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Tips to become more tolerant of my mother

(98 Posts)
eisbaer Fri 22-Nov-13 17:16:23

Just that, really. My mum irritates the living shit out of me. I can't articulate why, apart from really petty stuff(eating her breakfast while phoning for a chat, ignoring my requests at my house not to and carrying on doing my laundry etc). I know as a 37 yr old I should be able to overlook that and think on it all kindly, but every time she comes to stay I turn into Kevin The Teenager. So does anyone have any tips or recommended reading that could improve my behaviour towards her? I don't have the time or money for counselling or therapy. Ironically, she was much harder on my sister growing up, is more or less solely responsible for her ongoing eating disorder, and yet she seems to be over it and to be able to interact with her adult to adult. It makes me miserable and I cry every time we part because she is 72 and, well, who knows how long anyone has but obviously you want her twilight years to be happy and for her not to feel like a constant source of irritation to her daughter! I know she may always irritate me, but how can u handle it better? Anyone?

Ilovexmastime Tue 26-Nov-13 16:21:47

Thanks Eldritch, I've just ordered it. I certainly have a lot of anger about one thing in particular from when I was younger. I have thought about therapy for it, but it's just so expensive sad.

Salbertina Tue 26-Nov-13 16:17:45

Yyy to transactional analysis, powerful stuff. Second also Harriet Learner, must dig out her book.

EldritchCleavage Tue 26-Nov-13 15:59:30

Counselling would just encourage more navel-gazing, and I know I have a great family all in all, and sm just being spoiled and over-sensitive due mainly to preg hormones probably.

No no no no. Please don't dismiss your own feelings like that.

Short answer: transactional analysis. Try this book: The Dance of Anger: A Woman's Guide to Changing the Pattern of Intimate Relationships by
Harriet G. Lerner. Available on Amazon.

Long answer: it is about the petty things to an extent, transgressing your adult boundaries by doing laundry etc, but really it is probably about bigger things, like repressed anger to do with things that happened when you were growing up. I had the same, including one very serious issue. After one nervous breakdown and years of therapy in which all these things were addressed, my relationship with my (lovely, but sometimes irritating) mother is very good.

Funnily enough I don't humour her, or bite my tongue, or give her the constant reassurance she seems to crave, or take on all her concerns and needs and emotions any more, and yet our relationship is much better. And I don't triangulate (moan to other family members constantly about her, get in the middle of her relationships with them either, be a go-between when things blow up). I talk to her and everyone else in the family directly and leave them to do the same. In the bad years I would have thought all of this very harsh, but actually it is freeing and it works.

Ilovexmastime Tue 26-Nov-13 15:47:22

My DM does the food thing too. When DS1 was small I explained to her that I didn't want any foods to be seen as a 'treat', that I just wanted him (and subsequently DS2) to have a balanced diet etc etc.
Next thing I knew, she had a 'treat box' in her kitchen, from which the DC can choose from when they go round. Grrr.

I also didn't get much affection from her when I was growing up, I don't remember getting cuddles (although my younger brother did) and when I asked her about this, she said it was because I didn't want them. hmm,
I've thought about this a lot and I think that we probably got into a bad pattern of behaviour with each other early on, meaning that if she had tried to cuddle me, I would have pushed her away, and knowing her now, she would have taken this badly and not tried again, iyswim?

Anyway, sorry for the hijack. The best advice I can give you is to just keep repeating to yourself, I am an adult, I am an adult whilst talking to your DM and hope that you don't react. Or do what my DB does and just agree with everything she says. I'll be watching out for more tips!

Ilovexmastime Tue 26-Nov-13 15:36:42

Can I join in? I feel like a complete cow for finding my DM so irritating but she just manages to push my buttons every time I see her (practically every bloody day, and no, there's no way that I can't not see her) and like you, I turn into a teenager. It's so fucking annoying.
I've tried finding the funny side of it... works for a while but then it's as if she realises what I'm doing and ups the ante so that I get grumpy again. My DH thought I was being paranoid about it all until recently when we saw her together and he came away afterwards amazed, he said that she just kept pushing until I snapped. It's so low level though that I feel so immature when I mention it to friends, I really do sound like a stroppy teenager.
I'd love to be able to vent on here about it all smile

heidipi Mon 25-Nov-13 02:32:44

Blimey there's a lot of us. I posted a thread similar to this last year - hoping to find a way to be nicer to my mum. We've never been close, I don't actively dislike her (if she was someone else's mum I would think she was fine iyswim) but always had the feeling she didn't like me much when I was growing up. On reflection I do think she was depressed but she was pretty angry with me most of the time. Anyway, now she's in her late 70s, my dad died 5 years ago, my brother keeps in touch but basically pleases himself and so she's much more needy with me. I don't want her to be sad or lonely but she still drives me nuts and like the OP I find myself turning into Kevin the teenager in her presence (I'm 44 FFS).

Afraid I don't have any answers except that since last year I've had a 2nd baby which has meant we barely have time to talk about anything other than the kids, so maybe keep popping em out and you'll barely have time to notice or get annoyed?

And so what if it's navel-gazing, it's ok to think about yourself and your own stuff some of the time. Sharing it with a bunch of randoms online is easier than boring your partner or friends to death with it in RL. No-one can do really do anything about it except you and sometimes it helps to vent.

Anyone for a seasonal off-loading thread to get us through the festive season when I'll be we might be stuck in a house with our mothers for up to a week? <reaches for gin>

fancyanotherfez Sun 24-Nov-13 20:23:27

eisbarr I know exactly what you mean about the food thing. My mother does this, but it's food that she knows I try to ration- for example, she will buy them chicken nuggets which Im not precious about, but dont have them in the house because my DCs would eat them for every meal if I let them, so they can have them when we are out. She thinks I don't feed them things they like so that's why they get 'loads of colds' (they don't!) Today, we were food shopping, and she said 'would the DCs like these chocolate covered doughnuts?' 'yes, I said, but I don't want 40 of them hanging around the house'. She bought them anyway, and gave them 2 each before dinner. Now again, I don't mind them having cakes and things, but thanks to her, the house is now filled to the brim with chocolate doughnuts, chocolate chop cookies, cakes, biscuits, everything that I will now have to fight with them every evening to not let them have. That is not even the worst of it. She has been here since Friday and has undermined my authority at every turn. I can't discipline them at all without her contradicting what I say and even giving them treats to stop them crying if I have had to discipline them. This evening, my DS1 called me 'an idiot' which he has never ever done! It cant be a coincidence that he has been able to get away with every single thing this weekend, even rewarded with treats for bad behaviour! Also, when my DS2 has called 'mummy' she has answered him- he then asks for me again, and she says 'yes baby!' over and over again, even if I try to intervene. Now, who does that?? He was getting so frustrated he ended up screaming! He's only 2 FGS! Sorry it's a rant and a hijack but I'm so angry tonight! She hasn't stayed this long since I had to throw her out of the house after DS1 was born. It won't happen again! My DH had to be away and I needed her to stay for Saturday night but the trains were cancelled so shes here all weekend. I might offer to pick her up and drop her home if I need her again. I know that sounds ungrateful, and I suppose I am! I'd love to get someone else to babysit the kids but honestly, I really have to use that to get myself to spend time in her company and she really does love the kids and I feel they ought to have a relationship with her despite me! Grrr!

Capitaltrixie Sun 24-Nov-13 20:18:36

I can't STAND the way my mum drinks coffee. Irritates the flippin crap out of me. I used to feel very guilty and wonder if I wasn't a very nice person. But now I've realised that she does actually drink coffee bloody annoyingly (super slurps).

Anyway, I could have written something very similar op, I think once you stop beating yourself up for being irritated you kind of stop being so irritated and laugh about it (if that makes any sense whatsoever!). As prev posters have said, it's a very commonly difficult dynamic. Not much solid advice to offer I'm afraid as I'm still working through it (I'm kind of NC but for other reasons!), but I hope some of the advice on here has helped.
Good luck smile

AndTheBandPlayedOn Sun 24-Nov-13 16:18:34

eisbaer, Delurking.
Try to see your mom as if she is one of the bar flies from Star Wars. While you have an inward smile, this alows for her differences, yet affords a tolerance of coexisting in the same place.

There has been described on these threads over the years of a technique of half listening. You hear her, but choose to not ingage and merely acknowledge you are receiving her transmission so to speak with well placed "umm hmm"s, "oh, really?", awes or wows etc. You could do cross stitch while sitting down to give her your attention wink.

For the digs that get a little too personal, have a few stock phrases ready, and well rehearsed: others may have better inventory but things like: "That is an interesting opinion", "Yes, mother, whatever you say" (and continue as you were doing).

On the phone multitasking (my sister would do it), so one time I did it back to her. I did the kitchen floor with hand wipes, and she got that tone in her voice 'what was I doing'. I kept doing it. More infuriatingly, she would call me up and then carry on a conversation with someone else so I was effectively be on hold but had to hear was a form of control, and I would politely end the call.

As certain scenarioes do seem to repeat, it is a good idea to address them one at a time. Divide and conquer. Good luck.

Holdthepage Sun 24-Nov-13 16:03:21

If anyone has any useful tips I would love to hear them because I would quite like to throttle my DM at the moment. She takes passive/aggressive to a whole new level & in addition to her compulsive lying/economy with the truth she is one tricky customer. Emigration is looking quite appealing at the moment ;). It's her birthday next weekend & I feel like leaving her home alone.

annhathaway Sun 24-Nov-13 15:51:24

That's not what the OP says- maybe you are the one who ought to go away. How rude of you to behave like this. I'm as entitled as anyone to post my views. So there.

MoonHare Sun 24-Nov-13 15:43:37

annhathaway you are missing the point of this thread if you don't get it go away.

eisbaer Sun 24-Nov-13 10:48:35

Ok thanks, ann. I can see how I'm coming across, so I'm going to stop posting and address myself to the task of behaving better and being more grown up about things in real life. Counselling would just encourage more navel-gazing, and I know I have a great family all in all, and sm just being spoiled and over-sensitive due mainly to preg hormones probably. Thanks everyone for the constructive input, loads of ideas and approaches in this thread to sort out any minor mother-daughter gripes.

annhathaway Sun 24-Nov-13 09:37:49

You say you don't have the time or money for therapy. Is that really so? many organisations offer low cost counselling.

annhathaway Sun 24-Nov-13 09:33:59


I'm trying to be charitable but you do come over as a bit all me, me, me - this really is navel gazing.

I have 4 close girlfriends. Every conversation we have includes a moan about our mums. One friend was in counselling for 5 years re. her mum, another had counselling after her dad died so she could talk to someone because she couldn't talk to her mum- who blanked her emotionally- yet needed to support her at the same time.

Mum-daughter relationships are rarely easy.

These issues you have are YOUR issues. I think you know that. Someone else would not react in the same way- they'd shrug and be more accepting.

You are ungrateful about the food. Stop psychoanalysing why she brings it and just accept it gratefully. It may in your mind be a 'warped' way of showing love but it's her way.

There seems to be a lot of insecurity coming over- you can't feed your family, she prefers your DH and sons to you.....

have you always been like this?

In order to cope with your mum, you need to rid yourself of your own demons. This seems to amount to a lack of confidence in your own worth, maybe through lack of love from her, maybe not. But you need to work on that maybe even with professional help.

My mum loves me to bits but is suffocating and saps my confidence in other ways- she spends her life worrying about the harm that may come to me or my kids, or my brother, or my dad, or anyone she knows. She listens to the local traffic news daily even though she doesn't drive, because she worries about anyone she knows being caught up in it.
When my kids go off travelling she worries. When I go anywhere, she worries. She's sapped my confidence in myself because what I don't need is someone airing their worries- when I may be worried anyway and trying to be a big girl about it- such as coping with my DCs treking around 3rd world countries.So I now play everything down- relationships, my feelings, what DCs are up to, illnesses,- simply because I can't take her worry on board as well as control my own.

So- we all have our crosses to bear. having a parent who worries excessively is as bad as having one who doesn't care enough.

In your case, you need to separate out your over-reactions based on the past and deal with the present in the way you'd behave to someone else who did the same things. And if it might help to talk to a counsellor then do that.

eisbaer Sun 24-Nov-13 08:34:32

Think it's just an illustration of how once the irritation sets in, it can be far-reaching and at times not rational. I'm certainly realising that, about some of the things that irk me. MoonHare, re. The cards, I was just thinking there how it would fill me with joy to read a valentine's card to one of my sons , as it would mean that someone adores him as he deserves to be loved. Unless it just read "kind regards, Mrs Smith" or similar of course.. So maybe you could turn that one into a positive by thinking that your mum is happy to see evidence of your being in a happy and loving r'ship? Even if she'd never actually say that.
Here's an example that will incur consternation I'm sure. And by the way one that I'm going to TRY to be grateful for Fromm now on. Every time my mum comes to stay or we leave hers, she inundates us with food supplies, which we simply don't have room for. I know, how horrible and generous, right? But I end up totally churlish and sulky making comments about space etc. but now I'm thinking about it this prob irritates me as it's an indication that her way to show love is to feed, while being totally controlled and body fascist herself, hence ongoing issues between my sis and eating, and also feed as opposed to listen to you, sit down and communicate. And I also take it as a vote of no confidence in my ability to cook etc for my own family. But I KNOW that my reaction is not about the act itself but what it signifies to me. So, from now on I will say thank you, even maybe give a slight smile of gratitude and store the empty containers in the boot of the car for our next visit. Easy peasy! I'm an adult at last!
I also feel that she totally reveres my DH and prefers him to me and only loves my three DS's so much because they are half his . I could never have a conversation about that, as I know how mental and needy I would sound but I genuinely believe this to be the case. Tips on how to turn that one around?

JessieMcJessie Sun 24-Nov-13 06:55:25

Agree with annhathaway re the cards-if they are on the mantelpiece they're on display and not at all rude or inappropriate for a visitor to read them. To those who have complained about it, would you be annoyed if a friend read them or is it really just because it's your Mum? I was always a bit embarrassed talking to mine about relationships, so might have preferred her not to see a slushy message, but would have hidden it if I didn't want her to look.

Lavenderhoney Sun 24-Nov-13 06:16:49

I wasn't very helpful beforesmile bit tired- plus I meant moment not money!

My dm irritated me, but I think she knew that! I also irritated her what with having my own way of doing things, not following her advice to the letter, and so on.

I used to avoid sitting chatting and go out to the shops with her instead. As she got more infirm and fragile, I did sit and chat, and I let her lead the conversation. I also agreed with her all the time- it was clear she was dying and there was really no point in arguing and fighting my corner.

My dm didn't understand my life at all, I left at 16 and she still maintained how well she knew me! She had no idea. But I never told her things that would worry her- she felt the need to fix them, as she was my mother and felt a responsibility to make me safe, her way.

redundantandbitter Sat 23-Nov-13 22:38:46

Yep. Same. Crappy mum who pretty much ignored me during pregnancies. When she DID visit I remember asking her to go and walking her up the bus stop, then bursting into tears after she'd gone.

She didn't even meet my dd2 til she was 8 months old. When she was older she referred to my DM as 'that lady'. I was mortified and embarrassed that she didn't call her nan.

Fast forward a couple of years to Xmas 2011. My DDs dad moving out and my brother told her I needed support. She arrived and HASNT LEFT! It's nearly 2 years and she's been home a handful of times. She left today and I am so grateful to sit on my own sofa and not have to watch yet another f'king ep of Time Team. I completely revert to teenage daughter from hell. Yes, she faffs about with my washing but is more of a bleeding hindrance... I find it hard being around her in an adult way. My
Builder visited recently and he asked how I was , I replied 'a bit shit' ... (DP vanished into thin air with yoga lady) ... Builder replied 'yeah, your mum's already filled me in'. Bloody great, felt about 15. I'm 43 FFS. Apologies for rant.

annhathaway Sat 23-Nov-13 22:19:41

I don't know anyone who is a daughter who has a simple and easy relationship with their mum- and all my friends say the same thing. ALL families are dysfunctional to a degree some more than others. We just muddle on through life as best we can.

ForeverRuminating Sat 23-Nov-13 21:30:48

I wouldn't like the card thing either, not Valentines/anniversary cards that are likely to have personal messages in anyway.

I started a thread about my mother here. I think we have similar levels of annoyance OP - some of the posters on this thread have had much worse experiences with their mothers and I really feel for them, it must be awful to have a mother who is not loving, affectionate or supportive. I realise my issues are trivial in comparison, but unfortunately none of that matters when she has done something to get my back up!

Only yesterday she had irritated me to the point of violence with her eccentricities during a shopping trip, and then I watched her pushing her trolley back and thought, one day she won't be here and I will miss her and of course I do love her. I wish I could hold that in mind and laugh off her silly ways rather than become infuriated by them - I wouldn't be at all bothered by anyone else doing the same things, as it wouldn't matter to me. But I feel that the things she does reflect on me, that I don't want to turn into her, and I feel compelled to react to everything she does or she will assume I agree with her.

I don't ring her for a chat any more, as I just get wound up by the daft things she says, or by the way her tone of voice and her laugh change when her partner is there. I email or text instead and she doesn't irritate me at all through this medium, in fact I find her very amusing and nice. When I see her in person I try to keep the conversation to mutual interests, or neutral subjects, nothing that might give her a chance to go off on one with bigotry etc.

But I really cannot bite my tongue when she gets my back up. I wish I could just tell her when she annoys me, and then we could deal with it and move on, like me and DH do - this to me is the healthy way to have a relationship. She prefers to supress any negativity at all, never discussing issues she may have with me or her partner and avoiding confrontation at all costs, and becomes very hurt and martyred if I criticise her in the slightest. She never apologises and will instead give excuses as to why something is not her fault.

I would love to be more calm when with her and stop regressing to a stroppy teenager! I will watch this thread avidly for any tips.

As so many PPs have said, my experience has made me determined to be a very different mother to my DCs.

ScientificProgressGoesBoink Sat 23-Nov-13 21:15:52

Eisbaer, reflecting on this tonight I think the one thing that saves my relationship with my DM is distance. We moved a while ago and are now a 2 hour journey away. It makes things much easier somehow seeing her only occasionally rather than every other day as we used to. We now plan to DO things when she is here. Being out and about lestens the irritation factor. Is there something you could do when your DM comes to distract you both?

annhathaway Sat 23-Nov-13 20:05:16

Maybe it's just me, but I find it really odd that you are upset about your mum reading your cards from your DH etc.

Are the cards out on display?

Do you expect cards on display when you have family around not to be read? The whole point of displaying cards rather than hiding them in a drawer is to show them off.

Why is it so odd that your mum would look at the greeting in them?

Mine wouldn't think twice about picking up a card out on display, it wouldn't bother me a bit. If it was secret I'd hide it.

MoonHare Sat 23-Nov-13 19:59:31

Wow it's amazing to see how many others feel the way I do about my Mum.

Last night I had to use the - monopolise the conversation myself technique. She started with a couple of very pointed questions to do with why I had been too tired to talk the day before and why it had taken me so long to answer the phone last night.

I try always to think about how much I will miss her when she's gone, because I really will. I also think about my own daughters, I have 3, and how they might feel about me when they're older.

It is my life's work not to become my mother.

She would be devastated to know that.

eisbaer I love your positive attitude to dealing with this. You have inspired me to try harder. I am absolutely with you on the point about how much of the irritation stems from things that happened in the past. I am going to have a go at writing the most irritating things down too.

I definitely need a better way of dealing with my feelings because confronting her never really works , I said in my first post she has improved since the last time we had a very frank discussion but it hasn't changed our relationship in the way I would have liked.

Oh and someone earlier mentioned how nosey their mum is - yy to that, mine ALWAYS reads the valentines and anniversary cards from my DH to me if she happens to be here. Who would do that???!!! Well, her obviously but such an invasion of privacy, she has no clue about boundaries......oh I'm ranting again, must put 'adult' head back on.

ancientbuchanan Sat 23-Nov-13 19:34:53

Transactional analysis followed by assertiveness training, again Google. Keeps your calm.

Also have a range of topics you " want to discuss with her" aka distract her, and tasks you have decided she can do. You are then on control, not her. If they don't get done, don't worry. But eg mending or ironing, polishing the door knob, whatever.

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