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Help me confront my mum (scared!)

(21 Posts)
IAmTheCookieMonster Thu 23-Jun-11 14:55:20

I have always had a difficult relationship with my mum. She is like Jekyll and Hyde and flips at the flick of a switch, then switches off again expects you to act as if nothing happened. If you bring it up later it makes her angry and she'll launch a rant at you that makes you feel horrible. She'll bring up all sorts from the past. The occasional time she acknowledges she was wrong to act like that she'll make excuses and twist it round so it was your fault really.

She has a disportionally angry reaction to small things and noone can stop her. My dad died 4 years ago and before that she had PTSD, both of which she loves to use as excuses, even though she was like this before any of those happened. In a recent episode she basically told me that due to her past PTSD she doesn't like being questioned and that I am never to do so r she will go ballistic. I have to walk on eggshells around her and never know what will set her off, her boundaries vary wildly on different days.

She also likes to set traps, for example offering to look after DS and making a huge point of not giving me a time to be back, then getting very angry when we were later than she wanted.

When I was a teenager I was adamant that we (me, dad, sister) needed to stand up to her but dad hated confrontation and would just tell me to apologise and keep the peace "you know she is wrong, I know she is wrong, but just say sorry to her and she'll be nice again" and my gran "when you get to a certain age you realise that these things don't matter, just smooth it over and keep her sweet". Now I have become them.

DH has known my mum for a couple of years now and has seen me getting hurt over and over, seen me become a quivering wreck and terrified of her. He has heard about the time when I was 18 months old and smeared poo all over my freshly painted nursery and my dad having to pull her off me because she went so mental over it. He has seen her undermining me and shouting at me in front of 14 month DS. He has swept under the carpet the time she had a massive rant about his family, calling them "a bunch of pigs" and saying how she is embarrassed to be associated with them.

DH has had enough and does not want DS to see her until she gets anger management help.

I need to talk to her about these issues but I don't know how to do it without causing world war three. I thought I might write a letter. I'm really scared that this will tear my family apart, my granny will be devastated and my sister is still living at home and doing A levels, and the last thing I want to do is make problems for her.

I don't want to lose my mum, I want to have a normal relationship with her where I'm not walking on eggshells. But every single argument I have with DH is because of her behaviour and me trying to defend her and find justifications. I can't do it anymore. I also don't want to it look like DH has swanned in and split up my family, because he hasn't, he is just seeing the situation from the outside and is where I was years ago - the difference is he doesn't have any obligation to smooth things over.

Sorry this is so long.

Ragwort Thu 23-Jun-11 14:59:18

I don't think writing a letter is the answer (or you could write it but not send it if you think it would help you). It could really inflame the situation.

How much day-to-day involvement do you have with your mum - can you not just gently stop seeing her so much, if she asks what you are doing explain that you are busy doing XYZ (make it up if necessary) - just make sure you are not 'available' for her so much.

IAmTheCookieMonster Thu 23-Jun-11 15:03:44

The thing is she lives just down the road, and is very involved in our lives. She helps me out a lot with babysitting and lifts. I also meet her a lot for lunch and things, so she would know something was up if I stopped seeing her. She knows that DH doesn't like her much but has told my sister she doesn't care.

I wouldn't know how to stop seeing her, if that makes sense :-S

IAmTheCookieMonster Thu 23-Jun-11 15:05:04

and also, DH will not be happy with that. He says I am putting her before our son and I need to stand up for myself.

TheProvincialLady Thu 23-Jun-11 15:15:13

Your mum is a very dangerous lady to allow to care for your DS. You know what she is capable of - would you accept that from a childminder or a nanny? Of course not. You musn't allow her to look after your DS or he will be as damaged by her as you have been. Can you at least start by finding another babysitter and never leaving her alone with him?

IAmTheCookieMonster Thu 23-Jun-11 15:20:02

Alternative childcare isn't the problem, DH's family are fantastic.

Its how to tell her, that is the problem. I can't bury my head in the sand anymore and reducing contact with result in having to tell her because she'll wonder why.

IAmTheCookieMonster Thu 23-Jun-11 15:22:38

ironically, at the moment she is better with him alone than when I am there. My sister sees them together alone, and she is wonderful with him, but he is getting bigger and more destructive...

buzzsore Thu 23-Jun-11 15:25:13

I don't think you can have a normal relationship with her, because she's not normal. I think you have to give up on what ought to be, and accept what it is - she's abusive and if you don't distance yourself, your ds will end up being as afraid and beaten down by her as you are.

Ragwort Thu 23-Jun-11 15:26:16

How old are you ? I don't mean that rudely but it sounds as though you are 'scared' of your mother and want her approval.

Can you say something like 'it is obvious we aren't getting along very well, let's have a break from lunch this week'. If she asks why and asks for details you must stand firm. If she keeps going on about it say 'yes, this is what I mean and I don't want to keep going over and over things'.

Good luck.

CleverClod Thu 23-Jun-11 15:27:46

I don't think you will avoid tearing the family apart.

Your mother is a nasty, evil, controlling woman and she's been allowed to behave this way by everyone around her.

Your only choice is either to carry on accepting it, or to walk away.

Think of your own family. You'll be with your dcs and dh a lot longer than you'll be with your mother. What do you really want from this?

Unfortunately, sometimes, all you can do for your own sanity, is walk away.

IAmTheCookieMonster Thu 23-Jun-11 15:32:32

I'm 25, far to old to still be feeling like this. DH says she treats me like a child and when i'm around her I act like one :-(

I do seek her approval far too much, I can't help it. I need to take control, I just don't know how.

So you all reckon just slowly withdrawing contact rather than confronting her? Its just with DH saying she can't see DS unless she gets help, a) she'll ask when she's seeing us and i'll have to say she can't and it will come out then b) in order to give her the opportunity to get help in order to see us she needs to know that

Playdohinthewashingmachine Thu 23-Jun-11 15:40:48

DH isn't swanning in and splitting up your family. You and dh have created a new family between you. Your primary loyalty is to dh and ds. You need to put their needs before your mum's. Imagine how you'd feel about this if it was dh's mum who was horrendous.

You are not going to get a normal relationship with your mum.

Seriously stop allowing her to babysit your ds. Who is going to pull her off him if she attacks him?

Just back off from her.

Don't ask her to have ds. If she offers, say no thanks.
Don't arrange to see her. If she tries to, you're busy. Don't tell her what you're busy with, just say no thanks. If you have to give a reason, you're busy "living my life and enjoying myself".

When she starts complaining, arrange to visit with ds and your dh. He comes too, and make firm plans to do something else half an hour later. You visit her, so you can leave easily. Next time she complains, plan another brief visit a week or two later.

You aren't ever going to be able to get her to understand why you might want to see less of her. She is never going to accept that she has done anything wrong. There is no point trying to tell her!

Alternatively, send her that letter and let her go into orbit. Then tell her you're not going to talk to her till she apologises. That should do it ... But as you say, your sister will catch the fallout.

I think you're better off reducing contact and setting some very firm boundaries.

AttilaTheMeerkat Thu 23-Jun-11 15:42:53

Many children, now adults, of such toxic people (like your mother in your case) have FOG - fear, obligation and guilt.

You will not be able to have a "normal" and functionally healthy relationship with your mother because she is not that way. You did not make her this way; her own family likely did this to her.

Your mother won't ever seek help because at heart she has done nothing wrong. This is not about her having PTSD or having anger management; your mother has never accepted responsibility for her actions nor apologised for them and she will not do so either. Such people are also happy to pass on their issues to the next generation i.e your child. Do not let your son potentially become her whipping boy or using him to get back at you for supposed transgressions on your part.

BACP have a list of counsellors; it may also help you to talk about your dysfunctional birth family with a neutral third party.

I would suggest you read "Toxic Parents" written by Susan Forward as this may help you. Also have a look at the "well we took you to Stately Homes" thread on these pages.

holyShmoley Thu 23-Jun-11 15:48:22

'she doesn't like being questioned and I am never to do so'
That is every abusers charter. She is telling youu that she is a tyrant and a despot.
If she was your husband you'd be told to escape; run away; leave the bastard... Same advice really

HerHissyness Thu 23-Jun-11 15:52:47

You have said the the past that your sister will do anything to keep the peace. what makes you think she is being 100% forthcoming with the truth on the subject of caring for your DS.

Why would she treat your DS any differently to how she treated you and your siblings? TBH, she should have been reported to SS for her treatment of you.

"I want to have a normal relationship with her where I'm not walking on eggshells."

Forget it. Not going to happen. EVER!

Sorry to disavow you of any illusion you may have, but basically, I liken your mother's treatment of you as abuse. I was abused in my relationship. Abusers don't change because they feel utterly entitled to treat you any damned way they like.

Worse with parents in that you are conditioned to have to love them, no matter what they do or don't do. With an abusive P, you can leave, with a parent the feeling of being trapped is a million fold. I don't envy your position at all.

You are only 25, that is young, but you will always be infantilised by your mother; she will always make you feel like this, until you decide to stop allowing her to treat you as a child.

To be honest, you have allowed her to over involve her in your life, she has terrorised you into making her a key part to your lives. Rather than use this key position to stabilise and help, she is choosing to undermine, upset and rile.

Your relationship is suffering as a result. DH is giving you ultimatums, not overly helpful, but given the comments made about his family, I don't blame him. I would also ban all visits to anyone that called me or my family names. You need to back him up, you need to stand up for your family unit.

You have your DH support, talk to him about creating some space between her and your family, see what he thinks, see how he can help support you in this, concoct stories, he can take calls for you too if need be.

Your best bet is to move house. Far enough away to necessitate a call first to check you are in. 30 mins ought to do it. Close enough to help, but far enough for some privacy and distance when you need it.

Make plans with your DH and your DC and IF she asks to see you, tell her you are busy.

Your mother is, i am afraid to say, toxic, you are being ruled by her and she will suck the joy out of your life if you let her. Create some distance and regain your life.

IAmTheCookieMonster Thu 23-Jun-11 16:29:47

I think i've allowed her in so much because I am so desperate to have a good relationship with her, and a lot of the time it is lovely. When I have a lovely day with her it makes me think that it can work after all. I've got to stop doing this.

Another probable reason is that SIL has been known to stop people seeing her children when they annoy her, and I think i'm going too far the other way. Its not using DS as a weapon to blackmail her into letting me get away with treating her badly, as she would probably paint it.

ScaredOfCows Thu 23-Jun-11 16:42:11

"I don't want to lose my mum, I want to have a normal relationship with her where I'm not walking on eggshells." - you can't have this. Not through any fault of your own, but just because your mother is incapable of playing her part in that 2-way process.

You've actually done well to start to see her for what she is at your age (I don't mean that to sound patronising). If you look on these boards for similar threads other people have started about problem parents, you will see that many of them are in their 30s, 40s and 50's. I only really started to see my mother for what she is in my late 30s/early 40s.

She won't change. She may well be ok with your son at the moment. My mother was ok with my children when they were young - although loved to have digs at me to them. As your son grows up and starts to became more independent, starts to question things, becomes more challenging, you may start to see her change towards him, because she will no longer be able to control him.

You can't live your life being controlled by her, being frightened of her, and you can't live that way to save your grandmother's and sister's feelings. They are capable of seeing the reality and making their own decisions.

IAmTheCookieMonster Thu 23-Jun-11 16:43:48

Also, I lived far away from home for 5 years, I came back down temporarily then started my family so stayed. I think that is another reason I started spending a lot of time with her.

What annoys DH greatly is that after a row it will be me that rings her saying "are you ok?" he doesn't show it but I know him and that makes him really angry. I think that is back from just after dad died when she would get funny a few days before each monthly anniversary.

IAmTheCookieMonster Thu 23-Jun-11 16:59:10

I'll order that book and have a look at counsellors. I do think I need professional help sorting this out. I've tried in the past to tell her how she has made me feel and all she does is turn it round and say how horrible I used to be to her and how unsupportive I was during her PTSD. I was 18 and as understanding and patient as it is for an 18 year old to be. I had a bit of counselling at school when that was going on and I kept justifying it all with "but she's ill".

The thing is I really think she might have an underlying mental health problem, so I feel like I should be supporting her. But I guess that is part of the F.O.G. that Atilla wrote about.

Thank you all so much for you help.

Smum99 Thu 23-Jun-11 17:43:30

One other poster mentioned a book - Stop Walking on Eggshells: Taking Your Life Back When Someone You Care About Has Borderline Personality Disorder. I have not read the book but I think it might help you with some insight.

Your Mother sounds like my MIL who will talk about occasions where she was violent to my FIL/my DH & siblings and believes it highlights how unreasonable everyone else was to her and therefore her violent behaviour was justified.

My DH was warned by a counsellor that he should never leave a small child with her - I suspect she would never touch our Dcs but she would and is very capable of emotional abuse. I can totally understand your DH's anger - if DH overruled me and allowed MIL major involvement with DCs I would be feeling very protective and it would be a deal breaker.

However DH did go for counselling when he was 30 so he knows his mother will never change. His strategy and that of his siblings is polite avoidance, he will answer emails, see her on a infrequent basis for short periods of time.

We have learned never to involve alcohol and her (so a few glasses of wine at our house is out of the question). I guess you will learn how to build boundaries - it may take a while and sometimes you will forget and let down your guard but her behaviour will flare up again and your boundaries will have to go up again. We have been dealing with this for 10 years - just about getting it right but I have learned a lot and am not so naive. I started off thinking "How bad can she be?" but after a drunken abusive row last year I realised how vicious and awful she could be.

IAmTheCookieMonster Mon 04-Jul-11 23:26:07

Hello everyone,

My mum has not babysat since my post, we have been away for a week which made it easy, but the only times she has seen us have been in a soft play centre I invited her to come with me (a public place, I drove separately) and lunch today with DH too at a garden centre a walk away from our home.

I have not confronted her and am trying to persuade DH around to the avoidance tactic. Hopefully him seeing that I am 100% committed to never leaving DS alone with her will, over time, be enough for him :-) Then everyone is happy!

Thank you

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