Don't Know how to ease my mom's burden
May 27, 2010 8:29 PM   Subscribe

I feel bad giving tough love to my mom when she is feeling depressed about breaking up with her asshole boyfriend. I don't know how to make her situation better for her, or to ease her pain. All I can do is lend an ear but its annoying that my privacy is invaded constantly because shes totally out of it. I never had a private moment to myself all my life, that's a different story. How can I make light of the situation without losing my own sanity?
posted by InterestedInKnowing to Human Relations (25 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
All I can do is lend an ear but its annoying that my privacy is invaded constantly because shes totally out of it.

What does this mean?
posted by runningwithscissors at 8:33 PM on May 27, 2010


I think more details will make it easier to answer this. Right now it's hard to say what you should do other than tell her you're sorry, offer to listen, and play it by ear based on how she's feeling. The whole privacy thing is unclear without more info.
posted by ishotjr at 8:36 PM on May 27, 2010


She's always in and out of my room when I don't feel like being bothered. She insists on running my life but when she' s weak, I can't help but feel distant because she is zapping my energy more. I'm trying not to feel that way but I don't know how else to behave. So, I give her tough love and tough advice.
posted by InterestedInKnowing at 8:41 PM on May 27, 2010


Hm, still not many details to work with here.

What is she doing to "run your life"? What do you mean by "tough love"?
posted by Jaltcoh at 8:47 PM on May 27, 2010


Sorry but, how old are you? (real question, will make a difference in your answers.)
posted by leafwoman at 8:48 PM on May 27, 2010 [2 favorites]


Set boundaries and please don't feel bad about enforcing them. You can't make her life better or fix anything, and constantly sacrificing yourself isn't going to help her either. Nothing you do is really going to help her. You didn't ask or sign up to be her personal therapist just by being born so there's nothing wrong with you reclaiming your own life. Maybe showing her a good example is the only way to really help. But it's up to her if she wants to follow it.
posted by amethysts at 8:53 PM on May 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


We need more details. Much more.

(I skimmed through your past AskMe questions, and they are all similarly vague. Concision is good, but omitting context and detail makes it difficult for us to help you.)

It sounds like you live with your mother? How old are you? How old is she? Some background on your mom's ex, their relationship, and the breakup? What kind of "tough love" are you giving her, and why do you feel compelled to give it? Are you asking how you can help your mother, or how you can make the situation more comfortable for yourself?
posted by ixohoxi at 8:54 PM on May 27, 2010


"Mom, I'm sorry, but you are the mom and I am the child. Can you find another adult to talk to? This isn't something I can help you with."

Lather, rinse, repeat, unless you are over the age of, say 20 or so.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 8:58 PM on May 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm 26. My mother has always been the person running the house and feeling the need to control everything. Which makes it hard for all my siblings (including myself) to really sympathize with her needs when we have grown up completely smothered and indirectly being told we are not good enough to do something. This is a thorn for all of us because my mom is a constant debbie downer and worry wort. I realize I'm venting all the negative but I'm at a point where I feel I should be empathizing with her situation but I feel so overwhelmed by her problems that I start to build this wall to protect me from her issues. The way I address her is very direct with me saying "you need to find a therapist. You will see the other side but you need to go through the motions. Don't beat yourself up, it's not you, it's him. Don't keep falling for his lies, you need to stop that." But I don't look her in the eyes when I do say it. My body is angled away from her. My mood tenses. I feel angry, that she is holding on to his word when hes clearly a liar with all the evidence in front of her. I only hugged her twice throughout this whole ordeal and I'm not very good at showing much affection through these times... I just feel I've always been the good one, the good girl who did everything her parents told her to do. And I feel I havent slipped out of those shoes because I live under her roof still. I feel boxed in. I feel awful telling her to not talk about him because she usually leant an ear when I needed to vent but... damnit I got help for myself. That's the responsibility I took. Why can't she do that?
posted by InterestedInKnowing at 9:00 PM on May 27, 2010


Move out. Yes, that is a direct answer to your question.
posted by The World Famous at 9:09 PM on May 27, 2010 [19 favorites]


...its annoying that my privacy is invaded constantly because shes totally out of it. I never had a private moment to myself all my life,...

I'm 26. My mother has always been the person running the house and feeling the need to control everything. ...

I feel I havent slipped out of those shoes because I live under her roof still. I feel boxed in.


Solution: Move out.

(I wrote this before I saw The World Famous's comment.)

I imagine you have some reasons why you don't want to move out. But until you move out, you're going to keep having the above issues with her.

Also, it sounds like you don't like the way she's dealing with her recent breakup, so you're trying to get her to handle it in a different way. That kind of thing generally just doesn't work, unless she's made it clear that your advice is welcome. If she doesn't want to deal with the aftermath of the breakup in the way you would prefer, that's just too bad for you -- it's her breakup.
posted by Jaltcoh at 9:14 PM on May 27, 2010


Yeah, move out. The one thing that's clear is that your living situation is causing you anxiety. That's perfectly understandable; living with a parent at 26 is trying even if the parent in question isn't controlling and needy. (I should know; I was forced to take the humbling step of moving back in with my parents around that age.)

Presumably there is some reason that you're living with your mom at the age of 26, and it's not because you just haven't gotten around to moving out yet. What is that reason? Does it hold up, or is it just an excuse? Because if you're able-bodied (and thus able to provide for yourself financially), and unless your mother needs special at-home care or something, there's no reason you can't get your own place.
posted by ixohoxi at 9:34 PM on May 27, 2010


26? I am sorry, bit from your questions and additional info I thought you were 16. Your mom runs your life and she is out of it? Again, sorry, but at the age of 26, you are LETTING her run your life if you still live at home.

Oh, get a lock for your door until you move out.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 10:02 PM on May 27, 2010 [2 favorites]


I had a very similar situation with my mother, though she had more severe Mental Health and abuse issues. So here's what I did, and what I recommend:

1. Move out. It's hard to really function if you don't have your own space. I ended up moving across the country - hopefully you won't have to go as far.
2. Get yourself therapy or counseling. It'll help.
3. Set up boundaries. Hopefully, your therapist or counselor will help you do that.
4. And stick to the boundaries you set up. If you yield, she may take advantage of that, and then it'd be so much harder to stick to them because she may guilt you by reminding you of the time you let your guard down.

Good luck.
posted by spinifex23 at 11:10 PM on May 27, 2010


"...I feel so overwhelmed by her problems that I start to build this wall to protect me from her issues."

You need to learn to not feel guilty about this. You need to know that feeling this way and doing this is okay. But it will be very difficult to do this if you continue to live in her house. So moving out should be a goal for you.

In the meantime, set those boundaries and tell your mother about them, don't just make them up in your head and type them out on the interwebs. Tell your mother what makes you crazy. Maybe you could give her a bit of time to get over this breakup of hers, maybe you could be very gradual in telling her your boundaries, but tell her.

What about your siblings? Do they live at home, too? Do they share your opinion of your mother? If they don't live at home and aren't as affected by her negative attitude, then that should be a big flashing sign for you to move out. You're 26, that's plenty old enough to demand some independence if you want it.
posted by zardoz at 11:29 PM on May 27, 2010


You are bad at dealing with this because it is not deal-with-able. Meaning, as much as she tries to make HER issues and HER life the priority in YOUR life, it's impossible for you to sacrifice your space, privacy, and time without resentment and frustration.

So the problem is not your feelings--both perfectly valid and completely understandable--it is her behavior.

Your mother is making you, inappropriately, into her parent/friend. It is not normal for people to give their parents advice about dating, beyond the most basic "I like him" or "I don't like him".

Nor are you responsible for whether or not she stays with this guy. You don't HAVE to give tough love because you are not in control of, or responsible for, her dating life or her happiness.

She is parentalizing you.

Get out. I didn't say move out for a reason--there are a lot of ways you can get out of the house without moving out entirely.

Also consider getting a gym or some other place where you can have a permanent locker to store your more private things.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 3:54 AM on May 28, 2010 [2 favorites]


Oh but if you can move out--do. Even if you're afraid for her well-being. She is an adult who managed to raise you, and as much as she might be lacking as a mother, she is not your responsibility. You are your responsibility, and at this point, your first priority is taking care of yourself.

Good luck. I know it's tough and you must feel completely trapped. But you are not.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 3:55 AM on May 28, 2010


Thanks guys. The reason why I'm still there is due to financial reasons in trying to pay down my debts while pursuing what I initially set out to do. I work everyday but the pay is awful for what I have to deal with. 18 bucks an hour is NOTHING. I figured I pay down my credit debt with the extra gig work I do instead of saving to move out. I have $2000 in student loans and bills every month. I only make $2200 a month with my day job. You get an extra income of 600 a month... you would want to put that to paying down your debts no? So, new work is coming, and thats where the money has to go. Or else I will fail in my credit if I keep paying the minimum.
posted by InterestedInKnowing at 4:52 AM on May 28, 2010


Actually, not even... I make less every month. 1800 I make every month since my other job laid me off. Yes, I was working 2-3 jobs at one point.
posted by InterestedInKnowing at 4:55 AM on May 28, 2010


I have been similarly broke and having to stay in a toxic household. It led to me not being able to sleep to the point of hallucinating (benign stuff like my cat, but still). You need a safety net and a plan in case you can't take it anymore and need to move out ASAP.

With regards to student loans, I know you are not looking for financial advice, but you can often get income-based deferrals. I had to do so recently when my income took a nose-dive (involuntarily went from full-time to part-time). I was able to get a...I think...6 month deferral. Meaning I didn't have to pay for 6 months. That might help you save up a little bit so you're not in such a precarious situation.

Anything that makes you feel like you CAN get out of the situation will make you more patient and better able to handle the stress involved. It will make you more able to stay, stay healthy, and pay down your debt if you have options and do not feel forced to live there.

Also watch for poor financial advice from your mom. She is really invested in you sticking around because she likes having you there, but you have to put yourself first, even if you're not used to doing that.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 5:19 AM on May 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


most of my grad school friends that couldn't get jobs right after graduation (or could only get ones that didn't pay very well) deferred their student loans for a really really long time. the interest rate on student loans is so low that they're worth deferring if you need to for your mental and emotional health. move out!
posted by lia at 5:55 AM on May 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm not sure where you live, but where I am you can do a cheap studio apartment for around $400. Even that is going to be better than this toxic situation.
posted by NoraReed at 7:54 AM on May 28, 2010


More tough love.

You're writing a lot of excuses.

Own a solution.

Move out.

Find roommates.

You're as limited as you make yourself.

Very few healthy 26 year olds HAVE to live at home for financial reasons.
posted by dzaz at 9:48 AM on May 28, 2010 [2 favorites]


Yeah, if money's tight and living at home is really this toxic, then the magic word is roommates. Find an affordable shared living situation where you'll have your own room with people who are nice but not involved in your life and will stay out of your business. Look for people who are your age or older who are steadily employed; that should help cut down on the likelihood of drama.

But really, if you can set aside all the excuses as to why you have to live at home, I think you'll find there really are some concrete solutions that will get you out of there and able to have some privacy and sanity again. Good luck.
posted by scody at 11:24 AM on May 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


I know how soul-crushing a lot of debt can feel like. It can feel so overwhelming and like it will never be over. But right now, you are dealing both with the debt and an incredibly frustrating and soul-sucking living experience (I guess I was lucky in that my parents made it clear I wasn't welcome to stay at home after college finished, plus there were a lot of religious & lifestyle differences, so it didn't seem like an option for me). Right now, you have to deal with a war on 2 fronts. The debt will keep :) You are a responsible person who wants to take care of it - and you will. But you need to get yourself into a situation where you can have more focus on your own life. And once you do, it will help your relationship with you mom. She may not agree, but staying where you are now will make things worse. It's awful that you don't have a mom who is there for you to count on, but your first priority is to be that person for yourself. Take some of that tough love you treat your mom to and use it to get yourself out of this situation. You deserve a break. And if you can extricate yourself from this, the debt will seem like a molehill.
posted by witchstone at 10:37 PM on May 29, 2010


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