, and yet my mum and her siblings always pandered to her every whim Right up until her death. They all seemed to desperately seek her approval but I'm not sure any of them ever got it.

My mum has never cuddled or kissed either myself or my brother something I find incomprehensible now I'm a mum because if you cant hug your kids then there is something fundamentally wrong IMO. Fortunately my dad is a very loving man who always showed us affection so I've never missed out on it but when I look back I think its disturbing how little affection we were shown from our own mother.

DonkeysDontRideBicycles Mon 25-Mar-13 16:27:21

You mention seeing a counsellor, I hope this helps you work out what's what. We don't get to pick our families, some of us are an awkward fit, it doesn't mean it's all down to us! Very seldom gets aired, loyalty runs deep, but this is honestly not uncommon. I suspect you have reached a point where you wonder what more you can do, and if you stop chasing, she might carry on, or she might try harder with you, but enough is enough. Conserve your energy, focus on the ones close to you, give of your best but don't please waste it trying to build bridges when the other person just tramples on them.

onenutshortofasnickers Mon 25-Mar-13 17:46:23

I have no contact with my mother. Neither does my ds or sister atm.

Best thing we ever did.

She is a very dangerous thing (doesn't deserve to be called woman or human.)

Made my childhood and whole life hell. Still does now...finds ways to get through to people I know and I get information passed to me. Evil evil thing.

Cut her out. It is hard initially with the guilt pangs but oh so worth it!

onenutshortofasnickers Mon 25-Mar-13 17:48:02

My mum has borderline personality disorder, read up on it (medical journals too.)

And the read up on 'children of parents with borderline personality disorder.'

I think there will be plenty of similarities!

onenutshortofasnickers Mon 25-Mar-13 17:49:51

counselling seasions help too. If you haven't rolled the ball on that, start rolling it (trip to drs.)

Have only skimmed thread blush but your mother seems a milder but similar version of mine.

I hate to say it as I love my mum to bits but my mum was exactly the same when I was growing up. She was moody, had a temper and if she got in a mood she could sulk for days with you. You would get the cold shoulder, one word curt answers to everything and hadn't a clue what exactly it was you had done wrong as she wouldn't tell you confused I always felt sorry for my dad as he bent over backwards for her. It took a very serious medical situation where she could have died to re-examine her behaviour and how it wasn't good for her health. Now I just tell her to wise up and ask her quite cheekily 'what's wrong with you?' when I can tell something is annoying her. We are the best of friends now but if she hadn't of changed I don't think our relationship would be as strong as it is today.

CelticPixie Mon 25-Mar-13 18:47:54

ballroomblitz, your mum sound uncannily similar to mine. The one word answers when you asked a question, the constant tutting and sighing, slamming doors etc. And its often the most ridiculous and mundane things that send her into a mood, the kinds of stuff that would go over the heads of anyone else. An example would be her going off to the supermarket all smiley and happy and then she gets there and finds the place is packed and she's had to park miles away. I can often remember this happening when I lived at home, fine and dandy going off in the car but foul tempered when she came back. If my dad doesn't jump when she tells him to that will provoke a mood, if you make a joke about her or laugh about something she's done ( she CANNOT laugh at herself) will also send her into one.

The latest big whinge is because dad won't let her have a new combi boiler fitted because there's absolutely nothing wrong with the one that they've got. But she wants a new one and she'll moan, whinge and sulk until he eventually agrees to it. Then she'll no doubt moan about all the mess and hassle.

Everything has to be done her way. When I lived at home she'd moan that no one helped her around the house, but if I ever tried to help she'd moan about the way I did it or that I'd put something back in the wrong place. You can't win with her.

Oh we had the slamming cupboards rather than doors. Making dinner and every cupboard door and fridge was slammed. This could go on for days, along with the 'yes', 'no' and nothing else to every question. As a child all you want to do is please your parents too so you're really trying to initiate a conversation to make everything ok and you get blanked. Sometimes it was over something stupid like not having the potatoes peeled for mum getting home from work. I can see now she did a lot and got peed off when we didn't help out but surely it would be much more constructive to tell us this rather than the moods. She also can't laugh at herself.

Even though she is much, much better now she tends to sit on things and let them annoy her. You think it's you but when you ask her it's something/someone else. My dad has problems doing anything right in her eyes, well unless he's throwing money at the latest thing she wants done (I actually feel really terrible even saying this)

The worst of it is for me I have some of those traits that I let things annoy me without saying anything (although never to my kids. I make a point of talking to them and never being afraid to apologise if I feel I've been in the wrong). I honestly think some of it is learned behaviour and catch myself on sometimes being a bit controlling/moody and remind myself I don't want to be like that.

CelticPixie Mon 25-Mar-13 23:07:32

Your right about children wanting their parents approval. I think I've carried this over into adulthood because my counsellor thought that I am still seeking my mums approval. I think she's right. If I ever do something out of the norm ill without fail instantly think "what will mum think/say" and worry about it. But why the hell should I when I am an adult with my own mind and should have the freedom to do as I choose.

Years ago now we all went out for the day as a family to a place I'd been to on a school trip not long before. My mum was certain that she knew where it was and was adamant about this despite having never been there herself. I knew differently and said so but we followed her advise and ended up on a wild goose chase miles from our destination. My dad conceded I was right and we turned back, but my mum spent the rest of the day sulking because she'd been wrong about the directions. It was almost like we'd slighted her or something. It's quite pathetic.

I too feel terrible writing this and she'd Be furious if she knew I'd written it. She simply cannot tolerate any critics and sees it as a personal attack.

AlwaysOneMissing Tue 26-Mar-13 00:23:48

I also see similarities in the description of your mum and of my own mother too.
I also have memories of walking on egg shells around my DM in case she was 'in a mood', and I desperately wanted to please her and get reassurance that it wasn't my fault she was in a mood (still the case now!). I felt her to be indirectly controlling too, like your DM, mine would be very affronted if we dare disagree with her, and take it as a personal attack (even on something completely insignificant, eg I remember her once say we were 'ganging up on her' because she was slagging off a celebrity and I said I disagreed and didn't think she was that bad!).
She will 'choose' certain members of extended family to bitch about and then bad mouth them to anyone who'll listen if she thinks they might be a willing listener - although confusingly, she would get very upset if you suggested she was being horrible about them or seemed to have something against them.

I too have come to realise that sometimes I don't actually like my mother very much! ( I feel guilty writing that). And I know what you mean about thinking 'what would mum say/think about me doing that?'. Before I go to see my DM I will actually be nervous at what she is going to criticise, and I'll check my hair, make up, are my clothes ok, are the children dressed to her approval etc but undoubtedly, one of the first sentences she speaks will be sarcastic or a criticism (maybe I'm over sensitive?!)

I catch myself behaving like her sometimes, or taking a bad mood out on my DC and it terrifies me and breaks my heart that I might be continuing the pattern.

CelticPixie Tue 26-Mar-13 09:15:34

My mum likes to criticise my clothes a lot of the time as well. Usually by telling me that something's too tight or you can see through it. I remember about ten- twelve years ago it was fashionable to wear very low cut jeans and she had a bee in her bonnet over that because you could see my knickers sometimes. But she wears some awful clothes that are not always age appropriate or flattering, bearing in mind I was a teenager when those jeans were in and I wouldn't wear them now! Not long ago she put on a top that was completely see through with a white bra underneath and I said to her "mum, you can see right through that top. You can see your bra!" And she jumped down my throat saying that she'd wear what she liked and she didn't care that it was see through, but she looked a complete mess. Almost 60 in a see through top FFS!

I realise that sounds incredibly bitchy, but I believe its another way of controlling me by telling me what she thinks I should wear. I don't listen to her BTW I wear what I like as well. But it's always fine for her to slag my clothes off but never for me to point out when something doesn't look good on her the shit hits the fan.

Another thing I've noticed is that she can be incredibly bitchy about other women. She's a bit of a female misogynist if there's such a thing? I think she definitely prefers me over women.

themaltesecat Tue 26-Mar-13 11:42:05

My mother was always like this and I thought it was just something that had to be dealt with. We all grew up apologising for things we hadn't done, just to end the days-long sulks. My father left when we were little and she told us this was our fault.

Enough was enough when I had my own child and I watched my dear, chatty little one-year-old daughter toddling up to her and hanging back, unsure whether to speak, because she didn't know if Granny was still ignoring her or not.

Haven't seen the woman since last July and it's been GREAT. smile

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