Not until I had my coffee...
September 6, 2011 8:18 AM   Subscribe

I love my mom, but she bothers me first thing in the morning.

I need to know how to keep my cool in the morning. I can feel tension in my head building up because right away she wants to bring the worst news of the day or brag about something or hovers insisting what I should do (even though I've heard her advice a million times) when I'm still trying to wake. She doesn't understand boundaries and don't think she'll ever will. She's my mom. So, what are some positive ways I can deal with this? Please note: I currently live on my own but same old problems when I come back to visit her.
posted by InterestedInKnowing to Human Relations (16 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Have you told her you aren't a morning person and need some quiet time when you wake up? Honesty is the best strategy here. And if she can't abide by it, leave the room.
posted by something something at 8:21 AM on September 6, 2011

Can you stay in your room until you're awake? If you need coffee/tea to wake up you can get a travel kettle.
posted by missmagenta at 8:22 AM on September 6, 2011 [1 favorite]

It might sound harsh, but blank her out. Completely ignore her. Save what precious mental resources you have for what you need them for. Don't give her any of your focus.

She'll either deal with it, which probably won't happen if you've already spoken to her about it, or not. If she doesn't, then at least you've tried to explain it to her. And if she goes off in a huff and ignores you, problem solved. Yo have already directly spoken to her about this, right?

(I had to really snap at a relative who did this to me when I was younger, to get them to stop. It was not a pleasant experience, especially given that I was half awake, but it worked. They don't talk to me until I've been up for at least an hour now.)
posted by Solomon at 8:25 AM on September 6, 2011 [1 favorite]

Wow. Do I ever sympathize. My parents didn't bring the worst news of the day -- they are just horribly, brutally, in-your-face friendly and cheerful at the crack of dawn, which should be UN-classified as torture in my book. It took me a long time but finally I just made them realize that I wasn't automatically cranky and hateful; I just didn't like human interaction until I'd had coffee.

Can you make a deal with her where she doesn't even talk to you beyond "good morning" until after at least one cup of coffee? This finally worked with my dad when I'm at their house, although I can sense an inner Tigger in him that he has to work to suppress, while I have to suppress my urge to snap or throw things at him. After coffee sinks in, I can at least pretend to be human.

And now I am training my children the same way. One of them can even make coffee now.
posted by theredpen at 8:36 AM on September 6, 2011 [9 favorites]

I have had to have conversations about negativity (especially in the morning) with people I know and love. They generally went something like this: "I am not a morning person and I really like to start my day feeling positive and good about things. I would really appreciate it if you wouldn't start in on me first thing in the morning with bad news or advice and what not. I need some time to get settled into my day before I address things like that."

When, inevitably, the person I've said something like that to starts in on me first thing, I just remind them. "I'm going to stop you right there. As I've mentioned before, I really do not want to have this type of conversation right now, let's chat about this later. So anyway, [change topic here]." Keep saying that or a variation of it over and over and leave the room if necessary (as mentioned above).

Just because your mother doesn't typically respect boundaries doesn't mean you have to let her invade yours. Ultimately it will be a question of your priorities if she insists on doing this to you. Either you stop visiting her until she respects this entirely reasonable request, or just put up with it or ignore her if you want to continue visiting her. (Either way is fine, but it may come to that if she is unwilling to change her behavior towards you.)
posted by Kimberly at 8:39 AM on September 6, 2011 [1 favorite]

Are we talking about what my mom does when I visit? ...which is, comes knocking on my bedroom door first thing in the morning, wanting me to a) come see some irrelevant thing on the Today show b) eat something, or c) give my opinion on something hideous she just bought me at a garage sale.

If this is your scenario, I recommend placing large, heavy pieces of furniture in her path to the bedroom door. Otherwise, hiding in your room (preferably with your own source of coffee) until you're awake and ready to face family seems perfectly okay to me.
posted by daisystomper at 8:39 AM on September 6, 2011 [1 favorite]

Being more like your mom than you, and having gone through this situation as the chipper morning person, I think your best bet is to smile, kiss your mother on the cheek, and say, "I'm not listening for at least another hour." She feels validated, so do you. Worked for my wife and I.
posted by jwhite1979 at 9:18 AM on September 6, 2011 [9 favorites]

Best answer: I could be wrong, but based on some strong correlations, I'm going to take a stab and say that maybe you're an introvert and having trouble drawing boundaries.

Hell is other people at breakfast.

I've had the same problem with my mom, and with other houseguests; and I've found that that article gives me some good perspective and talking points to explain that it's not that I don't care about them, but that I just can't handle interacting much, particularly first thing in the morning. (I also have a strong repulsion toward milk, and especially watching someone eat cold cereal with milk, so having someone follow me around talking to me with their mouth full of cold cereal and milk first thing in the morning really is my existential hell.)

My mom was pretty good about, if not really understanding it, at least respecting it. I'd make a real effort to come around at some point and spend more time with her later in the day. I figure if she can compromise and respect me, I can do the same.

At a basic level, it's just asking someone to understand that you're not like them, and that you'd like a little bit of respect for your boundaries and preferences. It seems as though introverts are always the ones making all the effort to understand and accommodate extroverts. A gentle explanation of your own preferences, couched with assurances that you do care about them, can really help sometimes.
posted by ernielundquist at 9:26 AM on September 6, 2011 [1 favorite]

You know by now that you can't change your mom.

So what you do instead is change the things you can control: the terms of your visit. So stay in a motel when you visit her. As an adult you get to claim total control of your own time and space. When you're ready to hang out with her, then go hang out with her.

This reinforces the new terms of your relationship: a relationship between adults.
posted by fritley at 9:38 AM on September 6, 2011 [3 favorites]

I have a feeling that it may not matter what you may say to your mom about giving you some time to yourself in the morning. You can get into the practice of saying something like, "Hang on Mom, I want to hear what you want to tell me, but I can't pay attention to that right now so give me a little while to clear the cobwebs out of my head first."

Unfortunately, you can't pick your family. My mom used to sit at the foot of my bed to STRONGLY give me her thoughts and ideas on my relationships or other things at all hours of the night. I lived at home for a long time because I own the house my parents and I lived in. It may have been smarter for me to have purchased a two houses (one for them and one for me on another street) but I wasn't able to do that. Anyway, I have crazy hours in my line of work and usually, she will keep me up until 2am when I have to be up at 4am to go to work and wonder why I was in such a bad mood.

Mothers will continue to mother until they take their last breath. You will see this as endearing or something you wish she would do one day.

Just try to grin and bear it. If you don't live at home and only get this when you visit, then try mentally prepare yourself to play along. Just as you would mentally prepare yourself when you have to travel anywhere and know what the negative aspects of staying away from your own home are.
posted by Yellow at 9:42 AM on September 6, 2011 [3 favorites]

My Dad is one of these painfully chipper morning people. Now that I've been away from home for a long time it actually makes me smile a little bit when he starts in during visits, because he just can't help it. He's awake and he's excited! to talk! to me!

That doesn't mean my replies are any more coherent than grunts, or pleas to "give me just a little bit to wake up," but it's become easier to tolerate once I can view it as just an endearing [horribly annoying] thing he does. So I vote for the hug strategy. "Mom, I love you, but my brain just isn't firing on all cylinders yet." Then bury your face in the comics page of the newspaper and grunt occasionally.
posted by MsMolly at 9:51 AM on September 6, 2011 [1 favorite]

Get up early and leave the house right away. If she is already away, give a cheerful good-morning and tell her you're going out for your morning walk.

When you come back a bit later, you'll be in a better frame of mind, and you'll have circumvented the normal morning scenario so that she won't have the usual leverage.
posted by hermitosis at 11:12 AM on September 6, 2011


I would say to her, "You know I can't handle conversation before coffee. I'd like to give you my full attention, but I can't until I'm more awake. I'll hear you better after breakfast." Say this even if you have to interrupt her.

And then just keep repeating it. And repeating it. Aaaaand repeating it. Some people have to be trained, you know?

I know it seems weird but I bet to her this is a way of expressing love and respect for you. Love, in that she is giving you advice (however useless) and respect, in that as soon as she hears news of import, she wants your opinion on it right away. So try to think of that when she's driving you up the wall. ("This is her way of telling me she loves me and she's sad that she lives to far away to see her grandson more than once a year" is what I tell myself when my mother not-so-subtly criticizes my parenting choices for 457,000th time.)
posted by BlueJae at 11:17 AM on September 6, 2011 [1 favorite]

Also, when you've said "I'll talk to you about this after coffee/later/whenever", make sure you honour that by sitting down once you're awake and giving her your full, friendly attention and saying "OK, I'm awake now, what was it you wanted to tell me about x?".

That'll help reassure her that your early morning brush-offs don't just mean you're don't care about what she's saying (whether you do or not, if you're a guest in her house it's only polite to be interested!). Maybe you could agree to have mid-morning coffee (or lunch, or whatever) with her every day for a chat, so she knows she'll get her time with you when you're on form, you won't just go straight from being grumpy to running out the door to spend your cheerful time with friends, or whatever it is you do once you're awake.
posted by penguin pie at 1:57 PM on September 6, 2011

My daughter does not do mornings well until she has been awake for at least half an hour.
Hubby and I learned this early on. Don't poke the snapping turtle.
When we forget, she has learned to tell us straight up, "I just woke up. I can't deal with that yet. Let me get some breakfast/a shower/some clothes on/whatever first."
Pretty much we try to respect each others moods though.

All you can do is keep calmly repeating yourself and hope the message gets through to her.
It may help to discuss the problem with her some evening and give her explicit guidelines. And then calmly repeat them in the morning.
posted by SLC Mom at 2:17 PM on September 6, 2011

She doesn't see you everyday anymore.

I'm 45, not a morning talker, and this still happens. I get up earlier when I'm at Mom's house. She deposits coffee on the nightstand and I make an effort. We live 1000 miles away and she's excited to see me.
posted by Mr. Yuck at 3:55 PM on September 6, 2011 [2 favorites]

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