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DM's constant criticism

(47 Posts)
Xiaoxiong Wed 13-Jul-11 16:47:37

I know in the grand scheme of things this is not a big deal, especially on this board where people have real problems. But it is really getting me down and poor DH has heard enough of my venting, so I turn to Mumsnet for support. I've read many threads about narcissistic mothers but I don't think my mother is in that category - she is just relentlessly, unceasingly critical and I am reaching the end of my tether.

She has always exhorted me (and other family members) to "push out the envelope", "don't rest on your laurels" etc. and feels that if she gives any of us any praise it will mean we will be complacent and stop achieving. She refused to come to my brother and my university graduations, saying she couldn't see the point of making a big song and dance out of something that should be expected as a matter of course. (This is just one example, in the interests of keeping this short.)

She is obsessed with making money, not because she is materialistic but because she sees it as a safety net. This is reasonable up to a point but now I cannot have a conversation with her without her criticising me for not making enough money and running my own company. I am a City lawyer, DH and I both love our jobs and we earn over £100k a year combined - we have no debt, save huge amounts and know we are incredibly lucky to be financially secure at the moment. For 27 I think I'm doing fine, she says I have low expectations of myself and should push myself harder.

She is equally obsessed with weight - admittedly she just lost some weight and went from a 14 to a 10/12 but she has many times told me that I would lose my job because I was so overweight. I am a perfectly happy and healthy size 10/12 - even when I was cycling 30 miles to work every day last year she criticised my weight. Now I am pregnant she tells me each time she sees me I am putting on too much weight and will get pre-eclampsia and the baby will have serious medical complications. At 20 weeks I have put on about 7kg, bang on what the midwife recommended. Her reaction to this is to say that English people are the fattest in Europe and said the midwife was probably fat and that had skewed her judgement. She took a picture of me last week standing sideways to send to my brother and then shook her head, saying gloomily "if you're this size now...just wait..." and has been sending me links to gestational diabetes sites and big baby syndrome and how the baby will get too big and I will have a difficult birth. (I do not have GD and have no risk factors for anything.)

There are so many others but the last straw happened yesterday - she has decided that we have "too much crap" in our flat and that she will not come over until we "get rid of everything". (Needless to say half of what we have belongs to my parents as we are storing it for them while they live abroad.) Our flat can get a bit messy over the week but we have a cleaner 3 hours a week, do washing once a week, pick up when we have time, etc. We do make sure kitchen counters and most surfaces are clean but this is not sufficient apparently. She has said it would be irresponsible to have a baby with a flat that is "so full of crap".

So she has organised a man and van to come to our house this weekend to "pick up all the crap we want to get rid of, take to a charity shop or the dump". When it was pointed out that we are away this weekend she asked for my key so he can come in and pick things up for us, after I take a day off work to declutter our flat. At that point I told her she was being completely unreasonable, that I would not have time to sort out what can be hauled away, there's no urgency and it was our house, we would live as we saw fit and she had no idea how busy we are. (She has never had a full-time job, and we had two live-in helpers until I was 20 who did all the housework - she has no idea what it's like to live and work 100 hour weeks like we do.)

She hung up on me and is now giving me the silent treatment - will not answer phone or texts. DH says I shouldn't let it bother me, but of course it does and I can't help it. DF and DB think I am being unreasonable and it's not worth fighting with her. DF just told me to take a deep breath and remember that she is only critical because she loves me and wants me to be the best, and she is as critical of him and DB too and they don't fight with her the way I do.

What makes it more difficult is she is effusively positive to EVERYONE else and apparently sings my praises to the rest of the family and her friends, so no one believes she is at all critical to me. For example, when I told her that I was pregnant, she had a very negative reaction ("so, you expect me to congratulate you I suppose"). I then received emails of congratulation from all her friends saying that the very happy and excited grandma to be had phoned. When I asked her about this she said that I was too needy and it was no achievement to get pregnant, and it would probably end my career.

What do I do? Cave in and cancel our weekend away (first day off work since Jan) to keep her happy? Text her to say I was being unreasonable? She was supposed to be coming to my 20 week scan tomorrow and I thought this was such a good sign that she is excited about her first grandchild. Now she won't even answer the phone.

I have so much to be happy about and yet she manages to introduce stress, anxiety and frustration into my life - I know I should just not let it get to me but I have no idea how. Perhaps she is right and I am just abnormally needy - but don't most women expect their DM to be excited about the first grandchild?

Xiaoxiong Wed 13-Jul-11 16:48:18

Goodness, that was long - I guess I had more to get off my chest than I thought. Sorry everyone.

CheeseandPickledOnion Wed 13-Jul-11 16:55:27

No, don't cancel your day off. And don't let her do your flat for you! Goodness me, what a suggestion! She needs to learn some boundries and if you don't stick to your guns now she never will.

She'll get over it in time, and hopefully learn that you are an adult and can make decisions for yourself.

TheFarSide Wed 13-Jul-11 17:00:25

I read the first three paragraphs and that was enough to tell me she sounds like a nightmare and you are entitled to vent.

She sounds grossly unreasonable and controlling, and she is now sulking because you stood up for yourself. You would be well within your rights to just let her get on with ignoring you - this pattern of behaviour needs to be stopped in its tracks. Don't worry too much what other family members think - maybe they can take the strain instead for a while. I realise it's your mother and it might be helpful to have some counselling to help you through the process of dealing with her behaviour, even if that means breaking off contact with her for a while.

Good luck - you deserve to be enjoying your life right now.

buzzsore Wed 13-Jul-11 17:01:31

Of course you should not cancel your weekend. It is your house and you're perfectly capable of sorting out a man & van yourself if you want one - which you don't!

She's the strange one in all this, not you. Stick to your guns, tell her to cancel the man & van and have a nice weekend.

Glowbuggy Wed 13-Jul-11 17:02:22

Your mum sounds like a real bitch. Don't call her - she'll get over it. Don't let her say nasty things to you either, tell her that it is unecessary and hurtful. She'll come round eventually.
Take your holiday and have a fab time. When organising your stuff for someone to pick up for charity - just make sure it's all their stuff. More room for yours ;)
And congratulations with bubba on the way. I'm also pregnant and when I was 20 weeks put on much more weight than 7kgs. Am also a size 10! If we can't do it now when can we!!! ;)

MizzyTizzy Wed 13-Jul-11 17:05:47

Good grief..all that evidence and you still don't think she has Narc' tendencies!! shock

Stick to your guns OP...your mother is overstepping your boundaries all over the place IMO.

I also think some counselling would help you enormously in realising the true nature of your mother/daughter relationship...it ain't healthy ya know!

hillyhilly Wed 13-Jul-11 17:05:57

YANBU. she is, do not cancel your weekend, enjoy it.

EldritchCleavage Wed 13-Jul-11 17:06:49

You don't sound needy. Actually she does-needing to be in charge of you, needing to feel superior to you, needing to keep you down.

I agree about time to establish boundaries. For starters, tell your parents that the best resolution to the cluttered flat 'problem' is they will have to arrange storage elsewhere for all their stuff. Why not get them to arrange for the man in a van to come the following weekend to pick up all THEIR things and take them to a storage depot?

In the meantime, if she's bogged off, let her. It will give you a break. I wouldn't rush to get her back onside, that just reinforces the power dynamic of her bad behaviour going unchallenged and her keeping you subservient.

I think the excuse that she criticises because she loves you is really poor, actually. My mother loves me, and has occasionally raised things with me that have caused her concern, but it has always been done gently, not repeatedly, and with manifest love. From what you say your mother sounds as though she is very cruel to you on a regular basis.

Your DF and DB are taking the enabler, line of least resistance route, but that's fine for them they don't appear to be bearing the brunt of your mother's conduct.

AttilaTheMeerkat Wed 13-Jul-11 17:06:56

"What do I do? Cave in and cancel our weekend away (first day off work since Jan) to keep her happy? Text her to say I was being unreasonable?".

No to either, caving in is the worst possible thing you can do. You need to stand up for yourself. You give your mother an inch she'll take a mile and she's well overstepping the boundaries of reasonable behaviour here (this is not how normally functioning adults behave).

You are not bloody needy either; how dare your mother actually suggest this.

Re this comment:-
"DF and DB think I am being unreasonable and it's not worth fighting with her. DF just told me to take a deep breath and remember that she is only critical because she loves me and wants me to be the best, and she is as critical of him and DB too and they don't fight with her the way I do"

Can I ask who DF and DB are in this context; I presume you mean father and brother?. If DF is father then he sounds like the bystander in that dysfunctional family unit. People from dysfunctional families end up playing roles; yours seems like one of scapegoat.

It is NOT your fault your mother is like this and you are not responsible for her behaviours now. Her own family did that.

You need to establish clear and firm boundaries with regards to your mother and be very wary with regards to your child too. These people are more than happy to pass on all the rubbish (weight issues etc) to the next generation and could even use the child to get back at their "errant" offspring.

I would read "Toxic Parents" written by Susan Forward and perhaps also look into having some counselling with regards to your relationship with your mother. BACP are good and don't charge a fortune.

She sounds like she's been allowed to act like this as well because other family members have allowed her to do so.

AttilaTheMeerkat Wed 13-Jul-11 17:07:58

I would also suggest you read "If you had controlling parents" written by Dr Dan Neuharth.

mountaingirl Wed 13-Jul-11 17:17:26

And I thought my mother was bad! Yanbu at all. You are a high achieving adult (not child) who has a life of her own and in another 20 weeks will be a mother as well. Your mother needs to learn to back off. Men always take the easy route especially with a strong willed woman, hence your df and db not arguing with her. Anyway she is probably tougher on you as her dd.

She is narcissistic and controlling. She is wrong to think she can go into your home, clear out what she sees fit and dictate your life.

Your dh should be going with you for your 20 week scan. If he really cannot then text your mother telling her the appointment time and inviting her to be there. It really will be her loss if she isn't.

I feel for you. Good luck.

stayathomegardener Wed 13-Jul-11 17:18:00

I would say it is quite a bonus she is on non speaks-enjoy the peace and your weekend away,I'm sure she will be in touch and that would be a good time to try to retrain her before the baby is born.

Xiaoxiong Wed 13-Jul-11 17:32:34

Goodness - thanks everyone. I can now see why people post on here for support, it's incredibly comforting having a load of strangers on the internet with no axe to grind telling me that her behaviour is totally off.

I have texted her one last time asking if she still wants to come to the scan with me and DH. I bet she will pretend nothing ever happened. You may think I'm loony to even try and get her along given my litany of woes above but she lives abroad and is only here for another week, so this really is the only opportunity to involve her. And I suppose I'm always hoping she will melt when she sees the baby on the screen and feel able to say something positive for a change.

I will definitely check out "toxic parents". You're all correct that the reason this is bothering me so much more now is that I'm pregnant.

I'm really worried that I will have a daughter and she will be critical of her too, and also I don't want any child of mine seeing their mother being criticised to this extent. (I also have nightmares where I turn into my mother and criticise my children...)

God I sound like a neurotic basket case - maybe counselling isn't such a bad idea...

ImperialBlether Wed 13-Jul-11 18:17:40

I think this is where your husband should come in. He must have to deal with difficult clients at work. Now he should deal with a difficult one at home!

Tell him to phone her to clarify whether she'll be going. He could give an excuse eg because he needs to know where to meet her. He should say, "Oh by the way, Tye says that you were planning to send someone round to throw away a lot of our stuff." That will immediately wrongfoot her. Then he should say, "You know we still have a lot of your stuff, don't you? Do you want me to give them to the man when he comes?"

He should end by saying, "I know you're excited about the baby, but I think it's very important we both make sure Tye doesn't get upset at the moment. The doctor said her blood pressure was a little high and that she needs to rest as much as she can."

The goal of the phone call should be for her to know he's onto her.

Witchofthenorth Wed 13-Jul-11 18:29:57

My goodness, she sounds a piece of work doesn't she! I am surprised yo have not lost the plot long before now. Absolutely do not Change your plans, tell your mum to rearrange the man and van till the following weekend and only her stuff is to be moved, plus I would be tempted to add that if she cannot accept you and your life the way you are then she shouldnt be in it! For what it's worth I think you have achieved a fabulous amount and should be incredibly proud of your self, I have achieved a fraction of you and my mum is very proud of me and my children, it is a shame that it is not a given that all mother and daughter relationships are the same. Keep your head held high, you will be a fab mum!
I must add I am very proud of me too, reading my post back I thought I sounded a bit bleh smile

Bumpsadaisie Wed 13-Jul-11 18:56:21

You sound eminently reasonable and your mother sounds like a nightmare. Especially now you are having a child you really need to set some boundaries or she will intrude on you both when you are learning to be parents, something which you need to do in your way not with a parent or anyone else leaning over your shoulder.

While I can see that you wanted her at your scan in the hope that she would show some interest at last, can you see that she withholds interest which then makes you put out even more to try and get her interest? This way she establishes control over you. I would say it is not generally typical for mums to go to scans - so you have involved yours more than average, even though she drives you mad, in an attempt to get her to show the interest and support you need. No wonder this is making you stressed.

You sound extremely mature, sorted and sensible - you're 27, you're married with a child on the way, with a good job and savings. You should have seen me at 27! I had the city law job but everything else was a disaster!!

Despite your maturity and got-it-together-ness, your mother manages still to infantilise you.

Someone who has managed to create a top flight career, buy a flat, get married and settle down in a committed relationship to start a family, all by the relatively tender age of 27, does NOT need someone to organise a man and a van for them, advise them on their weight, or anything else.

Try and hold on to that thought and beware of trying to involve your mum too much in your pregnancy in the hope that this will generate the support you understandably crave from her.

Xales Wed 13-Jul-11 18:59:05

I am confused.

You are storing your parents stuff while they live abroad but your mother wants to pop around and get rid of a load of your 'crap'?

Tell her you are arranging for all her crap to go into storage and send her the bill.

ScaredyDog Wed 13-Jul-11 19:54:27

I was confused by that too, Xales.

You know she is being a nightmare, do not give into her. If she makes you unhappy, you need to cut the apron strings and stop letting her have so much influence on your life and making you so unhappy.

WhereYouLeftIt Wed 13-Jul-11 20:07:33

Like Xales and ScaredyDog, I was thinking about all the stuff you are storing for your parents. Although, I was thinking that these are the items you should declutter to the man&van she has arranged grin.

She sounds a total nightmare.

ImperialBlether has made an excellent suggestion, of how you could get DH to deal with her.

PercyPigPie Wed 13-Jul-11 20:27:15

Oh my goodness, she is a nightmare OP.

'She has decided that we have "too much crap" in our flat and that she will not come over until we "get rid of everything' - job done then - keep the crap. Seriously, she will drive you to distraction once you have a baby if you don't put your foot down now. Maybe make your stand over this rather than something big when you have the baby and are sleep deprived.

I so feel for you - she is truly toxic.

MizzyTizzy Wed 13-Jul-11 20:32:20

I'd be very wary of sending my DH into the lions den to deal with your Mother...poor guy has no idea what he's dealing with or how to cope...he's gonna be label as the Son in Law from hell from her on in - I suspect!

MizzyTizzy Wed 13-Jul-11 20:34:34

gah..."here on in"...not flippin' "her on in" !!!!

wotabouttheworkers Wed 13-Jul-11 20:41:14

Tyelperion, she sounds rather like my own mother (who died in 2010) who was exceedingly critical etc all her life and couldn't work out why I wouldn't take my daughter out of school in an exam year and go and live with her to help her out. It has moulded the way I am as a parent - very liberal, pragmatic etc. Stick to your guns, you don't need her anywhere near your place, you do the weeding out and decide what's taken away (or nothing if you want to keep the lot). Live your own life, not one she wants to define for you. YANNNBU, she is. Good luck with your pg and enjoy your babe

echt Thu 14-Jul-11 09:07:26

Email the dozy mare: You're so right. I'm getting rid of the crap. All of your stuff will be outside the house at XX o' clock. Anything left after YY o'clock will be sent to charity.

Give her a week's notice. If you're feeling kind.

Seriously though, and the above was serious, too, you clearly want her approval. You will never EVER get it. Ever.

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