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December 15, 2011 6:55 AM Subscribe
FamilyGuiltFilter: Please help me navigate my mother and her tendancies to pile on guilt.
posted by floweredfish to human relations (45 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
My parents and I have a weird relationship. I come from a very tight-knit, loving family. There's no divorces, even in my extended family which is rather large and also tight-knit. Everyone (extended family included) got married very young. My mother is extremely dominant and my father is rather passive. As a result, I constantly struggle with passive-aggressive jabs from my mother, spiced with anger when she doesn't like something I do or do something she doesn't understand or agree with. Any advice on how to manage this would be helpful.
Honestly, my take on it all is that because I'm a grown, independent adult, they have zero control and that their angry responses to me is because they don't know what else they can do to have me fit some mold of who they want me to be. I've tried to no avail to talk to them about this, and it never works because they glaze over the situation with "Stop being silly", yet go right back to their disapproving ways.
Here's some examples:
1.) Steaming piles of guilt on when I'm going to get married and settle down (I'm approaching 32 years old, am a single woman in the city). This is crazy to me, because I am by no means old, have a great career, make great money, am an avid marathon runner, own my own home, etc. But because I'm not married, I'm seen almost as an inferior and she's even implied that once I get married, I should give up my career and hobbies to have kids. (which is ridiculous and I don't even want kids).
2.) My Great Aunt is currently in a nursing home after having broken her back and has limited time because she's 92. She's apparently in really bad shape. The nursing home visiting hours are 9-5 every day and with my work schedule, I am absolutely unable to make a visit. I work in Senior Management in a very high-stress, high-visibility corporate job. I manage a Department and have a tyrant of a boss who reports directly to the CEO. I'm at work every day by 8 and am usually home by 7, have a limited window of time to take care of my own personal life, and am then right back online/emailing for work by 9 and go to bed at 11. I also travel quite frequently (several times a month). I have explained all of this to my mom over and over again, even prior to my Great Aunt going to the nursing home and my mom just doesn't understand. She is a nurse who works 24 hours a week and does two 12-hour shifts. That's it. The rest of the time she has free being that they are empty nesters now. I wish I had that luxuary.
I called them last night to talk about holiday plans and was met with a steaming pile of guilt and passive aggressive anger from my mom. She keeps asking why I haven't been to visit my Great Aunt yet. I told her that I just cannot accommodate the hours due to my job (and I really can't - I'm actually in the midst of an extremely stressful work situation with major negative pressure from my boss who will not understand any of this to let me escape for a few hours, plus I have a long commute and the nursing home is located about 15 mins from my house) but I'll try. My parents live 2.5 hours away. They are constantly in the area where I live either passing through to visit my brother or whatever else, yet never tell me when they are in the area so I can even mention that they should stop by or have lunch or something.
In all honesty, with all job stress aside, I really don't want to go to the nursing home. I know that different people deal with end of life stuff in different ways, but I really don't want to go. I'd rather not have this image of my Great Aunt in my mind where she's laden in this awful place. I know this is probably really selfish. I'm one of those people who hates goodbyes and such. I'm concerned because if I go, it won't be good for me. If I don't go, I'll be met with anger and guilt from my family. I don't know how to communicate this to my Mom to have her understand because she won't.
3.) I'm going up to my parent's house for Christmas Eve/Christmas Day with my new boyfriend who they very briefly met once in passing. Where they should be excited, they're already giving me guilt about church. They are heavily Roman Catholic and I came out to them two years ago that I'm an Athiest. BF is agnostic. Neither one of us want to go to Christmas Eve church and even though I've skipped it in the past in life before BF, it's a major source of contention. I already told them that we will be up to their house for Christmas Eve dinner at 6, which means after they get home from church. I think this seems like a good compromise - we will be at dinner which is what they want, but skip church which is what we want, and I won't be imposing their religion on the new BF. I'm worried about being met with passive-aggressive tense anger all night which could negatively affect first impressions of any surmountable time spent getting to know the BF. They tend to make all sorts of comments that completely bash what I stand for (religiously, morally and politically) and I'm already cringing at the thought of all of this because I don't want BF to get offended. He's ridiculously understanding and I know will be fine/let it all go, but still.
Tactics I've tried in the past were to disengage by not feeding into the passive-aggressive behavior, compromising such as above, talking directly about problems, and reminding them that I'm an adult and make my own choices. None of this seems to work because I'm either met with anger, or completely fake "You know we love you and would never think XYZ about you" even though their actions are the total opposite.