Mumsnet has not checked the qualifications of anyone posting here. If you need help urgently, please see our domestic violence webguide and/or relationships webguide, which can point you to expert advice and support.
Boundaries and my mother(46 Posts)
The backstory would fill about 14 volumes, so apologies if I drip feed a bit but there is simply no way I can get all the information into one post. The problem essentially boils down to the following:
My mother is lonely, bored, depressed and miserable. Her cure for the above is to want to see me and DS as often as humanly possible. She lives a 45 minute drive away, we see her usually at least once a week but sometimes it might go a fortnight if we're particularly busy. I wouldn't mind seeing her more than this but she is relentlessly negative about EVERYTHING. If she's had a meal with friends/ gone on holiday/ been shopping and you ask how it was all you get is a litany of complaints. She is clinically depressed, and acknowledges this, but refuses to take antidepressants as she'd rather be 'authentically herself' (this is a dig at me as I take anti-depressants after suffering PND with DS). She also constantly wants to take over with DS and when I
occasionally say things like 'please don't put the TV on now, he's going to bed in half an hour' or 'could you save that chocolate bar for after he's had lunch' she throws massive strips, cries etc. She can also be quite nasty to me personally, when she's in a bad mood, to the point I used to self harm because of how she made me feel. On the other side she can also be amazing company, and very kind when she wants to be. I try to be as understanding as I can but essentially I can't relax around her, and feel like nothing I do can ever be enough to actually make her happy, so have withdrawn a lot over the last few years in order to maintain my sanity.
I used to phone her every day because of horrendous guilt trips if I didn't, but once I had DS and simply couldn't afford to spend an hour or more on the phone each evening, I spent ages trying to cut the calls short and finally settled for calling about every 3 days instead. DS is nearly 3 and the guilt trips about this have only just (mostly) stopped.
Now I'm expecting DC2 in July and am on maternity leave, and she literally won't leave me alone. We have just got back from a four day beach trip with her and MIL, where she behaved horrendously, sulking every time she didn't get her own way, moaning constantly about the hotel, one-upping MIL and deliberately rubbing her nose in the fact that she's not as 'posh' or educated as DM. It's been excruciatingly embarrassing, and I'm fuming tbh, as is DH, and therefore apart from a quick text last night to say we were home ok (after she'd called DH and I three times each) I have been blanking her texts (for a whole 24 hours ) as I just wanted some headspace to decide whether to try to tackle her about her behaviour or just do my usual tactic of creating space until I can cope again.
DH is working today and I was up a lot of the night with DS, so I asked FIL if he'd mind coming and taking him out for an hour to let me either sleep or do some housework depending on energy levels, and just as he was getting DS sorted to go, my mother turned up, as apparently she was 'worried' about me. She has a
convenient theory that pregnant women shouldn't be alone at all after about 7 months, and therefore she should be round every bloody day while DH is at work. I looked less than thrilled to see her, and said FIL was about to take DS so I could sleep. I also said please could she not come round without at least texting first (have asked this before - don't generally mind random callers but I need to be psyched up to deal with her) and she got all teary and has gone off in a huff, saying I'm 'unnatural' for wanting to be on my own and for asking FIL (lives ten mins away, hasn't seen DS for a fortnight, happy to take him to park on his own) to help with DS instead of her (45 mins away, been with DS most of this week, just wants to talk at me).
She's going to drive me insane if she keeps this up but there is literally no way to get through to her without being horrible. She doesn't pick up on
or chooses to ignore things like 'I've got a lot to get on with today' that most people would take as 'please don't come over.'
I also feel like I should try
again to get her to go to the doctor about her mental health -even MIL who doesn't know her that well came and talked to me about it after spending two days in her company. But she doesn't listen to me about anything, and I just feel at the end of my tether and it sounds terrible but am actually ceasing to care . Her parents died ten years ago and then my father buggered off, so it's not like she hasn't had shit to deal with, but she's never made an effort to seek help in any way. I am her coping strategy and her emotional punchbag, and I'm fucking sick of it. I'm exhausted and can't believe I've got to spend what was meant to be a lovely restful few weeks of maternity leave, spending time with DS and DH and getting ready for the baby, attempting to erect and maintain barriers to stop her making everything bloody miserable. It's just exhausting and I don't know what to do. Everyone else thinks she's bloody wonderful and I'm an evil daughter for not seeing her more- she makes it sound like I ignore her for months at a time. On holiday MIL had a word with DH saying we should make an effort to see DM more as she's feeling lonely and cut out of our lives, and DH had to tell her we see DM about twice as much as we see her! She couldn't believe it as apparently DM had been making it sound like she goes weeks and weeks with no contact .
God that was long. And only the tip of the sodding iceberg. for anyone who actually makes it to the end.
Good lord that sounds exhausting. If it was me I would sit down with her and explain how you feel. Tell her you love her but something has to change. Be prepared for dramatics and her to storm off - maybe get some back up if she has a friend or someone that can go and check she's okay if she does this. Be supportive and tell her you'll go to the doctor with her but things can't carry on like this. Good luck
If she turns up unannounced just don't open the door. .. Or put your coat on and tell her you are just going to a friend's. . And leave. .
She def needs to see a Dr but only she can decide that. .
But you need to put you and dc first. .
When you make a plan to see her stick to that day /time only. . If she keeps bitching just tell her she is risking you going nc full stop. And mean it.
And well done for caring enough to come on her for support and advice. A lot of people in the same situation would just totally distance themselves - especially with a another baby on the way. She's lucky to have you
Really sorry to read this, I have a difficult relationship with my mum too. I hope some wise advisers appear soon.
Thank you. I know this just sounds like a horrible rant but I do love her and worry about her a lot. She never used to be like this- she wasn't perfect when my DSis and I were little - who is?! - but she was a lovely mum. Then as I say her parents died and my dad left all in quite a short space of time, and it's like she's been replaced with an evil twin. But I've been tiptoeing and supporting and trying to mitigate it all since I was 16 and I'm now 27 with a family and life of my own and I've reached the end of my tether .
OMG, she sounds exactly like my mother. I haven't spoken to mine in 3 years.
Because...my attempts at boundaries resulted in her slagging me off and when I refused to pick up the phone basically she emigrated. Good fucking riddance.
Oh she is hard work. I'm not surprised you are exhausted.
I have DGC and I get on with my DC, but I don't see them as much as that.
your Mil sounds lovely
Justmade - has it covered
She's already shown you that she bad-mouths you behind your back and lies about the situation - look at what she told MIL on your holiday. You're never going to "win" with this situation - she's going to either get her own way, which will ruin your mental health, or she's going to play the martyr to everyone else about what an ungrateful, awful daughter you are and so mean when all she wants to do is help and support you.
You can't set boundaries with this kind of person; not ones that they'll actually stick to for any length of time, anyway. But you can try, and then try again, and maybe try a few more times before you realise, give in, and go No Contact because she'll break you if you don't.
As a matter of interest, are you still in contact with your father? What does he say about why he left, if anything?
I'd happily see her more if it didn't always (literally) end in tears. She can be lovely and we sometimes get on very well but it's like she can't just let things be nice and always either has to throw a huff about something, or find something to pick on with me. If it's not what I'm wearing, or how I haven't ironed DS's t-shirt, it's how weird I am for being more introverted than her
like my father and enjoying spending time alone, or (her favourite topic) how I 'threw away' my approved-by-her English degree to go back to uni and do medicine. She dislikes and mistrusts doctors and basically constantly pulls faces that that's what I want to do, but also expects me to be on hand every time she has a sniffle ('but I thought you're supposed to like caring for people') and to diagnose every random lump and bump she's too scared to see an actual doctor about. And when I tell her I don't have a clue what funny rash number 368 is, and suggest she should ask a pharmacist or her GP, as I'm a fucking student as opposed to a consultant dermatologist, she just sneers and says I'll be a terrible doctor. Because I know nothing and don't like people. I do like people, I just don't want to spend every sodding second of my life with an audience in company, and right now I'm starting not to like her very much!
It's not awful to stop caring. It's fatigue. She is feeding her own depression (refusing treatment, convincing herself that her depressed self is the only authentic one, convincing herself that she's mistreated when she's not) while expecting you to fight it for her. You cannot win, genuinely. There is nothing you can do if she won't engage with the things that help. You could spend your life in her service and it wouldn't make her problems better.
So don't. Really, really don't. Your boundaries matter more than whether she perceives you setting them as 'being horrible'. You may as well draw the lines where you want them because she's always just going to be pissed off that they exist at all.
My dad had an affair and left for OW. He also found mum very hard to deal with in the year following her parents' deaths which I do sympathise with but don't think it excuses his behaviour. He did treat her very badly at the time - dragged out the should or stay or should I go thing for aaaages. And he's never bothered with DSis and I much since as we didn't immediately welcome the OW with open arms - I see him about once a year and speak to him on the phone every few months. He now claims he was never happy with her and never loved her, and obviously that may be true but he stuck it out for 30 years so am a bit about blaming too much of him leaving on her.
Ridiculously though I do feel angry with him as I feel like he's abandoned DSis and I to deal with the fall-out from what he did as well as from her parents' deaths.
Are you still in contact with your Dad? Have you ever spoken to him about what your Mum was really like to him? I do wonder if your Mum was always like this it's just him and her parents going have made it much worse/more obvious/you're just more exposed to it than before.
I think ultimately you need to pick her up on her bad behaviour every time - she will strop, be nasty back, badmouth you but her gives her the opportunity to either accept you boundaries and behave herself or you will have to walk away.
You cannot spend the rest of you life as you are unfortunately
What ThumbsWitchesAbroad wrote in its entirety. She is using you as her emotional outlet and confidant and has done that ever since you were 16 years of age (and perhaps before then as well).
It is not your fault your mother is the disordered ways she is; you did not cause that to happen. You are not responsible for her either although she has certainly made you feel like that (codependency). Its also not doing your DS any favours at all to see his parents being so denigrated and disrespected by his nan every time you see her. Its sending him mixed messages.
Who decided that she would come on holiday with you?.
I doubt very much she will ever see any sort of doctor to be honest, particularly as she still has you in her crosshairs. You really do need to put your own self first now, that is going to be difficult because your mother has basically trained you to serve her and meet her own needs. You have been encouraged by her to put your own self last. You can reaffirm your own too low boundaries by now cutting down the number of visits you make to her along with not going on holiday with her any longer. I would also think your mother has never apologised nor has taken any responsibility for her actions either.
I can also see why you are angry with your dad because he did leave and left your sister and you behind. He has let you down too.
How does your sister get on with your mother, do they have any relationship?.
Look at this website and see if it rings true
I've been where you are. The o my way to cope it so erect strong boundaries and maintain them. You just have to learn to detach from the emotional blackmail.
I have also moved to a different continent. (For various reasons but it was a contributing factor to the decision).
Also read 'Toxic parents' by Susan forward and the chapter on emeshment
Sounds a nightmare, my Mam is very needy of my time, my dp says I feed into her neediness as she often phones 4-5 times a day! Difficult one op
Oh OP. I can relate all too well.
Basically going to echo what everyone else has said already. Ultimately, she's going to be pissed off that you are establishing your own boundaries and that you won't be at her disposal whenever she wants. She will have a dramatic strop and blow things out of proportion. And it'll suck.
But it'll be worth it. I assure you.
I agree with the poster who suggested the www.daughtersofnarcissisticmothers.com/ I think you'll find it rings a lot of bells. She may well not react well to boundaries and lowering of contact. Mine didn't and she sounds A LOT like yours. Boundaries and reducing contact basically culminated in a massive row and she left country and now we don't speak. More peaceful.
(Check all those that apply to your relationship with your mother)
When you discuss your life issues with your mother, does she divert the discussion to talk about herself?
When you discuss your feelings with your mother, does she try to top the feeling with her own?
Does your mother act jealous of you?
Does your mother lack empathy for your feelings?
Does your mother only support those things you do that reflect on her as a “good mother"?
Have you consistently felt a lack of emotional closeness with your mother?
Have you consistently questioned whether or not your mother likes you or loves you?
Does your mother only do things for you when others can see?
When something happens in your life (accident, illness, divorce) does your mother react with how it will affect her rather than how you feel?
Is or was your mother overly conscious of what others think (neighbors, friends, family, co-workers)?
Does your mother deny her own feelings?
Does your mother blame things on you or others rather than own responsibility for her feelings or actions?
Is or was your mother hurt easily and then carried a grudge for a long time without resolving the problem?
Do you feel you were a slave to your mother?
Do you feel you were responsible for your mother’s ailments or sickness (headaches, stress, illness)?
Did you have to take care of your mother’s physical needs as a child?
Do you feel unaccepted by your mother?
Do you feel your mother was critical of you?
Do you feel helpless in the presence of your mother?
Are you shamed often by your mother?
Do you feel your mother knows the real you?
Does your mother act like the world should revolve around her?
Do you find it difficult to be a separate person from your mother?
Does your mother appear phony to you?
Does your mother want to control your choices?
Does your mother swing from egotistical to a depressed mood?
Did you feel you had to take care of your mother’s emotional needs as a child?
Do you feel manipulated in the presence of your mother?
Do you feel valued by mother for what you do rather than who you are?
Is your mother controlling, acting like a victim or martyr?
Does your mother make you act different from how you really feel?
Does your mother compete with you?
Does your mother always have to have things her way?
Note: All of these questions relate to narcissistic traits. The more questions you checked, the more likely your mother has narcissistic traits and this has caused some difficulty for you as a growing daughter and adult.
Yes to a lot of those. I have wondered about that before. I just don't understand why
a) when I know a lot of her behaviour is unacceptable I still feel shit and guilty about attempting to put boundaries in place.
And b) I am incapable of having an adult conversation with her about it. I feel like a stroppy teenager when I disagree with her about anything. And I find myself blowing up about small stuff (like popping over uninvited) when I let big stuff slide, and then I feel like an unreasonable cow.
Google 'the FOG'
(Fear, obligation, guilt)
Join the discussion
Registering is free, easy, and means you can join in the discussion, get discounts, win prizes and lots more.Register now
Already registered with Mumsnet? Log in to leave your comment or alternatively, sign in with Facebook or Google.
Please login first.