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My widowed Mother coming for Christmas- I don't know if I can stand it.

(25 Posts)
shootRudolphinthehip Tue 23-Dec-08 09:06:14

My DDad died last year. I loved him to bits although he was an alcoholic and put our small family through hell. And he was worst to my Mum. This said, whilst I miss him terribly, I am honest about who and what he was. My Mum is deifying him though. Since he died she has fallen into a really negative place and is constantly behaving like a martyr, moaning about how she has nothing to live for and making me feel that I am not doing enough to be there for her (which isn't true but stings like buggery).

I am the oldest of 3 and the other 2 are away this Christmas. There is no other family. So Mum is coming here and will take the edge off our Christmas. She is very critical and controlling (but NOT toxic- please...) and makes me feel guilty about my 'behaviour management' with my kids (she teaches, as do I), my interactions with my DH and pretty much everything.

I do understand that she is grieving and have tried to make allowances as this is only our 2nd Christmas without Dad but my heart sinks when I think of her coming up. We are also supposed to go to a party on Boxing Day and she will be critical of everyone there and spoil the whole thing for me. It's such a paradox as I love her so deeply and in some areas she is my best friend but at the moment I want to give her a slap. I would love some help or advice about how to get through the next few days (she's coming tomorrow 'til the 27th) without telling her to bugger off.

Oh and she doesn't drink so it's not like she'll get merry and buy into things.


KbearingGiftsWeTraverseAfar Tue 23-Dec-08 09:16:16

Can you and her go for a walk together when she arrives. Tell her you are pleased she is spending Christmas with you but perhaps gently raise some of the issues that upset you and see how it goes? Not in a "you do this...." way but a more understanding roundabout way IYKWIM. You don't want a blazing row but you do need a conversation about how her behaviour affects you and she needs to know so she can try to address it.

SatsumaMoon Tue 23-Dec-08 09:16:58

No advice but much sympathy... are your dcs old enough yet that you could send them and your mother off to another room with a huge jigsaw/ to play monopoly and get a bit of space to yourself? Or send them out for walks?

shootRudolphinthehip Tue 23-Dec-08 09:19:19

DC are 2 and 4 so sometimes very distracting. Just not sure how to raise it.

AttilaTheMeerkat Tue 23-Dec-08 09:22:56

Do your other siblings have any sort of relationship with your Mum?. It seems very unfair that you're the one carrying the can this year. Is it primarily because of your Mum that they've chosen to be elsewhere?. Think the four of you ultimately need to sit down as a family and talk.

Does she have to come to the Boxing Day party?.

BTW you cannot help your Mum; she has to want to help her own self. You cannot afford to be someone she dumps on because this is what she is doing currently.

KbearingGiftsWeTraverseAfar Tue 23-Dec-08 09:23:58

Give her particular instances - rather than saying "you always say this or do this" say "Mum, you know last week when you said blah, well that hurt my feelings and I really would like it if you tried not to be critical when I trying to be a good mum and wife and daughter. It's hard enough without constant criticism. I would like to be close to you, especially now Dad has gone, but we need to talk about how our behaviour affects each other or it's going to be you feeling cross and me feeling upset the whole time".

Never make it a direct attack but more of a problem-solving session.

Hell, might not work but talking calmly is the only answer really I think. Good Luck!

izyboy Tue 23-Dec-08 09:44:17

If she says or does anything that you dont agree with repeat the same phrase OVER & OVER as needed. No point in arguing at xmas you will only feel needlessly guilty. Say something like. 'I dont agree with you Mum, please stop (whatever). It it is XMAS we can discuss this later.' This is what I am going to do.

izyboy Tue 23-Dec-08 09:45:32

The issue with trying to problem slove at Xmas is it might end up rather convoluted and you just dont need the extra stress. Try again in the New Year.

frostyfingers Tue 23-Dec-08 09:45:53

I sympathise - my mother is coming on Boxing Day for a week. She had a stroke last year and has made an amazing recovery, however it has turned her into the most difficult person on earth at times. When she stays she complains all the time about how awful her life is, which in fairness compared to what it was is true. But she won't accept any help, won't consider moving to a more manageable place and any suggestions are shot down in flames. She criticises our way of bringing up our children - they're spoilt/lazy/rude/ungrateful - and tells them off really harshly at times. Now, they're no angels but she says things with real venom and it upsets them. She sits around all day saying she's bored, I ask her to help and then she either doesn't do it or says she can't. She expects to be waited on hand and foot, doesn't put plates away, clear table or whatever, which would be fine, as I don't expect guests to do all the work, but then next breath she says she's bored and must do something..... DH and DC's are dreading it, and to be honest so am I - plus all the attendant guilt for feeling such a cow about having her for such a short time. It's so difficult sometimes! I've tried the calm, rational approach and once we both ranted and raved and ended up in tears but neither had any good result. We'll just have to get on and deal with it, but I end up wishing the time was over and hating myself for feeling that way. Ho hum...

domesticslattern Tue 23-Dec-08 09:59:50

Do not treat it like Christmas. It is not a holiday for you. You are at work, and your work is... your family. Your mother will bugger off at the end of it, thank god, and it is just a matter of you being frightfully grown-up and mature until then. That is the approach I take with my parents, who are similar always moaning etc. They will not change, they are simply too old, I have tried many times to try to make them come around, cheer up etc. So instead, I just resign myself to the way that they are, and I just treat them like a job. I work at pretending to be happy and nice and totally unruffled by what they say. I take very deep breaths and I count the hours until they are gone. As Izyboy says, trying to problem solve at Christmas (especially with someone grieving) is pointless.

No doubt someone will come along and say "NO! You can make your mother change! and have a happy Christmas!" but if they can succeed with my parents then I will eat my (paper party) hat.

raisinbran Tue 23-Dec-08 10:22:23

I totally know where you are coming from as I have experienced the same as you describe.It is hard.

Whilst the death of my father did impact her behaviour, it also got worse as old age took hold. I used to tell white lies to spare her hurt or prevent her giving me her opinion.

My marriage counseller told me to go back to being my self and let my mum deal with her issues. There were a few tears and I had to bite my tongue on some of her opinions and let it wash over me but I do feel less wound up about things and it helped her in the long run with self esteem.

Good Luck, things do take time to change.

DwayneDibbley Tue 23-Dec-08 10:36:27

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DwayneDibbley Tue 23-Dec-08 10:39:11

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shootRudolphinthehip Tue 23-Dec-08 10:44:12

My siblings are always telling me to stand up to her and they have indeed 'opted out' and the more they do that the worse I seem to get it.

For example, they are both away so I offer to have her here for Christmas, fine, I don't want her to be on her own or under the pressure to 'do' Christmas. Then she starts asking me what I'm doing for New Year. We have our friends coming up and she starts moaning about how she'll be on her own (my DB took her out last year as I couldn't deal with her grief and my own). I then feel guilty about not inviting her but I want some time that is enjoyable so I stand firm. She then suggests going down to hers in between Christmas and New Year but she's only leaving on the 27th so it seems a bit daft. She is back up here on the 4th of Jan (although she wants to come up from the 2nd and stay sad) for DS's birthday so we will see her again. She just wants to dominate my plans and tell me when I can and can't do anything. She is in full health and has some friends but doesn't want to be a burden to them as she is not part of a couple anymore. She doesn't seem to get that she is making me feel like she is a burden to me.

I know she is lonely but I can't be the answer to everything. She is unhappy because her husband died. I can't bring him back so I can't make her happy either. I am trying but it's not enough. And short of bringing him back I'm not going to make her happy. She is also totally insensitive to the fact that I lost MY Dad and best friend (we were REALLY alike and VERY close) and will not allow me to talk about my grief. I've kept quiet about it for 1 yr and 3 mths and will hopefully manage to keep my mouth shut over Christmas but she is sucking the life out of me. She relies on me so heavily emotionally (phones anywhere between 1-3 times a day when at work and 3-5 times when off work) and it's still not enough for her.

I'm just worn out with it all and would like some happiness this year, not the constant worry and sadness that we had before he died and the grief and angst we have had since he died. sad

shootRudolphinthehip Tue 23-Dec-08 10:49:49

Sorry was postin away and didn't read your post dibbley 'til I'd finished. What a great post, you do sound like you are in a similar situation to me- my Mum is also in her late 50's and is floundering. She can't deal with criticism either and expects me to be there for her whilst at the same time she drops everything to go to her holiday home abroad when it suits her eg 3 days after my Dad's funeral when I REALLY needed HER. I will have to be more charitable but it is such a struggle. Thank you

3monkeys Tue 23-Dec-08 10:51:30

Families are tricky at Christmas. We don;t get invited to my parents at Christmas, as my cousin and her 2 children go, and they're obviously much better guests than us! Then mum expects us to go there for a few dyas, despite the fact I'm the only member of the whole family who works between christmas and new year (they live 180 miles away)

The past 3 years we've spent new years with them, but this year we have invited some friends to come with their 2 children. I don't think I will ever be forgiven, even though I said my sister (who is the main issue here - much feared and worshipped by my parents and no partner or children) cuold stay for new year. So they're coming saturday and staying until tuesday. I'm truly dreading it!

Like you say, she wants to totally control how I spend my time but only when it suits her

DwayneDibbley Tue 23-Dec-08 10:56:34

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gagarin Tue 23-Dec-08 10:57:45

Be brave and put up with what you can. Your mother is very unlikely to change her personailty now - in fact her more difficult character traits will probably become more pronounced shock. But so will yours as you get older - it;s life grin.

However when she crosses "the line" - and you'll know when that is - use the classic "when you say that I feel..." technique. And when she denies that's what she meant or says you are being too sensitive stick with it. No "I'm sorry but....". Stick to "that may not have been your intention BUT WHEN YOU SAID THAT/DID THAT it made me feel...".

You may not be heard or listened to (because your mother may not have the ability ) but you have to right to say what you feel.

Good luck

shootRudolphinthehip Tue 23-Dec-08 12:19:11

Thanks for all the kind messages- It's pretty crap to lose a parent and because of all the heartache I thought things would be better after he'd gone. They are worse. Anyway, this is the first Christmas that my LOs are really able to get it (well the big one anyway) so it'll nice from that point of view. smile

AttilaTheMeerkat Tue 23-Dec-08 13:21:03


I think your Dad's passing left behind a situation within your family that was in the offing long before he died. You've all been affected in different ways by his alcoholism and that is all coming out now after his passing.

I would also rope in your siblings to help as well manage your Mum; it is not fair of them to leave the parent management/parent wrangling stuff solely to you. Christmas is but two days after all.

I hope as well you are getting and have received enough support from your DH; would not think he thinks an awful lot of your Mum because he likely sees you being emotionally manipulated by her.

You may well find bereavement counselling for your own self helpful; CRUSE are good.

Why the seeming dislike of the word "toxic" btw?. Just a general question.

shootRudolphinthehip Tue 23-Dec-08 14:48:26

Attila, thanks for your responses, any support means a lot to me.

My family has been dysfunctioanl as a result of my dad's drinking for a long time. My Mum ignored/ buried her head in the sand over his problem for a long time and it has left resentment all round. As I was the child in the family with the best relationship with either parent, I have carried the brunt of their problems/ the guilt/ the cavernous gap that his death has left. Some of this I carry willingly, some of it I don't.

Unfortunately when my Dad did die I had expectactions of support that no-one provided me with. My Mum had her grief, my DH didn't know how to help so hid in his work and my siblings ran away from it all (they are both younger that me with no DP/ DC). Even my mates were distant as I was the first one to lose a parent and they didn't know what to say.

My DH was the biggest disappointment and I have only just started to make things right with him recently. This aside, I have not had grief counselling (I did see a PCT once but felt it was of little use) as I really feel I did much of my grieving before he died. I have read a great deal and feel that I am able to grieve more personally now even though I admit that I really struggled at the beginning. I also have my kids who are the best reminder to live for the moment that you could have.

My Mum does emotionally manipulate me as did my Dad when he was alive. I have had counselling as a result of depression on and off since my mid-teens and have a clear sense of how the dynamic of the relationship works. It's just that sometimes I look at my Mum and I can't help but give in to her unreasonable demands because I can see how much she is hurting. This sort of perpetuates the cycle. I moan about her being unreasonable and then give in to it again. And please don't get me wrong- NO-ONE else in my life does this to me, just my parents.

My dislike of the word 'toxic' is because of its misuse. I have read some of your posts before and think that the advise that you give and your reading recommendations are really good, however there are so many people that have acquired this as part of their vocabulary to describe the wrong type of relationship. My relationship with my parents has most definately been toxic in the truest sense at times, however it is not interfering with my ability to function at the moment, the way that it has in the past, it is just unpleasant and disappointing.

I feel like I am ready for things to get better but my Mum is reluctant to let anyone move on because she isn't ready to. Unfortunately I'm not sure how to keep my mouth shut about that at the moment.

DwayneDibbley Tue 23-Dec-08 15:07:20

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DwayneDibbley Tue 23-Dec-08 15:13:00

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AttilaTheMeerkat Tue 23-Dec-08 15:37:54

Hi shootRudolphinthehip

Your response to me was very moving.

I would urge you to seriously consider bereavement counselling; have a look at CRUSE's website. I think your feelings as well are complex to grapple with because although you love your Dad he was an alcoholic and thus made himself damn hard to love. At times he likely made all your home lives miserable and he has left a damaging legacy. I think you need to get all of this out with a counsellor because it will help you in the longer term.

You are only responsible for your own self and your own family unit ultimately; you cannot afford to become your Mum's "toxic" container for her to dump off on. You are likely also disappointed with your Mum because you may feel she did not do enough to remove you all from the situation but buried her head in the sand.

I would also rope your siblings in too because you should not be expected to solely parent manage/parent wrangle your Mother.

Don't know if you've ever looked at the "well we took you to Stately homes" thread but that may be something you want to look at as well.

My best wishes to you for Christmas and I also hope you eventually find some moments of peace too.


imperium Sat 27-Dec-08 14:49:18

hey, i'm in exactly the same boat as you. my dad died 3 years ago and he was an alcoholic, and i loved him dearly. he was a friend and a hero to me, and despite his own problems he was a very gregarious and warm man with a big personality. my mother is like yours, martyrish, critical, and brings everybody down with her, although she feels she isn't. i cannot relax around her, as i feel that shes sitting there like a hawk watching, waiting to criticise, and like yours, she goes on constantly about having no reason to go on, and life being empty etc etc. i am my father's daughter and now in a sense i feel i've been left with this person with whom i have very little in common. i can't offer you any advice, only empathy, because i know how it feels.

i've not "got over" my fathers death; you never can. but a lot of the time i feel okay and i'm happy enough and on an even keel. then i have her there, going on, listenin to depressing songs, crying, going on about how she cant carry on and theres no point to life, and saying things like " yeah- but i've lost my husband- its not the same!" although my dad's death hurts me everyday. like you, i feel that i was never allowed to grieve, as although it was the biggest loss imaginable to me at 22, it was overshadowed by "look at your mother, help your mother," telling my brother at 18 "he's in charge now".

i want to be happy, but i feel guilty if i am, but part of me just thinks "oh go away and leave me alone!" my mum has nothing to do except work, and any attempt she makes to socialise or do anything she rebuffs with "oh its not the same as when your dad was alive, theres no point..." every invite she gets she says its just "for the sake of it" i feel like shouting at her " it won't be- he's dead, hes been dead for three years, hes not coming back! accept it!" but she seems to be unable to accept that this is her life, and i feel guilty for wanting to move out away from her because she'll be on her own.

i worry she'll end up like my grandmother, who never really ever made a life for herself after my grandads death, instead spent most of her days sitting in the dark, and not mixing with other people. i guess part of what we feel is selfish, but i think that's okay too. we've been through a lot of pain and i think that it should be alright to smile, to say he was who he was and i've dealt with that.

Part of the problem i have with my mum is like you say; she seems to have a denial of the effects of living with somebody like that. she often criticises me and my sister because of the way we are, when i know, its not "just us" and our failings, its because of the way we've been raised. my mum has this "ideal" which she constantly calls "the way it should be", and if we fall short of this, we are failures. we are good kids, we don't do anything wrong, we cause no trouble, but she twists things around all the time to be a "burden" or "a worry", even positive things like moving in with a partner or going to college. my brother is sick of her negativity, as every time he attempts to get out of his minimum wage job, she criticises whatever he does, and says that my masters degree is "another wasted year" and sees it as "me getting deeper and deeper into debt for a silly bit of paper", and called me a "fool" for wanting to try for a phd. and instead cites examples of people my age who are managers or who earn thousands a year and own fancy cars. like you, although i have professional experience with children, she constantly doubts my ability to do anything child related or to be a good mother. she often shouts at me and my siblings because anything physical is awkward. and calls us "weirdos" or "odd". we are also prone to what she calls "being overly aggressive" but i know that this is because the language in our house has always been one of shouting and arguing to get your point across. but she doesnt seem to realise what effect its had on us. she keeps shrugging it off, saying "oh its not like you were beaten or anything" but as i've got older, ive come to realise that all 3 of my siblings are kind of "behind" in life, none of us are married, we're all 3 of us at home, we've all had troubled relationships, we are in low pay jobs, and i feel like since my fathers death, shes kind of turned around and started pointing the finger at us for not being what she calls "sorted" then moans about what failures we are as children.

i don't know how to deal with your or my situation, because i'm trapped in it. in many senses i feel cheated because i felt that maybe when i grew up, itd be all okay and settled. my dad was getting better with drinking before he died, i had moved out. now after his death, i've got another set of problems and i don't know what to do or say to my mum. i know she'll never remarry- she is religious and the idea of "going out with a man after youve lost your husband" fills her with horror, and criticises others for dating after theyve lost a husband and wife. but she cant carry on like this and nor can my siblings. i hope your christmas was okay and you found peace. x

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