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I feel guilty because I find my mother depressing...

(10 Posts)
tuppy Fri 15-Jun-07 15:28:56

Just it really. I don't really know how to deal with this, just getting iut off my chest and wondering if anyone else feels the same.

My mother is 68 and not in good health (emphysema). My father died 2 years ago of lung cancer. They actually didn't get on fantastically well - he drank a bit too much and I think was depressed himself, certainly felt quite withdrawn and apathetic about life and it was hard to draw him into meaningful conversation.

However while my mum nagged him constantly about everything, she was also very dependent on him, she has never learned to drive and had never used a cashpoint until after his death for example. Totally natural to miss him ..For my part I feel sad we never had a close relationship, but although I have sad days still, I have come to terms with the death of one of my parents.

I live far from my mum - need to fly to visit - so we communicate mostly by phone.

I know she's lonely but it's impossible for me to give her the support she craves (ideally on the phone at every opportunity and visiting more often) and she's not very good at self help so suggesting a new hobby or interest is totally out, eg I wondered whether the local library had a book group or something and she just fussed about getting there and not liking "those groupy cliquey type things" anyway etc etc. It's a mile to walk which is hard if you're breathless but I've offered to set up an account with a local minicab firm (she'd choose which) if she wants to go places not on an easy bus route "Oh no I couldn't take that", yet drops into conversation that she only bought such and such because it was "good value" etc.

Ideally I'd like to chat once or twice a week but calling her, or her me, seems such a marathon. When I put the phone down - and I have to put it down while she's talking, which I hate, as she WON'T listen to goodye - I feel utterly sapped and unhappy. She demands "something to cheer me up" because "I'm so lonely" and goes on and on about slights real or imagined dealt by her ILS 30 or 40 years ago...this has nothing to do with widowhood, she's always looked back not forward. Also there'll be little poignant remarks like "You're always trying to get away" if she feels I've not chatted long enough due to school run commitments or a hardening omelette in the pan. But it is increasingly getting me down. I don't want to snap and tell her to try to be a bit more outward looking, but what can I do ?

When my first 2 boys were little I used to visit my parents every 3-4 months. I now have 4 children at school/nursery and as I'm a sahm, no childcare for the big ones so can't just take the little one and go for a few days every now and then. Dh would be fine about me going, but he works long hours and can't take up the school run slack.

Mum stayed with us for a week a few months ago and tbh drove dh and me up the wall with her fussing, as in saying she wasn't fussing but actually fussing twice as much iyswim. I'm going to invite her back soon; she is a loving grandma which is wonderful, but I feel so guilty that I'm not really relishing the prospect.

I feel sad for her that she seems to be settling into old age and helplessness in this way.

So, a bit of a ramble which I suppose reflects my very mixed feelings. Can anyone offer any suggestions, or does anyone else feel the same ?

mumto3girls Fri 15-Jun-07 15:32:57

Just bumping with sympathy....
I guess when your life is a solitary one it can be hard for her to take other people's feelings into consideration...
I feel for you.

Bananaknickers Fri 15-Jun-07 15:35:15

hi tuppy. There are lots of us on here who sadly feel the same as you do about our mums. I can't really post at the moment as need to go but will be back. I am sure others will be along soon X

liath Fri 15-Jun-07 15:40:21

MIL very similar - widowed, lonely, dependant. Feel as if I should make more effort but she drives me potty when she stays. Luckily SIL (her daughter) cops it as she lives nearby but MIL now wants us to take her away on holiday. It's hard as I feel sorry for her but she depresses me - it'd be worse if she was my mother rather than MIL so you have my sympathies - I know SIL finds her very trying.

glyn Fri 15-Jun-07 15:56:54

Hi Tuppy

I do feel very sorry for you. I work in this kind of field, helping people with relationships etc and I had a client like you not long ago. What I did with her was to get her to tackle it head-on and develop strategies as well as talking openly with her mum about the problems. it is sadly very common.
What you have to accept is that your mother is an adult and she is responsible for her own happiness- it is not your job to make her happy or make her feel less lonely. That may sound harsh, but once you accpet that, it all becomes easier.
I know you can't turn the clock back, and neither can your mother, but if she could, she would have culitvated more friendships with people of her own age, who could help her now and take her out. So, she has made her life like it is - and it's not your job to sort it out.

You can still be a good daughter, but you have to speak frankly to her and tell her some home truths if necessary. To begin with, decide how much time you can give her on the phone and start the conversation with things like "I can chat for 20 minutes, but then I have to pick up ...." or something like that.

Does she not have any friends she can go out with? or relatives who live nearer to her? You can only keep suggesting that she tries to get out and about more, but the choice is hers. She is not really that old. My mother is almost eighty and has masses of new friends she met through the WI only a few years back and she is never in - so it's never too late to start making new friends.
You might just have to accept that your Mum is in fact a loner, who lacks confidence, and has been like this all her life- so she won't change now. But that is up to her- you have been wonderful to offer to pay for transport, but there is not much more you can do.

frascati Fri 15-Jun-07 16:03:21

God this sounds like my mil so sympathies.
I feel so guilty as find her so negative and draining and I shouldn't.
Having her over is hard work and like you say with your mum they won't accept the advice given.
Thing with my mil is that she has no one and her relationship with my sil is not good so relies on us for support. Poor dh feels the same as me but obviously it's his mum. We do care about her but she is just so hard to talk to.

Budababe Fri 15-Jun-07 16:14:27

Sounds like my Mum except that my Dad is still around. He does all the shopping and cooking and most cleaning. She does the washing but even then, with only 2 of them in the house I will always find a huge basket of washing to do when I go home.

My Mum expected her life to be like a Mills & Boon novel. Funnily enough - it wasn't. She is addicted to the TV - drives me crazy as even when whole family is together which doesn't happen that often (and she professes to love) she still insists on watching bloody soaps.

Has lost all her friends due to real or imagained slights. Moans that my Dad's sisters never call her - have pointed out that she never calls them either.

Suffers from depression and anxiety - gets this shaky feeling in her stomach and she insists on trying to cure it with pills.

My 2 sisters liver near her and she sees them regularly - she moans that they never ask her to go along if they are going shopping but they always go in the morning and she "doesn't do mornings".

Sometimes I get off the phone to her and could scream. And I feel really sorry for her as she is missing out on life.

So - huge sympathies.

tuppy Fri 15-Jun-07 17:19:29

Budababe if I had a sister I'd suspect you were her ! Yes yes yes the same to all you've said. God the soaps thing - uncanny. During her last visit it annoyed the f* out of me that just as I'd get the kids settled round the table to eat she'd softly ask "You don't mind if i watch Neighbours/Countdown ..." Aaaarghhh. We have a kitchen diner so no easy escape from the TV. There's another one the next floor up in our smarter drawing room, but I couldn't face the martyred sighs i knew would ensue if I 'd politely suggested it.

Glyn what you say is so interesting; yes she has a few friends who come to see her. In fact she is planning a day trip out with one of them soon, by coach I think. But mostly she is someone who waits for things to happen to her rather than trying to control her own life if that makes sense.

When my father was in the last month of his life and in hospital, I was over visiting. After a trip to the hospital I took her to a department store for a short while to distract her; she loves pootling about aimlessly looking at nicknacks. One of her techniques (or am I imagining a technique - more guilt) of emotional blackmail is to go all wistful and say something like "Aah...this is so lovely. All I ever wanted is some mother and daughter time going round the shops.." ???wtf ?How can you respond to that ? She knows I can't wander around the shops with her as I could occasionally if we lived in the same town, so why do this ? Or, "Mrs Simpson's daughter's a great girl; she takes her mother out to XXXXfor lunch, isn't that nice ?"

I know 68 isn't old, but she seemed to sink into middle age quite early iyswim, and this is aa natural progression, coupled with her ill health. For example, when dh and I got married she was 48 but acted 68 (aches, pains, helplessness etc) whereas I'm now 42, my youngest child is 3
and I feel there's still a lot of life to pack in.

I do try to be firm on the phone but it's hard ! I do have to put it down on her talking OR force her to say goodbye, which doesn't go down well as I get "Sorry to call when you're so busy" plus another sigh.

But thanks everyone for sharing your experiences. Good to know I'm not the only one.

chattylinda Sat 14-Jul-07 18:36:49

Tuppy and others:
I hear you. You are where I was with my mother about 25 years ago. She behaved very similarly, once telling me "you pay more attention to your son ((who was 18 months old at the time) than you do to me!" And I felt bad about it! It took me about 20 years to realize that as a mother, I was supposed to pay more attention to my toddler.
Anyway, I've learned a few things over the years and would just like to offer some advice.
-- Glyn speaks the truth. It's not your job to fix your mother's life, so don't feel bad when you can't. Don't even try. Instead of offering suggestions of activities, just offer empathy. When she complains about loneliness or some such, say things like "I'm sorry. That must be hard for you." That validates her feelings without taking over the responsibility of fixing them.
-- Consider getting your mother to move closer to you. My mother finally did that at the age of 80, and things are better now, but she should have done it years ago. That would give you and she the opportunity to spend smaller amounts of time together and allow her to build a semi-normal life nearby. I've traded guilt and distance for proximity and errands, but it's worth it!
-- You owe it to your kids to make yourself happy and not give them the same kind of depressed, unhappy mom you had, so they don't have to feel that kind of stress and guilt.
-- some women (and many in their generation) are self-absorbed, negative and passive aggressive (like the shopping comment) and there's not much to be done about it. I think maybe it has to do with the way they were raised, to never be direct in expressing their desires, etc.
Hope this has been a little bit helpful. your situation is definitely not unique. good luck!

Judy1234 Sat 14-Jul-07 18:59:00

How awful. She seems very negative. My sister is similar. Every call you feel she's used as a depositary of problems and then she'll say she doesn't know why she doesn't have any friends. So I suppose all you can do is try to have a reasonable balance between being reasonably accommodating because the person is a relative and not too much.

My chidlren always answer the phone on the home line and if I'm busy I wouldn't take it. I see the telephone as a request not a demand and you choose whether ior not to take it. Get CLI or have an answerphone pick up if it's been too soon since the last call. Decide yourself what is a reasonable amount of contact - say one call every 2 weeks or every week or whatever is fair.

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