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Relationship with my mother

(20 Posts)
shouldIshouldntI99 Tue 04-Aug-15 18:06:54

Hi all,

I'm interested to hear your advice on my situation. I'll try to keep it brief. My mother and I used to have a very good relationship, but over the past 10 years I have found it more difficult due to the following -

She hasn't worked for around 15 years, my Dad works away for several weeks at a time so she is home alone most of the time, she only has one couple as friends that she sees regularly,she has no hobbies. This means that generally she doesn't really have much to say for herself. So when we speak on the phone (every 3-4 days) she tells me the same boring stuff each time (went to tesco, did some washing, spoke to Dad) and doesn't really engage with anything I say/ask what I have been doing. This makes me very frustrated as she wants regular phone calls but has nothing to say, which irritates me so I become distant on the phone and tend to occasionally make the odd grunt to show her I'm listening whilst she talks at me about her day.

She is also very negative. e.g. 'Mum, we've booked a cottage in Devon' - her first response 'oh, that will be a long drive'.

I feel that she also says things to purposefully wind me up. Her and Dad were arriving at 9.30am the other day and when I opened the door (dressed) the first thing she said was 'oh, wondered if we were waking you'. Why?!

A few years back we had a very frank talk where I said I felt like she needed more of her own life, make friends, do things etc but she said that she had no need as she is happy.Then a few months back I said I don't need to do know about your cleaning routine and she said thatI made er feel unloved....

I find that when I spend time with her/talk on the phone I start to feel irritated and this shows in my body language/tone of voice. This then puts her on edge and the interaction isn't enjoyable for either of us. I have tried to just let things pass and think 'that's just her way' but the effect she has on me is strong and I can't stop my negative response towards her. I don't want it to be like this and it's making me sad.

I'm going to be spending some time with her in a few days and I'm already feeling anxious about it....

Any thoughts/advice please. Sorry, that was quite long. Thanks.

Cocalite Tue 04-Aug-15 23:03:29

Can you talk to her about how you feel?

LadyB49 Wed 05-Aug-15 00:43:57

Your mum sounds lonely and sad.
You sound like you're trying but getting worn down with the hard work involved trying to make a conversation work.

However, The two examples that you give of mum's negativity sound just like normal conversation to me, tho I guess tone of voice could have an effect

What is it about spending time with her that is making you anxious. I can understand that you perhaps find it an irritant, that you are sad that your relationship is not as you hoped for.

But honestly, could it be that you are a little supersensitive.
Swings and roundabouts....negativity breeding negativity.

Help her along, e.g. ask her advice on something. Ask questions about when you were a child, when she was a child.....anything at all. Try to get to know each other again rather than making just a duty call.

Unless there is an underlying issue or history that makes it whole other ball game.

Viewofhedges Wed 05-Aug-15 11:36:57

My mum can be a bit like this. I have started to try and talk to her about things outside of the house to get her opinions on things - ANYTHING other than her latest trip to see Nan, which is our major point of conversation.

I meet her for lunches. I find the short sharp window of an hour works really well - long enough to reconnect but not so long that I can't keep the effort up. I do try and talk books or politics or whatever really.

But if she says she's happy, hopefully she is. You're right you need to work on your own reaction. God knows I want to thump the wall when I hear the same stories again and again about stuff I really don't care about ... anyone else manage to get over this or is good acting really all that works?

Joysmum Wed 05-Aug-15 11:40:54

When I was caring for my FIL I found this.

What I did was to intimate talks on current affairs or required an opinion or talking about feelings as just recounting what's occurred is boring. He wasn't my type of person to start with but after some fantastic discussions I appreciated him more.

shouldIshouldntI99 Thu 06-Aug-15 10:05:40

Thank you for all of your responses.

Coca - we have talked several times about her doing more of her own thing/making friends but she says she has no interest. About 7 months ago we then had a really big argument that stemmed from each of us feeling irritated with each other which is when she said she felt unloved by me. When we had both calmed down I explained that I felt frustrated when she recounts her boring day to me and that I don't need to know that she has cleaned the bathroom and that made me short with her. She took it on board and for about a month was a lot better but then slipped back into it and I didn't want to remind her yet again as I felt her confidence was knocked by me.

Thanks Lady B - I feel I'm anxious about feeling irritated and being a bit moody with her. I'm already anticipating it! But yes I take your point that I could be oversensitive and need to try to improve things by talking about real things rather than the mundane like you suggest.

Hedges - I'm not alone then! smile I would like to do more frequent shorter visits but the distance means this is not possible. From the advice here it looks like the best thing to do is for us to move the conversation on when the repeat lines come out.

Thanks Joys - this is definitely a tactic I will try.

HPsauciness Thu 06-Aug-15 10:18:22

The thing is, it is you that is unhappy with your mum's life, not her. It does not sound like she is pushing for a more exciting life, and may actually be happy doing her cleaning and so on. I personally think it's quite cruel to say this is boring to you and expect her to change! You are not really responding to her needs, but trying to make her have the life you think she should have.

Loving someone is about accepting who they are, your mum likes cleaning, staying in a lot and telling you small things. Yes, it's a tad dull but really, I think the issue is yours here or at least, I don't think it is reasonable to expect her to change.

I think you have got into a habit of finding her irritating/boring, almost like Pavlov's dog. You hear her voice, you hear about the cleaning, you get irritated. I don't even think her doing different things would help, as it is this negative cycle that is the issue. You also have got into the habit of seeing her as criticising you- she came around at 9.30am and was worried she might have woken you, this is just a normal chatty comment.

I guess it has got to the stage she doesn't know what to say around you now, as you do take offence to all of it.

I think mindfulness might help you (sorry you did ask!) I find I feel a lot more compassionate towards my rather boring MIL's conversations when I'm feeling better about myself. They do not get more interesting, but I can deal with them better.

I would say the same about a love relationship where there is a cycle of negativity- if you change your responses, you may well change the reaction. If you want her to be interested, responsive and listen, why don't you model that to her instead of treating her as boring and telling her she is not exciting enough for you.

When you go to stay, I suggest activities every day otherwise it will be dull staying in and listening to her.

Her world has shrunk and this is not uncommon in older people- but it is not going to change by you criticising her and I'm not surprised she says she feels unloved, you both do, so perhaps think how you can change the cycle? (as well as accept that this is her life and it's not very nice to criticise it)

HPsauciness Thu 06-Aug-15 10:21:23

I also meant to say I don't think there's anything wrong with limiting the interactions either, decide what is a reasonable amount of phone calls/visits and then do that, even if she gets a bit miffed. Better have fewer higher quality interactions than her constantly calling and you getting stressed and the cycle repeating.

coveredinsnot Thu 06-Aug-15 10:33:42

With the upcoming visit can you plan something in that's a surprise for her? Might give you something to talk about? And make her feel like you've put effort into thinking about the visit...?

I too have exactly the same problem with my mum apart from the fact that her life is quite a bit more exciting! I still find her repetitive conversation frustrating, and her lack of reciprocity and interest in my life. I tell her things, important things, and she forgets them. It's very annoying but just how she is.

I only speak to her a couple of times a month now and that's enough for me! Can you gradually space your phone calls out a little more?

shouldIshouldntI99 Thu 06-Aug-15 10:55:31

HP - thank you for post. You're exactly right, a lot of the time even before I have even spoken to her I feel irritated. And it is now a habit so when we speak on the phone I'm already feeling negative and of course that is going to come across in my responses and tone of voice.

I do feel horrid for feeling these things as I do love her and want a good relationship with her and you're also right in saying it's her life not mine. My DH says he can see that my mum is 'on edge' around me and it trying to be careful with what she says. I'm getting a bit teary now as it seems like I'm not helping the situation...... Yes, I need to give positivity to get it back from her.

How do I be more mindfulness? Just being more aware of myself? I am aware that I am responding in a way I don't want to - the bit I struggle with is not doing it. It's like my mind is thinking one thig but my tone of voice and clipped responses do another....

HP,are you a counselor!? I like your thinking x

shouldIshouldntI99 Thu 06-Aug-15 10:59:03

Hi coveredinsnot. Yes, the lack of questions about me is a sticking point but now I'm thinking she only asks about me after her boring monologue so by that point I'm too irritated to really say much about myself so she then probably thinks that I don't want her to ask! As HP said above, it's a cycle that we're stuck in.

Having things planned is a good idea thanks. I don't feel as I can reduce my phonecalls as she is already on her own a lot.

Treats Thu 06-Aug-15 11:13:52

My mother is very similar - lots of updates on what she's doing but I barely get a word in edgeways about what we're up to. The difference is that she has lots of hobbies and interests, but that only makes the updates longer! I've managed to persuade her that I don't need to know the health conditions of every single one of her friends, but that's only stemmed the flow slightly.

I just let it wash over me, tbh. I don't answer the phone if I don't want to speak to her but try and make time to call her at a time when I've got half an hour. Usually I'm doing something else at the time - cooking dinner or ironing with the phone on speaker - so that I'm not 'wasting' the time. Keeping control of the timing of the calls is quite important for me.

I do find it irritating, but try and vent to my sister or DH rather than letting on to her. She has a need to talk to me and the least I can do is sit and listen for half an hour.

DH's parents barely bother to call him at all and haven't seen our children so far this year. I would far rather have a mother who wanted to keep in touch and see me regularly than a mother who couldn't care less.

okitoki Thu 06-Aug-15 11:27:25

My mother and I have a great relationship but as she has aged she has become disabled and now lives in a residential care home. When I visit her all she does is complain, she has not one positive tale to tell but who else is she gonna tell but her nearest and dearest? I would leave her feeling anxious, wretched and distressed and felt I'd give anything bar the inevitable not to visit her again. Then I learnt of technique called Peripheral awareness it helps you to zone out but remain aware enough to still hear and grunt but the negativity does not stick. You can use it during a phone call and face to face in any conversation that makes you feel uncomfortable.
Your mom is not a bad person, humour her, she gave you life.

amarmai Thu 06-Aug-15 11:33:33

and when you are older make sure you have a very exciting life so you don't bore and irritate your children.BTW my life is boring by choice.

HPsauciness Thu 06-Aug-15 11:37:39

www.amazon.co.uk/books/dp/074995308X

This is a book I have used and found really helpful. I don't think you have do mindfulness unless that's something you'd like to do, though, any type of relaxation or perhaps the 'peripheral awareness' that the last poster speaks of might help you just feel more relaxed but also less engaged (less getting annoyed) in these encounters.

I also meant to say that if you do change, don't expect the person to immediately change in response. They are used to the old you, just as you are used to the old them. Your mum probably will still go on about the cleaning and her rather limited life, however, over time, if she sees you are not criticizing her and she is not criticizing you, then you may find some ways to reconnect, activities you both enjoy, taking her shopping, asking her about what she does like to do.

I think this is mainly a habit thing because you say you and your mum used to have a good relationship, it sounds like circumstances have sent it a bit off course and it can be reset.

yougotafriend Thu 06-Aug-15 11:41:25

I think all mums are like this to an extent. My mum has a wide and varied social life but sometimes her updates can take ages.... Even if I phone her because I want to discuss something specific it can be 10 mins before I can get a word in. Thankfully we get on & she has a good sense of humour so the "that's interesting about elsie's hip/wrist/gall bladder, now can I talk to you about what I actually called about" usually raises a chuckle.

Also as mentioned bt a PP venting to my DSis is a must.

Rubbishfeminist Thu 06-Aug-15 11:56:37

OP, I'm in a very similar situation. My mum is on her own and has a very small 'world'- she doesn't have any friends and she never goes out and does anything aside from shopping and garnder centering. She's quite happy with this but it means that every phone conversation is basically a list of things she has and hasn't cleaned or sorted out. She also likes to have daily phone conversations with me.

She very rarely asks anything about me or DH. When she does she either doesn't listen to the response- lots of 'uh-huh' while I can bear Coronation Street blaring in the background- or she responds with completely negative stuff if I tell her anything. The other day I said I was going to Finland to present at a really prestigious conference. Because she hates doing anything her response was 'eugh, what a pain. Do you have to?' confused.

Like you, I think we're trapped in a cycle and I'm not going to break it- she's a selfish nightmare but it doesn't impact my life too much. I just make sure DH is on hand after I've finished on the phone for a good half hour debrief and rant.

drudgetrudy Thu 06-Aug-15 12:01:28

I'm a Mum to adults and I hope I'm not like this! If I am I have lost all insight. My Mum is 95, she is in a nursing home and is both very negative about everything and paranoid about other people. It is hard to be with her these days. I visit daily for an hour and use mindfulness techniques similar to the one Okitoki mentions. It does help prevent the negativity from sticking and improves my ability to detach and remain patient (I did say improves sometimes I get a bit snappy).

WickedWax Thu 06-Aug-15 12:55:53

This thread makes interesting reading. I'd give anything for a conversation with my mum about cleaning the bathroom, rather than the relentless spiral of misery, negativity and self pity that I'm subjected to in every phonecall.

I use a combination of minimising contact when I'm feeling particularly irritated, mindfulness, giving DH a signal that he needs to noisily interrupt the call with something that requires my urgent attention, and trying to spin the conversation round to other subjects, but it's bloody hard work. grin

shouldIshouldntI99 Thu 06-Aug-15 18:14:47

Gosh, from these replies there are lots of you feeling the same as me.

Rubbish - well done on getting to present in Finland!

Right, I'm going to read about peripheral awareness.

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