Help me survive having my mom here, part II.
August 17, 2010 7:57 PM   Subscribe

How can I manage to stay sane living with a (sometimes) ungrateful mother in a one bedroom apartment, who has attitude problems occasionally?

She's doing a lot better, mefites. She managed to get the job from my previous question (yay!) but in the mean time she is once again staying in my tiny one bedroom apartment that already has me, my husband, and our two cats. She's sober and doing well and seemed really excited about this new life and new job, living somewhere new and starting over, but I don't know if it is boredom or what but she's been having a major attitude problem these past two days.

We are going to work on getting her an apartment of her own close to where she will work but she doesn't have any car or transportation and she will be working second shift so public transportation isn't an option. My husband and I are completely broke from supporting her since April so we aren't really sure what to do right now. We were just focusing on getting her a job and now that she has that we are trying to work out the details. It's exhausting.

What can my husband and I do to stay sane right now? She's like a child, demanding a lot of attention, acting ungrateful occasionally, complaining a lot. It's very tiring and makes me want to just curl up and cry.
posted by rainygrl716 to Human Relations (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Short term coping strategy - take time out. Set her with something to do that she enjoys, and take some time away from the apartment for yourself and/or your husband. In that time, do something that you really enjoy. Things may well be a bit better when you all get back together.
posted by Ahab at 8:05 PM on August 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

Seconding Ahab. Just like if you had a child at home, schedule yourself some grown up time with your husband. Date night can happen two or three times a week if you need it. There are lots of free things you two can do together that will get you out of the house and away from Mom.
posted by TooFewShoes at 8:28 PM on August 17, 2010

Rainygrl, looking at your posting history, you've been through SO much with your mom... you are a saint and so is your husband.

Thirding the suggestion for couple time away from mom. Also, since it's YOUR apartment and YOUR rules, make it a rule that any complaining or demandingness on her part gets ignored by you. "I don't want to hear it, Mom."

Does she read books at all? Or listen to music? She could agree to read a book, listen to music, crochet, do jigsaw puzzles, or another quiet amusement and fill up her time so you are not the source of entertainment/distraction/drama.

Good luck - I know she's your mom, and you are doing right by her, but it's so difficult when a grown person needs this much help.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 8:43 PM on August 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

My relationship with my mom is so broken that we haven't spoken in over 12 years.

That said, I think you might benefit from what Deborah Tannen (a sociolonguist) has to say about mothers and daughters communicating. (you're wearing that? I think that's the title.)

Your mom may be snappy because she's feeling things she doesn't know how to precisely express. (ashamed of herself. Afraid of the future. Dependent on you. Like a failure. Resentful that you could be helping her more.) She may also have a very different communication style from yours. (If she takes long pauses and you take short ones, she may feel like you never 'let' her speak. If she takes short pauses and you're a long pauser, she may think you don't have anything to say to her. If you're equally matches on the pausing, there may be other stylistic clashes where 'talking it out' only makes things worse, because it's not (just) the words causing hurt feelings, but (also) the framing and context of particular conversations.

Those are the things I'm hoping for, because based on my family history, my first thought was, 'this was the first clue that mom was going around the bend again.'

So, uh. Get a copy of the book and check for cleverly hidden evidence that she's using?
posted by bilabial at 8:58 PM on August 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

If it is at all possible to rent a cheap hotel room for the night, do it. You and your husband go there. You'll be away from all the stressers of home and away from her. You will get to sleep in late and watch whatever you want and generally be a couple. (Personally, when I need to do this, I like La Quinta because they have a really good hot breakfast that's free with the room.) I know money is tight, but that $60 can make all the difference in dealing with stuff. It's like a miniature vacation.
posted by stoneweaver at 9:41 PM on August 17, 2010

Nthing the going away thing - in Olden Days (TM) people had 13 kids and their mother-in-law in a dirt floor one-room shack, and 10% of them needed therapy and drugs on the best of days; the solution involved being outside all the time. (This is my maternal grandfather I'm talking about, specifically, though the generalization is still pretty valid.)

Also: how good is her hour-by-hour judgment? Can she go to the mall alone for a few hours without ending up in serious trouble? I ask because for you this is a loss of your space, and it might be nice if she's the one who gets out for a while. I see from a quick screen of the "moving in" question that she wants companionship and can interact appropriately for short periods with trustworthy people, but makes poor choices when it comes to picking her own buddies; maybe you can get her involved in a church group or volunteering at a pet shelter? Something where she can only pick friends from a trustworthy crop? This would have the added benefit of having someone else she can get positive attention from.
posted by SMPA at 6:32 AM on August 18, 2010

To build on my earlier comment and that of SMPA above, maybe part of your mom's problem is that she doesn't have any hobbies or things to do for fun that don't involve drugs, sex and creating drama. The sober house removed the first two amusements, but with her complaints and pouting it sounds like the creating drama part is still there.

You desperately need to get out by yourselves, yes...and mom desperately needs to find some harmless ways to keep herself entertained. Church or volunteering might be one way to find a social outlet. Also encouraging anything she likes to do for fun - reading, crafts, scrapbooking, music, swimming, even watching TV, as long as it's inexpensive and harmless.

When she moves out on her own, if she has no way to keep herself occupied when she gets home besides either staring at four walls or going out and starring in her own soap opera, she's going to relapse back into the latter. She needs something(s) harmless to do and people to do it with to replace her old, self-destructive occupations.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 8:51 AM on August 18, 2010 [1 favorite]

In case anyone is curious, my mom has been working for about one month now. She has her own small apartment close to work and we were able to get her a pretty reliable car.

The thing that amazes me most, though, about this situation is the complete change in her attitude. She absolutely LOVES work and is so happy. She has apologized profusely for her horrible attitude toward me and my husband when she was here. She really has cut all ties to her old life (before she was still talking to the people down in California, but after she started working she realized they were losers and told them as much).

I never dreamed she could be this happy. She loves her coworkers and they go out and do fun stuff like potlucks, dinners, movies. She hasn't drank for over six months and says this is the first time she doesn't miss it at all. She is so proud of herself for working and her lead is so impressed with her work. Her attitude is amazing and she doesn't miss her old life at all. Her ex boyfriend, the one who ended up in prison after a police chase that almost resulted in her losing her hand, has written her and when she was living with us she wanted to still contact him, is (I think) a thing of the past. She actually shredded up his letters and has no interest in contacting him. I hope it stays that way in a year when he gets out.

Anyway, thank you all for your good thoughts and for responding.
posted by rainygrl716 at 2:10 PM on October 5, 2010 [1 favorite]

Rainygrl, I'm so glad you updated us! It sounds like a real success story all around! Congratulations to your mom for the new life she's leading, and snaps to you and your DH for being supportive.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 1:10 PM on October 6, 2010

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