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Negative mother - why do I let her bother me so much

(22 Posts)
harriethill Mon 27-Apr-09 22:28:01

Brief background, have name changed for this...
I am an only child, my mother is divorced, lives by herself and hardly has any friends. I live abroad but she comes to visit every 6 weeks, staying 10-14 days, so sees DS fairly regularly.

I am heavily pg at the moment and she will be coming to "help" before and after baby is born. I am dreading it.

I have had a difficult relationship with her for a long time caused mainly by her wanting to control me and her use of emotional blackmail. Things are still difficult but its her negativity about everything that's really bringing me down. Just tonight on the phone she told me again "God help you when the next one (baby that is) comes" and "rather you than me" I mean what sort of comments are those...I am a grown woman in my mid thirties FGS. There's no support whatsoever, she doesn't even ask how I am.

I just wish I could switch off from it and not let her affect me so much but I just can't. She still manages to upset me and much as I have thought about cutting her off completely there's no way I could actually do that. I can't help but feel responsible for her but ultimately it is affecting my relationship with DH and even my own happiness.
I dread her being here when DS2 is born, its already putting a black cloud on what should be such a happy time as I know she will do nothing but moan, criticise and be negative.

How do stop her from bringing me down

lilacclaire Mon 27-Apr-09 23:30:00

Can you say to her the next time she says something 'comments like that are really unhelpful, I could do with some support right now'.

Maybe she thinks she is being helpful (in her own way) or is just saying it for things to say.

Ultimately, its how you deal with her behaviour and how you let it affect you, you could just brush it off with a yeah yeah attitude?

Could you ask her not to come for say a week or fortnight after the little one is here, you would be perfectly reasonable to say that you want to spend some time alone adjusting to your new family together before having guests to stay. I am presuming that her upcoming visit was her idea and that you did not object to it?

harriethill Tue 28-Apr-09 08:21:46

lilacclaire - thanks for your reply. To be honest I doubt she´d take much notice if I told her her comments were unhelpful, she´d probably tell me not to be so sensitive and find a way turn it back on me

I realise its how I deal with her behaviour and I´m sure I would feel much better if I were able to shrug off her comments but that´s what I find so difficult, its like I´m 7 years old again

shootfromthehip Tue 28-Apr-09 08:35:25

Oh man, do we have the same mother? I could list a million examples of how negative the woman is but he speciality is to turn things back at me...

Me: 'DD is getting a bit cheeky at the moment, I'll need to reign that in a bit'.

Mother: 'you know if you don't stop DD being so cheeky she'll end up with severe behavioural problems you know. Shoot (she loves to use my first name when she is chastising me), you have to get that girl sorted, I mean you need to think about what you're doing here'.

I try to talk to her but she is a nightmare. I regularly think of cutting off or moving abroad but also know I wouldn't do it. The only way that I can deal with her is to 'manage' her behaviour in the same way I do with my 5 yr old. I have accepted that she is really just another child and if I can cognitively step back from the feelings that she provokes in me (the way you sometimes have to when your kids are being naughty) and don't take it personally then I cope with her much better.

It's not easy thought when they are staying with you. I nearly kicked my Mum out at Christmas after one too many crappy comments about how I don't understand/ do enough for her. My advice is that you don't have her about for as long, eg when the LO arrives she stays til you come home from hospital or a few nights max- blame your DH if you want but your head will explode and it will spoil a special experience that you won't get back.

Good luck

daisybaby Tue 28-Apr-09 08:38:19

I have a very similar relationship with my mother. She lives with my Dad, about 10 minutes drive away, so I see her little and often - although she complains constantly that it is not often enough.
She is almost always negative, rude, controlling (or tries to be) and emotionally abusive.She can be ok and even appear quite nice, but only in a very unpredictable way, and the nice periods never last for very long.
She has recently started with the same behaviour patterns with our dc's, but since they are older teens, and they know what she is like, they recognise it for what it is. Having said that, they are still upset and confused by it.
Anyway, I can't offer any advice (since I haven't learnt how to deal with my own mother's behaviour), but I can offer empathy by the bucket load.

RaspberryBlower Tue 28-Apr-09 08:51:44

I can understand this harriet. My dad is really negative and always sees the worst case scenario in things. I can be really happy about something and he'll immediately say all the bad things that could happen. It's really sould destroying because you think 'why can't you just be happy for me or proud of me for a change'.

I have told him he's upset me in the past but he usually says I'm overreacting. He did apologise the last time, however, so I think it is worth saying it to your mum.

I try to emotionally disconnect from the comments as much as I can.

Things that help me (sometimes):

Thinking of myself as a positive independent person who makes her own decisons without the need for parental approval.

Literally saying to myself that his negativity cannot affect me.

Trying to think of all the positive things about my father.

Deliberately ignoring negative comments and leaving the room.

Trying to understand that he carries around a lot of anxiety and the negativity is his way of dealing with it.

Moaning to other people and having a laugh about his ridiculous comments.

Keeping him busy and asking him to do things so he has less time to feel negative or anxious.

It isn't easy, though. I do sympathise because I know how oppressive it can feel. I sometimes feel as if my dad sucks the energy out of the room.

If this does continue to upset you to the extent you're describing, I think you'll have to think about reducing your contact with her.

sobanoodle Tue 28-Apr-09 10:17:12

my mum I'm afraid to say fills me with little but gloom and irritation, tempered by the pity i try to feel for her because i actually think she's quite depressed.

She's constantly griping about something, tries to press my emotional buttons by being quite demanding on the one hand and annoyingly humble on the other. it sucks the life out of me and the sad thing is I have come to sort of dread seeing her - she needs to fly to visit so it needs to be planned and lately I've been leaving longer gaps between visits.

maybe you need to see your mum for shorter visits over a more spread out series of gaps.

McDreamy Tue 28-Apr-09 10:23:46

My mum can be a bit like this too and I do find myself feeling down about it. I feel like she thinks I am not capable of bringing up my own children without her help. If I invite her over for a meal/weekend her immediate response i "Why? What do you want me to do now?" sad I feel quite inadequate in her company sometimes but I am trying to rise above it! smile

No help to you really, but lots of sympathy xx

hobbgoblin Tue 28-Apr-09 10:27:11

HH have you read anything on Transactional Analysis? You may find it helpful!

My Dad always spoke to me like this so now I don't see him or speak to him at all. My Mother is just as bad in a passive aggressive way.

Even shrugging this stuff off requires you to self justify all the time so it requires emotional input from you and is exhausting and sometimes upsetting.

I have found it useful to spend some time thinking about why my parents are motivated to be like this, and I used a little mental synopsis of the reasons as a mind jog every time they put me down. E.g. Dad's dad never praised him and he was responsible for his younger siblings as a child himself and is full of resentment about this, this is why he is being like this.

Once I fell through a glass door and instead of cuddles and love I received instant criticism from my Dad, even as I lay covered in glass. I had to say to myself 'fear made him speak to me like that'.

The thing is you can only ever get as far as understanding why these people treat others like this and that doesn't make it okay. It just makes it soemthing you can comprehend. Unless they change their behaviour the resentment builds due to feeling emotionally short changed and eventually you snap, either at them or within yourself or your own family.

So, I don't know what else to say because my own solution has been to cut off and most people wouldn't wish to do this ,understandably.

Distance is probably the best thing you can do.

McDreamy Tue 28-Apr-09 10:28:55

Interesting post hobbgoblin.

castlesintheair Tue 28-Apr-09 10:32:16

'How do I stop her from bringing me down'

hariethill, you can't change your mum. You can only change yourself. I know it must be extremely hard for you as she is on her own and you are her only child, but I think you have to take a step back from things to gain some perspective. This may also make her sit up and take notice.

I did this and had therapy. It has helped a lot. Think about yourself, your DH and your own children.

Snorbs Tue 28-Apr-09 11:25:20

I second hobbgoblin's post about Transactional Analysis. Eric Berne's book "The Games People Play" is absolutely fascinating and very helpful in situations like this. I don't necessarily agree with all his ideas, but I think there's an awful lot of truth and value in the core ideas behind TA.

TOP, you may also get some benefit from looking into setting boundaries of what kinds of behaviour you will accept from others. A boundary isn't about getting someone else to stop treating you badly; it's about how you protect yourself when someone is treating you badly. Statements such as "Gosh, what an inappropriate thing to say", or "I do not wish to discuss this any further" can sometimes help. Walking away from unnecessary conflict can also help - again, it's not going to stop someone else saying whatever the hell they want, it's more about not giving them an audience for their abuse.

harriethill Tue 28-Apr-09 22:31:52

Thanks to everybody for replying, its reassuring to know I´m not the only one out there, just wish it was better for all of us

RaspberryBlower - some good advice there, thanks

Sobanoodle - what you say about her "sucking the life out of you" I can really relate to that and what a horrible feeling it is too. I think mine is also probably depressed but her ups and downs have been going on for years and years, she doesn´t seek help and almost seems to wallow in it

daisybaby - thanks for the empathy. I know what you mean about the nice periods never lasting long. Just as I think things are OK she manages to resort to the usual behaviour. Thing is I don´t know why I let myself be fooled, feel like I´ll never learn. Mine is also rude, especially about other people and almost always to my DH.

I shall look into the Transactional Analysis, thanks for the book recommendation Snorbs

Do any of you worry you´ll turn out the same? Now I have a child/ren I worry about this constantly

RaspberryBlower Wed 29-Apr-09 07:32:24

I think the difference is that my dad is somewhat lacking in self awareness, and I'm guessing your mum might be the same. You are obviously self aware, so you should be able to spot when you're about to be negative and not do it, or at least apologise if you do.

And I'm sure you will over compensate and say lots of encouraging and positive things to your children.

skihorse Wed 29-Apr-09 08:37:11

I have a terrible relationship with my mother - like you I live abroad and I don't really think it's a coincidence. In the last 10 years I've only seen her a handful of times.

The last time was last summer when I had an operation and my father insisted on bringing her for moral support. She laid in to me whilst I was haemorraging angry and as a result of me having had a lot of therapy I RIPPED in to her for I think the first time in my life. She tried to argue back and again I silenced her.

She's made no attempt to contact me since.

She is basically just a "crap" mum - I won't go in to all the nasty things she's done, but you're not alone and you would not be the first or last to cut ties.

I keep in touch with my dad because basically I like him, but I must admit I do still resent him for not sticking up for me when I was a child, for this he's a weak man.

I dread telling him I'm pregnant because she'll want to stick her beak in but I'd rather be up to my armpits in babyshit than have her help. wink

You are not responsible for your mother's happiness btw!

skihorse Wed 29-Apr-09 08:38:33

PS On two occasions they've visited in the last ten years they have been sent to a hotel once and another time I stopped the car on the ring-road and threatened to turf them out.

I will not take their collective shit anymore!

2rebecca Wed 29-Apr-09 11:54:42

What does your husband think of this? You don't mention a man in your life but if you're pregnant I presume there must be one. The poor bloke has to put up with his MIL living with him for 1/6 of the year! I can't see many wives wanting their MIL there that often. Why is she there so often and for so long, especially if you often clash?
Your mother is not going to find herself new friends and a social life if she's spending so much time in another country with you so it doesn't soind as though this is good for either of you. I'd encourage her to stay at home more and join adult education classes etc to give her life some structure and meet people.
I'd be incline to shorten the visits and space them out more.
It doesn't have to be a choice between mum in your face 1/6 of your life and no mum, just cut it back to something more livable with so you are both more independant and your poor husband gets his wife back.

2rebecca Wed 29-Apr-09 11:56:50

Actually if she's there 14 days every 6 weeks it's more like she's living with you 1/4 of the time. No wonder this is awful, it's mad.

BonsoirAnna Wed 29-Apr-09 11:59:56

First of all: your mother spends between 25% and 33% of her time staying with you and your DH shock. This is far too much. You need to stop this terrible intrusion into your family life.

branflake81 Wed 29-Apr-09 14:56:24

My mum is exactly the same - really negative and tactless.

Tbh I just take whatever she says with a pinch of salt (ie ignore it). I don't think she sets out to be critical, I think she is genuinely trying to point things out - trouble is they are always bad things!

harriethill Thu 30-Apr-09 19:15:15

I suppose you could call my DH a saint for putting up with it. It was a kind of condtion of us moving abroad that my Mum would visit regularly as she was heartbroken when she learnt I was pg and going to "take her only grandchild away from her"

I harbour a lot of guilt so just go along with it, despite not really wanting her here. I think as her only child I feel responsible for her, she´s my mother after all.

2rebeca and BonsoirAnna - I never actually realised just how much time that works out at and I agree that it is madness

I also agree 2rebeca about her finding a social life etc but she´s just not interested and the few friends she did have she no longer speaks to - I suppose that in itself explains a lot.

I just find it so hard to put my foot down and I realise I´m not being very considerate to DH either but he has got used to the way things are as there have been problems between me and my mother since we first met

Esther74 Fri 05-Jun-09 19:23:51

I recognise this. When i am strict with my child, she goes and tells me that i should not be that strict and she gives me some explanation for his behaviour. When i am not strict with my son, understanding his mood and what he needs from me, she is there in the background with either disapproving sounds, or comments. And anything she says at that point is making me feel uncapable to be a mother, or at least that i am not doing well as a mother. If it's not about my son, she has comments about my husband. His job, his education, his way of eating, etc.. or it's about our finances and what we are doing wrong, but they are all very petty examples and statements in my eyes. Or it's all critics about myself. When i confront her with the effect she has on me with the negativity, she says either that i am too sensitive, or she turns it to herself, that i am being rude or cruel to her with my comments and that she feels she might as well leave if she can't be honest with me. And then i always feel like i am chasing her away and i feel guilty about it. But i also always feel i need to deserve her love, to comply with her set of demands before she appreciates me and would be positive about me.

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