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Love DM but she's driving me mad(11 Posts)
Long story short: I have a chronic illness and retired DM and I live next door to each other. She does a lot to help me which I'm extremely grateful for, I do what I can which is things like taking her shopping and to visit relatives and do the driving, and mostly we get along very well. However she is unintentionally quite rigid, something that is gradually worsening as she gets older, and she gets stuck on what her plan is for something and then can't adapt or take into account anything else on the way.
I work from home and she cannot process that me being home in front of the computer does not equate with I'm free to take her shopping or do anything else that's a priority to her. I am currently struggling with a big, difficult project that is important to me and takes a huge amount of not just concentration but creativity. I have a deadline of Wednesday early afternoon and a phone conference. On Friday DM made plans with Dsis and informed me that we would be having our Christmas day with Dsis plus her family on Christmas Eve. (Wednesday). I had to explain that I already had plans for that day. DM could not process that I might have plans; my diary did not say I was going out, I hadn't told her I had something specific to do between set times. She couldn't see my point was I hadn't been asked, she just assumed unless I was at a work appointment I'd just have nothing else to do. We've had this conversation several times before, there are boundary issues. After hurt looks she rearranged with Dsis for the day after Boxing Day.
This morning she's decided that since I have made a Christmas Eve box for Dsis (she is slightly obsessed with Dsis since Dsis has incredibly adorable young family which is v tiring for her) and I was stupid enough to tell her I was making it, that we have to get it to her before Christmas Eve. Tuesday morning she says is out because DC go to nursery that day and Dsis works from home and won't want to be disturbed. So we must go tomorrow morning, stay the morning because Dsis will want to do housework while we look after DC, and deliver the box. She will love this visit. Ideally she'd love to stay the whole morning and it probably will slip well overtime. Now I also lose more than half of Tuesday morning because of cleaners coming, so that will be two mornings gone effectively. And I tried explaining could we just drop in for coffee, stay half an hour and go - no, arguing got her to reduce it to 9-11 plus the 45 minute car journey each way as the bare minimum and she relies on me for driving her. She is so stuck on but we have to get this box over there and we have to have a plan that I couldn't negotiate anything less. Dsis would actually be fine with me dropping it over one evening and not having a plan at all, this is in DMs head much more about providing child care for Dsis than the box.
The thing is that the bloody chronic illness means I have to make choices on what I spend my energy on each day, by lunchtime I'm getting tired and concentration is getting difficult. So Monday, driving, caring for adorable but very demanding toddlers, driving - by lunchtime that's my energy gone for the day, I will not be able to do anything worth a damn by the time I get home. Tuesday, prep for cleaners has me on my knees, I have to get out of their way, by lunchtime I'm down a whole lot of energy and again can't rely on having much left, plus the nature of this bloody illness is I never know how I'm going to feel day to day so can't be sure one of those days will be lost anyway because it's a bad one, meaning I always over plan more time than I need just in case. I spent a lot of mornings last week taking her out doing Christmas shopping stuff relying on these days in hand but she's not going to let me have them.
Essentially she's just fixed me so that I have the rest of today to do this bloody project and I'm so angry and stressed I feel about as creative as a brick and can't concentrate. I don't feel I can refuse this too without being a selfish, nasty cow to someone who gives me a lot of support, and will really enjoy this visit, but I resent the stress it costs me and that she has to make her plan according to how she sees the situation and then push me along with it in her mummy knows best way. It's relentless. So I'm probably going to be working through the small hours all tonight, Monday night and Tuesday night because they're the only times I know she's going to leave me alone for several hours in a block and I can get it bloody finished, and I'll pay the price in pain/illness for that. Or as I'm getting sorely tempted to do, I contact the recipients waiting for this project and apologise now that I won't make the deadline because I'm a pathetic individual who is not able to protect my bloody time from my bloody mother. Or I move to the other end of the bloody country. That one is getting more tempting by the day.
Please pass the gin.
You need to put yourself first, end of debate. I know how tricky it is trying to deal with family responsibilities but you have a chronic illness and you need to put yourself and your health first. Some close friends of mine have a chronic illness which means one day they are fine and then without any warning they can have a bad day and can barely move. A lot of them have had to give up work which is a shame because on good days they could work.
You do more than enough for your mother who in my view is being very unreasonable. You job is very important to you and quite rightly so. Being incapacitated on some days makes it more important because it gives you something to focus on. Working on a difficult project which you have to deliver via telephone conference on Wednesday would put anyone under pressure.
I honestly think you should focus on your project. Christmas can be a right pain in the face and people start to behave in ridiculous ways. You should explain the situation to your DSIS who will understand completely.
The job you are working on sounds interesting and could lead to more work. I would be very fortright with your mother and tell her you have to work. Explain to her that if you are laid low you will lose a day within your deadline.
I know I sound harsh but I would not budge on this one. It is only Christmas not life and death.
I know, you're right and I should. The boundary erosion is fairly constant, although some of it is that her ability to think flexibly is eroding as she gets older and she gets so stuck on her idea. And having had one big showdown about Christmas Eve, it's very hard to go back and have a second one. She can't see that the issue wasn't Christmas Eve, it was about me needing time. And the chronic illness bit makes firm plans very difficult when her security relies on firm plans.
You poor lamb! Concentrate on your work and get Dsis to explain the situation to your mum. In the future it may be easier for you to have a schedule where you are doing stuff for your mother, or with her so that she knows exactly when and where she is going to be. You do need to be clear and possibly blunt when explaining about the concept of 'working' from home.
All the best and I hope you succeed! xx
God that sounds really hard. Might it help if you did put your working from home hours on a calendar, and make formal "I am busy" times where that is officially what you are doing and you cannot be disturbed or booked to do anything else?
I think you need a timetable that you stick to, just as if you were at work in an office. You need work time, you time and available time. Make sure that she is clear that she can only make use of specific times.
Once she gets this, the rigid timetable might be something she protects as it will appeal to her ageing need for structure.
My MiL is like this and plans her week as if she is working. It makes her feel useful.
Those are really good ideas, thank you. I think you're right, I have to create a visible schedule she can get hold of.
It won't help long-term, but if your dsis is sympathetic and won't mind when the box is delivered, would she cancel?
Is she aware/will she admit to the fact that she's becoming more rigid about plans? It'd probably be a lot easier if you could openly refer to her need for plans versus your need for flexibility due to illness.
I have an anxiety disorder and it's helpful with my DP when I can say "I'll need to know X by Y time because otherwise I'll stress about it, you know what I'm like" - I ask to be humoured with my need to plan to some extent because it is one of the ways I have of coping with anxiety.
But DP can also say "I'd rather play that by ear, can you make plans that don't involve me", or "Do we really need to plan that now...?" at which point I need to figure out why I'm stressing and see if I can cope by other means so it doesn't affect him.
But if your DM won't acknowledge that she's like this then it's all much more difficult.
Also good ideas, thank you. Cat, I think her rigidity is due to anxiety and that may be a way forward to make it something open - I like flexibility, you like to know, so how can we work this?
I just finished wrapping The Box with her- since that was the other thing she started stressing about at 9am this morning - wrapping at cross purposes since she can't help, she has to do it her way which means mostly giving up and helping her. Since she likes parcels to be just bundled in paper and never mind what it looks like, and I like parcels to be neatly wrapped and look pretty with ribbons on, that took a while. Items getting removed from my hands as I'm in the process of cutting off a label saying 'oh there's a label'....
I started to recognise the signs, this is her Christmas Flap which is amplifying everything else, she's making lists about what we're cooking for the day the family come to us and telling me to make a sweet and then wanting to define exactly what I make, how I make it and how much, which will probably end with her needing to come and take over with that too.
Deeeeeeeep breaths. Gin. I love her dearly. Matricide is not an option.
Wash, rinse, repeat.
Oh gin helps enormously with anxiety, ply her with gin (what's she like drunk?)!
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