I don't want to have blood on my hands
June 12, 2010 10:29 PM   Subscribe

My parents are always manipulating me, and I need to break away. Long story inside.

To begin, I'm a 31 year old male from a South Asian family. At the moment, I'm housesitting for my parents while they live overseas. I lived on my own before they left, but they needed someone to watch the house and the family cat. My sister and brother in law were supposed to take the cat, but they backed out at the last minute.

The current arrangement is fine, because they aren't here. In an effort to keep myself together mentally, I've decided to move out while they are in the country. I even made arrangements to move.

We have a 14 year old cat who I dearly love. She's the family cat, and when we were growing up, my mom took care of her. Today, I was telling my mom that I'll have to show her what to feed the cat, as her diet has changed.mMy mom refused, and said she will feed the cat things she knows are bad for the cat. This is an effort to make the cat die a natural death faster so she won't burden us anymore.

I'm torn now. I need to be away from my parents to preserve my mental state, but I don't want my cat to die. The place I'm going to move to doesn't allow pets either.

I just don't know what to do. If anyone has any advice, it is very much needed.
posted by stedman15 to Human Relations (28 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Change arrangements and take your cat.
posted by bsdfish at 10:31 PM on June 12, 2010 [7 favorites]

Sneak her in, unless she's loud/smelly/destructive your new landlord won't know. If found, say it's temporary. Give her to a friend or a coworker. Don't let the cat be a barrier to reclaiming your life.
posted by ista at 10:36 PM on June 12, 2010

If it were me, and I couldn't find a pet-friendly place to move, I'd take the cat with me anyway and take my chances (mostly likely, your landlords will never even find out you have a cat). Best of luck.
posted by amyms at 10:38 PM on June 12, 2010

The place I'm going to move to doesn't allow pets either.

Often, landlords or property managers will make exceptions to their pet policy on a one-on-one basis, especially for cats. Communication is the key here.
posted by halogen at 10:38 PM on June 12, 2010

Take the cat anyway. Tell your parents it's okay with the landlord. I lived at a place that DID allow pets but charged a ridiculous pet deposit that, with two cats from the shelter needing vet care, etc., I couldn't have reasonably afforded. (I was a poor student at the time.) I never told managment, the maintenance guy never told management, an everything was good. The worst that would have happened would be paying a fine. Ethical? Well, that's your call. I'm really not sure why landlords extend the pet rule to cats. Dogs, yes, but even the most destructive cat really can't do that much damage to an apartment. They might scratch the carpet butnever enough to cause signifigant damage IME. But I'm not a landlord or apartment manager...
posted by Nixy at 11:09 PM on June 12, 2010

Response by poster: I'm not living in an apartment. I rented a room from a guy who owns his own house. He's not a fan of pets.
posted by stedman15 at 11:11 PM on June 12, 2010

Wow, that is awful. I am very sorry for you. I agree with Amyms, if she is quiet and old, no one will notice. I think if you leave the cat with your mother the guilt will haunt you for life and it with further sour your relationship with your mother. You also need to work out some issues with your mother, but for now the cat needs to be taken care of.
posted by fifilaru at 11:13 PM on June 12, 2010

You can either find a different place to move, or leave the cat with your mother and hope she was just lying to you about how she'd treat the cat in order to guilt you into staying with her. You'd know if the second is likely. (I assume you cannot find someone else to take your cat.)
posted by jeather at 11:22 PM on June 12, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: The front-page of your question doesn't really give a clue as to what's inside it. Your parents are always manipulating you? And then you want to know how to save the cat? I'm going to try and answer both at once.

If the cat is genuinely in good health and happy but for it being 14 years old, then find different living arrangements that will allow a cat. If the cat has crippling health problems due to it being 14 years old, and no longer has the quality of life that one would wish for a much-loved pet, then have it put down humanely, NOT by "feeding it foods that are bad for it." There is no context in which it is acceptable to add "severe digestive problems" to an elderly animal's list of painful ailments.

Now. Other than the cat, there are issues here. Why are you In an effort to keep myself together mentally? Is it all because of the cat? I'm getting from your question that your mental turmoil may have something to do with your moving out of their house while you're supposed to be there house-sitting?

Listen, the best I can tell you with the limited info that you provide here is A) do what's right by the cat, B), move out if you can and want to, and C), memail me if you want to talk more. Please do.
posted by deep thought sunstar at 11:25 PM on June 12, 2010 [3 favorites]

Don't just move the cat into someone else's house without their consent. They may be allergic.
posted by Solomon at 1:00 AM on June 13, 2010 [3 favorites]

I'm not living in an apartment. I rented a room from a guy who owns his own house. He's not a fan of pets.

Try pleading your case with him and promise to keep the cat confined to you room until you can make other arrangements.
posted by amyms at 1:14 AM on June 13, 2010

I read "parents manipulating me" and "from a South Asian family" and was all gungho about offering "advice from a cultural insider." But your question leaves me very confused. Are you saying that your mom is threatening to deliberately "slow-poison" your cat in an effort to keep you from moving out?

First, as others have suggested, find a more humane solution for the cat. Either make a special arrangement with your future landlord, find your cat another home, find yourself another, more pet-friendly home, or arrange to have the cat humanely put down.

Second, please give us some more information if you want advice about the "feeling manipulated" part.

Feel free to memail if you prefer.
posted by bardophile at 4:59 AM on June 13, 2010

In a worst-case scenario, you could take your cat to a rescue, at least temporarily. Look up cat rescues. They can find someone to foster your kitty until you're ready to care for it again.
posted by Sara Anne at 7:23 AM on June 13, 2010

Response by poster: Alright, so here goes. Now that I've slept on it, I probably did need to give a bit of backstory about the manipulation.

Since I was 13, I've been forced to take care of my parents' affairs when they are either gone or too mentally ill to deal with life. At 13, my mom went nuts and took a vacation back to her home country. During the time she was gone, I was forced to step up and take her role (cooking, cleaning, making sure my younger sisters didn't have something horrible happen to them, etc.) My dad was around, but he was always working and away. Same thing happened when I was 15. When I turned 18, my mom again went off the deep end and dad was working overseas. So, for 6 months, I was the sole guardian for my younger sisters.

Since that time, I think they've gotten the hint that I will step up to the plate if no one else is willlng to. They use this against me all the time. This is what happened with the cat. When my sister refused to take her, they played the "Oh, what will we do now? This is such a disaster" card. As usual, I volunteered to live at their house and take care of the cat.

When she's here, my mom says she needs someone to stay with her because she's afraid that if she stays here alone, she will get robbed or murdered. When I did live away, she would call and say, "How could you desert me in my most important time of need?"

I'm in therapy for this, but I can't undo 31 years of being forced into things by guilt overnight. That's why this cat thing feels like another incident in a long history of similar behavior.
posted by stedman15 at 7:45 AM on June 13, 2010

You might point out to your mother that someday you are probably going to have to decide what she eats.
posted by nicwolff at 8:49 AM on June 13, 2010 [5 favorites]

Best answer: stedman15, My cat reached a really old status because we looked after him (and had him hydrated at the vet when he got really old and sick). Subcutaneous Fluid Therapy was a miracle and he lived another 5 years beyond what we thought he would because of that "extra" care. (Ask your vet about hydration.. it really peps up an ailing cat!)
I agree with the others about taking the cat with you if you can. Your Mother is trying to use kitty as a pawn to get you to stay home to be her mini-husband (she wants you to make everything right). Don't fall for it, you are on the right track. Take kitty and make a clean break. Don't look back. You need your own life.
posted by naplesyellow at 9:09 AM on June 13, 2010 [1 favorite]

Has your mother ever had some professional help for her mental illness?
posted by smartypantz at 9:52 AM on June 13, 2010 [1 favorite]

Thanks for the further info, OP. I'm really, really sorry that you're having to deal with this, and I agree with naplesyellow above that you're on the right track. If your mother is not receiving treatment for her mental health issues, would it be possible for you to help her find some?
posted by deep thought sunstar at 10:02 AM on June 13, 2010

It seems vitally important that the OP's mother get some professional help.

That is, stedman 15 should perhaps discuss this with his therapist who could then suggest where he could direct his mother. He should NOT try and help his mother in any other way.

I would provide some pamphlets and a short note saying you are taking the cat and you will talk to her after she has addressed her obvious issues. I would not engage her in any discussion regarding this as she will load on the guilt trips, just provide the information of who she should talk to and then leave.

You are a grown man and she can take care of herself. You can tell her that too.
posted by smartypantz at 10:18 AM on June 13, 2010

Seconding deep thought sunstar and nicwolff.

Make other arrangements. Take the loss on the deposit if necessary.
posted by adamrice at 12:07 PM on June 13, 2010 [1 favorite]

OP, thanks for the backstory. This is a tough situation. I would agree with ifdss9 that you need to take care of yourself. Mental health issues that your mother has not handled over the past 31, or at least 16 years are not for you to make better, or to do the maintenance on. This can be particularly difficult as the only son in a desi family.

The most important thing for you to remember is that you have to take care of yourself in order to be able to do anything else.

Whether you then decide to take on the 'bara beta'/'iklauta beta' role comes later, and is entirely up to you. Also, if and when you get to that point, you don't have to let anyone else define the role for you.

I'm not sure telling your mom she can take care of herself would be such a great idea, but agree with the rest of smartypantz's advice.
posted by bardophile at 12:10 PM on June 13, 2010 [1 favorite]

My tone may have been snarky, but there is something to be said for empowering someone with an anxiety based mental illness by telling them that you believe they are a capable person.
posted by smartypantz at 1:34 PM on June 13, 2010

Response by poster: She actually is undergoing psychiatric treatment, but not therapy. She's on a battery of different antidepressants and antipsychotics.

I have told her in the past that she needs to look into therapy, but she always refuses.
posted by stedman15 at 1:43 PM on June 13, 2010

Please forgive my ignorance of your culture, and, of course, feel free not to answer these questions.

I thought South Asian cultures were big on marriage. Are you planning on getting married? Do you want to get married? Does your mother want you to get married? Sooner? Later? Never? How does your mother expect you to get married if you're tied to her apron strings? Or are South Asian women more tolerant of that?

Do you think your mother will really harm the cat, or is she just saying that because she knows how to push your buttons? Maybe if you put the situation to your sister, she might agree to take the cat, at least for a while.
posted by Crabby Appleton at 7:43 PM on June 13, 2010

Sorry to butt in here but Crabby Appleton, that's not ignorance of someone's culture, that's just plain old ignorance about how to understand a question and using the info that is given to us. The OP did not bring up anything about marriage or his mom wanting to marry him off. If he thought anything about marriage was part of this problem, I think he would have said so. (Not that I am trying to speak for him.) So let's just go with what the OP is telling us about his situation and not bring in extraneous topics under the guise of "ignorance about your culture," or group every single South Asian woman like so: "Or are South Asian women more tolerant of that?"

OP: I'm sorry you're going through this and I'm glad you're in therapy. As for your cat, I guess your options are:
1. Take the cat with you. Talk to the guy you're moving in with. If he's not allergic, can you confine the cat to your room?
2. Find another place to live where you are allowed to have a cat.
3. Have the cat stay with a friend you trust.
4. Give the cat to a shelter or cat rescue.
posted by foxjacket at 8:45 PM on June 13, 2010 [2 favorites]

The OP obviously has issues that go far beyond the immediate problem of the cat's well-being. Other respondents have addressed them in a vague manner ("therapy", "help yourself before you try to help your mother", etc.) My questions are for the OP to consider himself, if he cares to. Too bad if they offend your politically correct sensibilities, they're not for you. So butt out.
posted by Crabby Appleton at 9:11 PM on June 13, 2010

Best answer: Crabby Appleton: I think your questions are relevant, for what it's worth. I don't know OP's mom, obviously. I have yet to meet a South Asian mother who didn't want her only son to get married, however. I'm a South Asian woman in my mid-30s. Given that OP is 30, I would be surprised if him getting married has not been a topic of discussion (or tense non-discussion) in the family.

You've got the right idea, in terms of South Asian women, in general, being more tolerant (at least ostensibly) of a closer (and often more codependent) relationship between mother and son than the 'average Western woman.'

Obviously, that may or may not help the OP, who may or may not want to marry a South Asian woman. And if he does want to, she may not be "typical" in this regard.

Many, many, South Asian couples, however, live with the husband's parents. So in and of itself, whether or not he wants to get married doesn't automatically result in the same set of imperatives that you might expect.

The issue is one for the OP to consider, for sure, though, whether he chooses to answer these questions here, or not.

OP: My utmost sympathy. Haven't been in your exact situation, but have seen similar ones very close up. It's often easier to get people from South Asia to take psychiatric medication than to get them into therapy, because
a) it makes it easier for them to see it like, say, diabetes or hypertension,
b) generally, South Asians do not like talking to people outside the family about "family business," which is almost always a big part of whatever issues they need the therapy for. This is particularly true for women.

You may be aware of both of these things already. The thing is, you really do need think these issues through. I'm sure you are doing at least some of that with your therapist. Good luck in making your way through this unhappy maze. Should you wish to memail, that offer stands, now or at a later point. In any case, I'm rooting for you.

Smartypantz: I'm didn't think you were being snarky. I just think that it's advice I wouldn't advise a South Asian man to give his mother unless I knew personally, that they were different enough from the cultural norm. Kind of like I wouldn't advise a WASP friend to ask his fiance to move into his parents' home unless I had specific reason to think the individuals in question could handle that situation. :)
posted by bardophile at 1:07 AM on June 14, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Bardophile: you have some good points and I totally agree that my advice was not culturally sensitive. I was not considering the "South Asian" context in relation to the OP's dealings with his mother, I was coming from a "Westernized" (ie USA) context. I still feel the OP would benefit from getting distance from his mother and that his mother really does need to address her problems. Your point regarding medication vs therapy is a really good one and that might be something that the OP could try and work on. Maybe he could talk to his sister and see if together they can figure out how to get their mother to a Doctor with the idea of getting a "new prescription". I'm not sure what kind of meds could help, but it does sound like she might have a condition for which a pharmaceutical option probably exists.
posted by smartypantz at 11:34 PM on June 15, 2010

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