How can I make the most of this family drama situation?
September 15, 2017 9:54 PM   Subscribe

Going through a huge amount of stress with family visit over seemingly small issue and am looking for advice

I've been in my first apartment a couple years now and when my mother has suggested multiple times staying at my apartment when visiting me again from where she's living out of country, I've always welcomed her to do so. We've been having monthly video chats for years and have usually gotten along quite well on them. So she just arrived to visit with my sister for nearly a week and a half, and on the way from the airport I mentioned that it's important to me that shoes not be worn around my apartment. She didn't seem thrilled to hear that.

So at my apartment, she's walking around in her shoes multiple times despite my repeated requests that she not do so. She starts to take them off for stretches of time, but then today after I got home from work and am agreeing to take her and my sister somewhere very shortly instead of the Uber they were going to take, she's saying she needs to wear her shoes at the far end of the couch away from the door because it's easier for her to put them on there. I say fine, because we'll be leaving soon. Then while wearing her shoes she says she just needs to get her coat in the closet so she walks clear across the floor in her shoes and I expressed my annoyance again, for nearly the 10th time by this point over the last few days, at her doing so. She explodes in anger that I keep expecting her not to wear the shoes around, and I explode back saying call the Uber again because I'm not driving you around if you're going to act disrespectful like this. She threatens that she'll never have anything to do with me again after being treated like this over the shoes, so I back down and still agree to drive them, and she and I are loudly arguing back and forth the whole drive while my sister is helping to defend me.

My mother doesn't call me to pick her up afterward to return to my apartment, and apparently got an Uber, and I'm still not at all in the mood for talking, so I go off into my room after letting her in. After maybe 15 minutes of silence, she tells me to come over to talk. I'm hoping there will be maybe a bit of apologizing or attempting at reconciliation from her as I'm explaining to her that for years it has been important to me to have a no shoes rule once I got my own apartment, and that really, more than the act of not wearing shoes around in itself, the principle of being shown respect is important to me, and she doesn't budge at all from having an attitude of her being completely in the right, mentioning things like all she did for me raising me over the years, and how because of that I'm asking too much by expecting her to take off her shoes here. When I see that there's no chance of her budging on her feeling that she's right and it's starting to turn into a shouting match again, I simply say “I'm done here” and walk away into my room to slam my door shut. Then I hear her complaining that I'm being a coward and running away even though she's just trying to talk it out.

On the one hand I'm thinking that if I had just let her wear the shoes around everything would still be fine, but on the other hand I'm thinking that for all the money I'm paying for my apartment and all the time I put into preparing for their visit, and that my allowing them to stay here would be saving hundreds in hotel costs(they've had to pay for hotels in previous visits because when I lived with my dad his house was quite messy and not really suited for guests), I have the right to put my foot down about at least ONE thing, just on the principle of expecting a little basic respect of something important to me.

So she's been talking to another friend on the phone she's visited here and is crying and painting a picture of her as being completely the victim and me as being weird and obsessed for making a big deal over something as simple as wearing shoes around the apartment, when I'm seeing it more as important on the principle of it, as I've said.

She's been here with my sister just a few days so far, and isn't set to leave for another week. I still have to work a couple days this week in spite of this huge stress for me, and have no idea how things will get better from here, short of my admitting I'm the one who's fully in the wrong. I'm hoping the stress will ease up since I've been having a tough enough month at work as it is. I've felt tempted to just offer to pay for a hotel for her since she has little money left, so I could have peace in my apartment. I'd love to be able to patch things up and have an enjoyable last few days of their visit, but I feel like I have a right to set a simple ground rule in my own apartment.

I've been pretty damn lucky and happy in recent years, maybe not in ways that it would necessarily inspire envy in others, but just that I've tried to keep focused on and appreciate what is going well for me. I almost feel like this is fate or the universe or whatever's way of saying to me ”whoa now, not gonna let you get too content and happy!” I know I'm still really lucky and things aren't nearly as bad as they could be, but this is a massive amount of stress I'm facing compared to anything I've faced in a long time. That she's my mother and we have mostly gotten along well over the years makes this all the more difficult to deal with, even though I feel she's acting too entitled.
posted by Ryogen to Human Relations (47 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Just let your mom wear her shoes for the few days while she's visiting. You're in the right but also blowing this out of proportion. Don't let this trivial issue ruin her visit.
posted by so fucking future at 10:07 PM on September 15, 2017 [20 favorites]

a thought: if she's been constantly wearing shoes her whole life, she might have foot/balance issues when walking barefoot (might be a physical issue)
posted by mirileh at 10:08 PM on September 15, 2017 [14 favorites]

she also might have a problem bending over to put on/ take off shoes (is there a chair by where you want shoes taken off?)
posted by mirileh at 10:13 PM on September 15, 2017 [16 favorites]

I get the feeling that this isn't really about shoes in the house. If you can pay for a hotel room for her you can pay to get your floors steam cleaned after she leaves.

My mother has to wear shoes because of her litany of foot and joint issues and her plantar fasciitis, she is truly in pain when she doesn't wear supportive shoes around the house. Could your mom be the type to keep pain to herself and need the shoes but not want to talk about why? Definitely put a chair by the door if there isn't a place to sit nearby.

Some people who do the no shoes in the house rule have inside shoes and outside shoes. Maybe you could get your mom a pair of supportive slippers to wear inside?

There are lots of ways to resolve the superficial aspects of this conflict, but the severity of your feelings of disrespect and her response of never speaking to you again over shoes and the subsequent stress and resentment... All of that doesn't add up, there are things happening here that are going unsaid and the shoe issue is where it's bubbling up into conflict. I don't know that you can uncover and resolve it in the few days you have left of her visit, and you would be best served by giving in on the shoe thing since it's temporary, while digging in later on what's really going on.
posted by Mizu at 10:21 PM on September 15, 2017 [42 favorites]

So this obviously isn't just about shoes, but you know that already.

You seem INCREDIBLY stressed. I don't know anything about you, but there must be a reason you're so emotionally strained.

I think it might be helpful just to recognize that you're in a tough place emotionally. You don't need to analyze it or work through it right now. Just acknowledge that you're under pressure, take a deep breath, and try to accept it. Accept that it's going to really bother you for the next week, let it bother you, and live with it.

After that, if you feel the need and desire, maybe try to understand why it bothers you so much.
posted by mr_roboto at 10:24 PM on September 15, 2017 [9 favorites]

Hmm, question is if this is really the hill you want to die on? Is your mother normally respectful of your being an autonomous person who lives independently and makes her own choices? If so why does this upset you so much? Chances are that if it wasn't this she'd do something else that would do your head in. We all have our preferences and established ways of doing things and as adults chances are that we do some things like our parents and some differently and this can cause irritation when we meet. But how much drama do you want to endure as a result? Presumably she's not walking round on your cream carpets with muddy boots so a thorough vacuuming/mopping after they have left would restore things to your preferred state?

If you want to insist - has she got slippers with her? If not, can you provide some? For people who are used to wearing shoes or slippers it can be quite weird to walk around in socks/barefoot. And as has been pointed out, more so for older people where balance may be more of a concern. When you've all had a good night's sleep and have eaten breakfast ask her why she feels your request is unreasonable? And even if she feels it is not reasonable, why is she so reluctant to humour you on this one point? Explain how this makes you feel.
posted by koahiatamadl at 10:25 PM on September 15, 2017 [4 favorites]

(they've had to pay for hotels in previous visits because when I lived with my dad his house was quite messy and not really suited for guests)

I am going to go out on a limb and post that this is the sticking point that's causing the issue. After living with your dad, in a house that was messy and not suited for guests, it must give you peace of mind when you apartment is clean and presentable, especially when someone as important as your mom comes to visit. You didn't have that control when you lived with your dad, did you? Did you resent your mom for that slightly, that you lived with your dad in a messy place that you had no control over, and now that you do have control and you're trying to exert it in a very specific way, she's not respecting that? You even use the word "entitled" in your last sentence about her. That's telling. What do her actions communicate to you that = entitlement? Is it like she still thinks she has the right to take you out of control, even after all these years?

I'd be stressed out, too, if it were me. That's a lot of resentment to unpack. I don't blame you for being upset. But I bet your mom has no idea why, if the scenario above is what's really going on.
posted by Hermione Granger at 10:42 PM on September 15, 2017 [19 favorites]

I would not invite a person who scuffed my floors to come visit a second time. so annoyance, I understand. but confrontation over it? calling angry attention to someone's minor rudeness is worse than the original rudeness, unless there is more to it.

like is she wearing filthy shoes that leave uncleanable marks or spike heels that gouge the floors or something? or has she been abusive and cruel for the last thirty years and this is your first taste of power? If it's not about ghastly floor damage per se, it's about you saying through demonstration: where I live is not your home, you are a guest who follows rules, not my mother who does as she likes when she's with me: you are not with intimate family who make allowances for annoying relatives, you are being tested and you failed.

this can be true and you can say it but not many mothers would fail to be insulted. both good and bad ones. you might have every reason to want to say all that. it might be completely warranted and it might feel great to finally have that power if there is a lot of backstory and bottled-up rage. but if that's what's going on, a bad reaction is inevitable.

basically, I would feel the way you do, and have, but only if the guest was someone I hated.
posted by queenofbithynia at 10:48 PM on September 15, 2017 [6 favorites]

Let it go, get cleaners in after she leaves. This is not the power struggle you want.
posted by Toddles at 11:08 PM on September 15, 2017

Response by poster: I hope I made it clear enough that it's not really about the shoes and the carpet at this point. As has been mentioned, that would be easy to get steam cleaned.

At this point I'm feeling like the sacrifices I've made in time and money to make this an enjoyable visit for her have been nearly completely taken for granted. It's one thing to say thanks, and another entirely to show thanks. Respecting my one rule would've helped to me in her showing thanks.

I feel like my pride and ownership in having worked hard to earn my apartment are being carelessly squashed. As if she's coming in and asserting ownership over my apartment by not respecting the one rule I made clear to her I valued most.
posted by Ryogen at 11:10 PM on September 15, 2017 [9 favorites]

Disposable shoe covers are cheap.
posted by ApathyGirl at 11:15 PM on September 15, 2017

Many parents (my father is like this) simply cannot seem to accept their child being "in charge" of them in any way. Your mom seems to feel that by trying to "boss her around" you're not respecting the many years of sacrifices she spent raising you. You're trying to usurp her place as the authority figure and after all she did for you, you should just be nice to her and let her wear her shoes in the house. It's also maybe tied up with a fear of aging - she's losing her power and going down hill if her own child is now the authority figure. She also might feel insulted by the rule as she could take it as implying the house she raised you in wasn't clean and sanitary as shoes were worn in the house.

You're right, it isn't about the shoes. It's about you wanting respect for the independence you've achieved for yourself and her wanting respect for what she has done for you as a mother. I think if you talk about these issues first and are able to sincerely praise and express admiration for each other for what you've both achieved in life, then it will become much easier to work out a compromise on the shoe issue.
posted by hazyjane at 11:20 PM on September 15, 2017 [18 favorites]

Response by poster: Another big thing about it is that I wasn't the first to express anger over this. I was a bit annoyed later on as I repeatedly reminded her, but she was the one who had an angry outburst. As if to say, how DARE I set any rules at all for my own apartment that I invited you into.
posted by Ryogen at 11:22 PM on September 15, 2017 [1 favorite]

Hi- I'll buck the trend and say:

She's being very disrespectful. As a guest, she is responsible for paying attention to the ground rules you set. I would be inclined to tell her that you care a lot about her, and you really want to enjoy sharing her visit together, and it sounds like she would be more comfortable in a hotel. You mention in passing that she doesn't have much money and you may be able to afford helping her stay in a hotel - if that is the case, I'd pay for the hotel (this time!) and then set up times to meet up with her during her last week with you to spend time together.

It is ok to need spaces in your togetherness. It is also ok to set rules for your space, and expect adults, even family members, to be respectful of them.
posted by arnicae at 11:38 PM on September 15, 2017 [40 favorites]

Save the hotel fees and instead pay for thorough professional house cleaning once they've left.

There. I fixed it...

Now here's what you say to your mom tomorrow morning... "You're totally wrong and not wearing shoes in my apartment is easy, but since you want to have your way, go ahead."

Never ever mention this issue ever ever again. Ever. Don't die on this hill. Ignore further comments. You still get to tell her how fucked up she's being, but only ONCE.
posted by jbenben at 12:04 AM on September 16, 2017 [11 favorites]

I would buy her a pair of slippers to wear around the apartment as a compromise. If she still says no, then you have to decide if you will ever have her back or not. Be very clear it is a giod faith effort to compromise and that if she is not willing to do so, she is the unreasonable person. Does you sister take off her shoes? Can you enlist her behind the scenes help?
posted by AugustWest at 12:29 AM on September 16, 2017 [1 favorite]

Another big thing about it is that I wasn't the first to express anger over this. I was a bit annoyed later on as I repeatedly reminded her, but she was the one who had an angry outburst.

On the one hand, yes. But in the other hand, I bet she feels like you've been constantly nagging her about this for days, to the point that she feels she can barely even put her shoes on to leave the house. You're both right and both wrong here. It sounds like sharing close quarters after a long time away had been pretty stressful and might be the real underlying issue.

While it's your house and she should be more respectful, it might be most effective to deescalate by apologizing for telling and for if your shoe policy made her feel unwelcome. Then you can tell that you want her to acknowledge that it's your space and the principle of respecting your rules really matters h to you for x reason.
posted by matildatakesovertheworld at 2:32 AM on September 16, 2017 [1 favorite]

Any rule I made to certain family members, no matter how trivial and sensible would be carefully and deliberately broken. A reasonable family member would negotiate the rule directly with me, explaining why it wouldn't work and coming up with a compromise. The others would just not. Because the problem is that I created a rule and asked them to follow it.

So now I just make reasonable rules and accept they will break them, and decide what rules I can live with being broken (yes you get to be late and I'll just plan alternative schedules), and which ones I can't (if you insult my kids to their face, I'll cancel the visit immediately).

If the thought of having your mom stay with you again makes you feel incredibly stressed, pay for a hotel next time. This time, just focus on getting through the trip and accept that she gets to feel wronged and vent unfairly about it, and that once she's gone you will have your beautiful independent apartment back to yourself and your life will be your own.
posted by dorothyisunderwood at 3:11 AM on September 16, 2017 [9 favorites]

I would say definitely die on this hill. With one of my parents, my relationship with them just could never be equitable or comfortable for me until one day I absolutely refused to put up with their manipulative wheedling bullshit and boundary-breaking.

Same sort of dynamic—I had been well-trained to make all sorts of excuses about how they treated me okay on the whole, so I should just accept "minor" things, or excuses about it being my fault somehow. But I stopped going along with being treated that way and my life has been better ever since and now that my parent can't take advantage of me any more they hardly ever try. It turned out that a sibling had done the same sort of thing years ago.
posted by Sockpuppet Liberation Front at 3:21 AM on September 16, 2017 [30 favorites]

Yes, it's not about the shoes but you're the one making it about the shoes. So you can be the one to fix it. Let her wear her shoes. Now, don't knee jerk reaction say, "No, whitewall, I can't! It's not about the shoes." Actually game out what happens next. She wears her shoes in your house. You don't bring it up again. The rest of the visit ends ok. You sweep/vacuum after she leaves and feel pretty pissed off. But you don't tell her that because you've dropped the whole shoe thing. Whatever other issues you have with your mom manifest themselves and get dealt with seperately. Where is the problem? Bonus: Your sister doesn't have to go through the rest of the visit cringing every time someone mentions the word "shoes." Please think of her, too.
posted by whitewall at 4:20 AM on September 16, 2017 [3 favorites]

Have you actually sat her down and asked her? You're certainly entitled to your feelings, so why not end this situation by just telling her what you said here?

"Mom, I'm feeling like the sacrifices I've made in time and money to make this an enjoyable visit for you have been nearly completely taken for granted. It's one thing to say thanks, and another entirely to show thanks. Respecting my one rule would've helped to me in you showing thanks. Is there a reason you won't take off your shoes as I've requested?"

See what she says. Unless she's a special kind of maternal monster, it's unlikely she's doing this to be callous or cruel.

(I will add that since the age of 17 when I moved out, I have only ONCE had my mom stay with me. It is just NEVER worth having her too close. She drives me batshit insane and the rule has always been I'd love to see her, here are some hotels. Never does she stay with me.)
posted by yes I said yes I will Yes at 4:48 AM on September 16, 2017 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: I'm inclined now to just say whatever to keep the peace and then hire carpet cleaners after she leaves. I can't imagine that my asserting I'm right in any way would be met with anything but more arguing.

As for her ever being invited back? This is the sort of hassle and stress that I haven't felt in so long that I'd nearly completely forgotten I could feel this bad. Between all the yelling she's done so much more of than me that the neighbors have no doubt heard, and the insults and mocking she's hurled at me, and how much of a painful distraction this has been from an already tough month at work, I can't think of any amount of money within her capability she could PAY ME to have me allow her back.
posted by Ryogen at 5:48 AM on September 16, 2017 [6 favorites]

It sounds like all of the conflict has been directly over the shoes, even though it's not really about the shoes, so perhaps after she leaves and you've had some time to get over the stress, you might feel differently about having her stay with you again. I hope that you do, as from your description, it doesn't seem like your relationship is otherwise terrible. And it sounds like if you could bring yourself to let the shoe thing go, you might actually be able to have a pleasant visit with her.

I do want to make a point about the shoes. I'm probably your mom's age. I never wear shoes in my own house - and I generally wear sandals so I can kick them off easily. But it's actually really difficult for me to put on and take off regular shoes. It's hard to bend down - it's hard on my back. Since your mom talked about it being easier to take them off in one place, it's quite possible that this is case with her as well. Here's another thing - it's really embarrassing to admit this, especially in a culture that likes to celebrate 90-year-old marathoners. It feels like a moral failing. So she might not want to tell you that's the problem for her. And if it is physically painful for her - either because she needs the support of shoes or because it's painful to take her shoes off and on, she might feel like you're saying that your carpet is more important than whether your mother is in pain - even though that's not your intention. So for you this seems to be about respect - for her, this could be about aging, physical decline, fear of further physical decline, even fear of death - it's all really difficult in a way that's hard for younger people who haven't experienced a lot of physical pain to understand.
posted by FencingGal at 6:31 AM on September 16, 2017 [6 favorites]

As an older woman, more than say an hour without shoes on would cause me discomfort if not outright pain. Between the arthritis in my hip and the remnants of plantar fasciitis more than a day could cause me agony and lead to weeks of recovery. Are yoi offering her supportive lippers our house shoes to wear? Because really it sounds more like an issue about your loss of control than a situation than about your floors. With your background worth them your fears may well be understandable. Honestly I'd suck it up, clean the carpets and not let her stay in the house again next time as this issue seems to be done sorry of trigger for you.
posted by wwax at 6:50 AM on September 16, 2017 [1 favorite]

Obviously, if a house rule causes physical pain to a guest, the rule should be waived. But what if it's not pain? What if the mother really is just being a spiteful total nightmare because she resents the various implications of being told what to do by her own daughter?

In that case, the solution would be to let it go, be gracious and try to enjoy the rest of the visit, hire carpet cleaners after, and never, ever invite her back.
posted by mochapickle at 7:02 AM on September 16, 2017 [10 favorites]

So, here's the thing about respect:

It goes both ways. You think she's disrespecting you by wearing shoes in your house. She thinks you're disrespecting her by valuing your carpets over her comfort.

And it goes deeper than that. You think she's treating you like a child who deserves no adult autonomy. She thinks you're treating her like a bad mother who doesn't even know how to act as a guest in someone's home.

She was arguably "righter" at the beginning, because valuing your carpets over the comfort of your guests is bad etiquette but she's acted so poorly (even a kinda bad etiquette request from your hosts is one you should follow and definitely not one you should passive-aggressively flout in the most blatant manner possible) that she's lost the moral high ground. Not that you've exactly gained it, because she's not wrong that you're being weird and obsessive about something as simple as shoes in the house -- when you're stuck on "it's the principle of the thing!" over something as simple as shoes in the house, that's textbook weird and obsessive.

I doubt there's a way to save this, at least during this visit, but if you can have a calm discussion about it, and take ownership of the fact that you are, in fact, weird and obsessive about something that isn't that big of a deal, and ideally point at something in your past that isn't her fault that makes you feel that way -- was it the messiness in your father's home, perhaps? -- you might be able to convince her to be more cooperative on this point. But you might both be too far dug into your respective positions for that to happen.
posted by jacquilynne at 7:15 AM on September 16, 2017 [6 favorites]

Best answer: Based on your updates - surely the more important rule would be that you're not going to be shouted at, insulted or mocked in your home. If she can't abide by that rule she stays in a hotel and you meet outside your home when she visits in the future. And then you can leave when she behaves poorly and have somewhere to go.
posted by koahiatamadl at 7:48 AM on September 16, 2017 [26 favorites]

I feel for you. My parents have foot issues but they come to my house with specific indoor shoes (but as a family we were always no-outdoor-shoes-inside people). Maybe as others have suggested get her a pair of indoor shoes. Not necessarily slippers though as those may not have enough support. Go shopping for them with her as a peace offering.
posted by biggreenplant at 8:03 AM on September 16, 2017 [3 favorites]

Just want to add that if it is painful for her to take shoes off and on, which is the case with me, slippers won't be a solution.
posted by FencingGal at 8:18 AM on September 16, 2017

I'm normally in favor of people having strong boundaries and not letting other people push them around, but I think maybe the best thing for you to do here is to be the bigger person and make up with your mother. You say you've mostly had a good relationship with her, and that's a huge thing to want to keep in your life and worth eating the occasional slice of humble pie to preserve. Note that I think you're pretty much in the right here—you have a right to decide if you live in a shoes-on or shoes-off apartment, and people including your mother should absolutely respect that—but I think that being in the right isn't very important in this case.

Plus, let's be honest, if you have a good relationship with your mother that is certainly in part due to her having put up with a lot of your shit and cleaned up a lot of your messes over the years. None of us were perfect angels as children, and if our mothers were able to get themselves (and us) through that time with a positive relationship intact, they definitely had to pick their battles and let a lot of stuff slide by even when they were in the right. Now you're a grownup and your mother is your peer in many ways, but you still have that debt. Think of this as a way to pay back a tiny portion of it, by being the adult in this one situation. Sometimes being an adult means apologizing even when we aren't in the wrong.

Apologize to your mother for being so uptight about the shoes thing. Tell her that you were blowing things out of proportion, and that you didn't see it at the time but now you do and you're sorry. Tell her that it's less important to you whether she wears shoes in your home than it is that she feels comfortable there, because she's your mother and you love her. Later, when things have cooled down or maybe on the next visit, tell her that you'd appreciate it if she could take off her shoes when she remembers to but that it's not really that big of a deal. Don't relitigate anything or conditionalize your apology or get in any "even though I'm right" digs, just make it a straight-up, gracious, comprehensive apology and tell her you love her. Don't get into rights and wrongs, because it's not about that. This is about making things better again. You can believe you are in the right while still making a sincere apology.

Your positive relationship with your mother is well worth giving in on an issue like this. Maybe not every time forever if situations like this keep coming up, but as an occasional thing in the context of a mostly-good relationship with your mom, definitely. Being the one to patch things up when we believe we were right is tough, but it's part of being an adult. Do it for your mom.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 8:22 AM on September 16, 2017 [3 favorites]

Also, carpet cleaners? Is that really necessary? I didn't read anywhere that she peed on your carpets or dumped pig's blood on them or anything, she just was wearing outdoor shoes some of the time for a couple of days, right? That's something that many, many normal people with clean houses and nice carpets do every day. Just vacuum, do a little spot cleaning if you have to, but don't martyr yourself over this by treating it like it's a bigger disaster than it is and bringing unnecessary expense and inconvenience into your life. There was no physical catastrophe here, the problem exists almost entirely in the emotional realm.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 8:28 AM on September 16, 2017 [8 favorites]

I'm a Mom. I was a daughter. Your Mom is staying in your home and refusing to cooperate with a simple rule. The No Shoes rule is quite common and you have every right to ask guests in your home to follow it. Your Mom sounds like she's making a point by refusing to follow a reasonable request.

You should disengage. Fighting about it is really unhelpful. Fighting is probably how you and your Mom spend a lot of time. All sorts of other crap gets dragged in, there's yelling, it's exhausting and destructive. Part of being a grownup is having your own place, and also, learning not to engage in this. Read Stop Walking on Eggshells which is about how to not engage in unhealthy interaction. All of your reasons are not affecting our Mom's behavior. Big part of being an effective grownup is the differences between what a person says, how a person feels, and how a person behaves.

What do your want your relationship with your Mom to be like in the future? Start working towards that. She's going to be your Mom for a long time. It's often difficult for parents to treat their children like adults, to respect them, to let go. And you are caught between wanting to be a grownup and wanting Mom's approval and friendship.

So, pretty much what jbenben said Mom, I'm upset and angry that you refuse to cooperate with me in my home. I'm not going to discuss it again during your visit. Bu be careful, she may look hard for other ways to piss you off and fight with you. Some people thrive on drama. You don't have to participate.
posted by theora55 at 8:31 AM on September 16, 2017 [12 favorites]

If it wasn't the shoes, would you be fighting about something else? If it wasn't the shoes, would it be control over the television or the schedule or some other minor thing because there's always got to be an excuse for the two of you to fight? Or is this a thing that has never ever happened before and nobody could have predicted? I suspect not, if she's comfortable with shouting, mocking, and insults.

(If this is new, like shockingly different from her personality before, this could be indicative of a health issue and you need to let the shoes go and worry about that instead.)

I get where you're coming from about respect - that's a huge aspect in every shoes-off culture, it's about respecting someone's home - but in a situation that wasn't so pre-loaded with tension it shouldn't be so painful to compromise on this. If a friend you are fond of came over and asked to keep their shoes on because having them off was uncomfortable (even for non-specified reasons), and they weren't caked in mud or anything, would you really say "No, I don't care about your needs, you have to take them off because my carpet matters more than your comfort"? I guarantee you that in shoes-off cultures there would already be systems in place for dealing with this, including just flat out making an exception, and your inflexibility would not be the norm. Because as much as taking shoes off is a respect thing, allowing people to do what they want/need to do with their bodies is too.

This just feels very much like both of you were already ready to fight about something, and if you had to say something about it offhand and off-topic in the car? You were ready to fight about this, and you were ready to make a point about your carpet being more important than her comfort. She was apparently ready for you to reveal your fatal flaw so she could quadruple down on doing the one thing you didn't want. It sounds like a pattern.

Your only chance of stopping the drama from your end is to let it go, stop taking the bait, let her keep on with her bullshit until it stops being fun and probably she stops doing it. You will be better off from a health and wellness perspective if you stop internally seething about it, if you can manage that.
posted by Lyn Never at 10:24 AM on September 16, 2017 [2 favorites]

I haven't heard from you any indication of a medical issue. I have severe arthritis in my feet and shoes are not therapeutic. I don't think you're being weird or obsessive, but I do think your strong reaction is indicative of a need to have some control over your life. You may have made some sacrifices, but probably quite mild in comparison to raising a child. I think there's a bit of a pile-on here, likely in response to the level of your reaction. Something to think about, not a character flaw or moral failing.

My son visited and stayed over last night. I always ask him to use a sheet, provided, when he sleeps on the couch. Came down to sand, grass, etc., on the couch and the sheet on the floor. Gave him grief; he hung his head. Now that he's gone, I'm laughing. It's more fun to love people and to develop a relationship where you can love them and still be yourself. Sometimes it takes a ton of effort.
posted by theora55 at 11:02 AM on September 16, 2017 [1 favorite]

I'm not sure how to handle this at all, but from your description I don't think you're being unreasonable. Everyone talking about it possibly being a physical pain/comfort issue for your mother would be right if it is one, but the way you've described it, that doesn't sound like what's going on at all.

Anyway, I've got a semi-bad relationship with my mother that sounds similar. If I'm interacting with her at all, the only way to handle interactions smoothly is total passive surrender and obedience, no attempt to enforce my boundaries at all. Where I can't handle doing that, I avoid interacting at all. It still blows up some -- the time I told her (truthfully) the school hadn't given us enough tickets for her to come to my daughter's middle-school graduation turned into a shrieking argument that she brings up still four years later as evidence of my mental instability and dishonesty. But mostly it's bearable.

Tl:dr -- Your story is familiar and I think you're reasonable, but I have no useful advice.
posted by LizardBreath at 11:03 AM on September 16, 2017 [1 favorite]

I'm with the contingent that feels this is a hill to die on. I find it incredibly disrespectful that your mother won't follow this one simple rule.

Has it come up in your discussions/fights about this whether she would disregard such a rule in anyone else's house? This is a fairly common rule, at least in my experience and where I live. I am not super strict about it in my own house (for guests; I myself never wear shoes in the house), but if I visited someone else and they asked me to take my shoes off, I would not even dream of refusing that request. It seems the height of rudeness. Their house, their rules. (Or in this case, your house, your rules.)
posted by merejane at 1:33 PM on September 16, 2017 [5 favorites]

At least one of two things is true:

1. there is something that she hasn't told you about the shoe thing. Some women who have worn heels for decades can't go barefoot anymore without terrible discomfort because the muscles in the back of the leg have shortened. Some people's feet need the support of shoes. So there is a possibility that you're being unreasonable about the shoes. But I doubt it: I think she would have told you if that were the case.

2. she is not able to deal emotionally with you being the master of your household, and having to comply with your rules rather than the other way around. Whether consciously or (more likely) unconsciously, she NEEDS to assert her status of not being subject to your rules, because she is your mother and it rubs her the wrong way to have you be an authority figure.

I think it's #2, and I think you should just go ahead and recognize that having her be in your house isn't a good setup. You are absolutely in the right to want to be the authority in your own home. But, her instinctive power-grab is probably far too deeply rooted and unconscious to be something she can even start to unravel and change. And I think that if it weren't the shoes, it would be something else that strikes at your authority in your own home.

My advice is to let it go with the shoes for now and arrange separate accommodation for her when she is next in your city. Don't make it a fight. Just say you're not set up for house guests, even if it's just this one house guest. Honestly? Pay for her to stay somewhere else if she can't afford a hotel. Having a decent relationship with your mother is an asset worth paying for; having her stay with you will kill the relationship. Ask me how I know.
posted by fingersandtoes at 1:35 PM on September 16, 2017

It's your mother. For real, your mom, not a sibling or a stranger. I didn't have a positive relationship with my mother. I couldn't stand her and always found a reason to disengage with her. I moved 9000 miles to be far far away from her and only contacted her so her grandchildren could get to know her.
Then she died. I thought "finally!"
BUT...Now, i'd give anything for her to be alive so I could fight with her some more. It takes death to put things in perspective. The things we fought over were things like this. Like I felt she didn't respect my choices, she felt I was mean to her etc...
You seem to have a better relationship with your mother than I did with mine. In the grand scheme of things, ask yourself, if she dropped dead right now, would I still insist on being right, or would I long for her to be around so you could talk to her. The choice is yours, no one can make it for you, but hopefully my answer will make you pause and think about the "hill you're willing to die on."
posted by ramix at 4:55 PM on September 16, 2017 [2 favorites]

I feel like my pride and ownership in having worked hard to earn my apartment are being carelessly squashed.

You're giving her too much influence into your life. Insecurity or rudeness may lead her to make little of your hard work, but that doesn't mean your work is insignificant. She can think you're still a kid, a disrespectful one at that, but her opinion doesn't alter the reality that you're an adult with a strong sense of self and autonomy.

"Winning" at shoes won't make you more adult or accomplished. "Losing" at shoes won't make you less adult or accomplished.

Ground yourself in what you know to be true, find your identity outside what your mom says, and see if it's easier then to let the shoe thing go. You yourself admit that's not what it's about.

In the long run, I agree with examining what's going on in your head and heart regarding your family. And structuring visits so everyone is more positioned to be their best selves and have the positive relationship you've enjoyed in past years.
posted by ramenopres at 5:55 PM on September 16, 2017 [3 favorites]

At this point I'm feeling like the sacrifices I've made in time and money to make this an enjoyable visit for her have been nearly completely taken for granted. It's one thing to say thanks, and another entirely to show thanks. Respecting my one rule would've helped to me in her showing thanks.

This. This is your issue right here. You feel undervalued by your mom because you feel that your efforts to make her feel comfortable are not being recognized.

I think the takeaway is are you trying harder than is healthy to do things to make her grateful?

If that's it I totally understand. I've always been cowed by the "fact" that I have to keep my mom happy. When I was in my early 20s she made a rare trip of almost two hours to come visit me and I stayed up all night to clean and found myself cleaning the baseboards in my apartment with a toothbrush at six in the morning. Surprise, she never commented on the cleanliness of my baseboards.

If you're putting too much effort into ensuring your mom's happiness, her response will never equal your effort. Think hard about what you're doing for her and set your boundaries. If you insist that she stays in a hotel when she vists you, then stick to that boundary. Tell her why or don't - it doesn't matter what she thinks.

But also set boundaries for yourself. I will never again clean my baseboards with a toothbrush to try and please my mom. I resented the hell out of her for not gushing over how clean my apartment was and I feel that you're doing something similar.

Think of your mom's likely level of gratitude and don't let yourself expect that she'll exceed that. Adjust your expectations and adjust your behavior to match.

All the best to you. Moms are tough!
posted by bendy at 11:35 PM on September 16, 2017 [1 favorite]

Between all the yelling she's done so much more of than me that the neighbors have no doubt heard, and the insults and mocking she's hurled at me...

This is not an issue that will be resolved with slippers or shoe covers. Her not wearing shoes isn't going to change the fact that you have a mother who yells at, mocks and insults you. THAT is the boundary you should be focused on. Not shoes.
posted by DarlingBri at 4:27 AM on September 17, 2017 [4 favorites]

Best answer: There's no right or wrong here, just power struggles over control, autonomy, and respect. Both of you are acting out old patterns, no doubt about it. On this visit, you may be able to sort out the overt behavior issues, but that's all; the emotional/historical side will take longer, and may benefit from some counseling support/assistance.

Is the shoes rule is a real thing, meaning you do it 99% of the time yourself and ask everyone who comes over to follow it? Is it really, really important to you, and why? The reasons do matter. Depending on those answers, then here's just one mature way to handle it from this point:

You apologize for not making the policy and your needs clear well before her visit. You apologize for not asking if she needs a seat near the door to sit and put her shoes on/take them off. You offer that, if she has physical/medical issues that necessitate wearing shoes all the time, she can bring a pair of indoor-only slippers or shoes to wear in the apartment, changing into street shoes at the door (or to get some of those over the shoe booties). You apologize for not checking if this is acceptable to her earlier, so together you could solve any issue with mutual respect.

You then go on to clarify that the policy applies to everyone and is not a reflection of the esteem you hold her in. And that it stands for any future visits (and the rest of this visit, if you're so inclined). And, last but not least, that the policy is not up for discussion or negotiation -- she can think what she wants of, she can decide the meaning is to take offense at where none is intended, but she still has to abide by it without excessive criticizing. (If she complains a bit, just ignore it and change the subject or politely make yourself absent for a bit. Don't threaten her with not being able to stay again, you might decide that, but making threats is never respectful or conducive to a good relationship.)

You ask her, knowing this, to discuss with you how she would like to meet her needs and preferences while respecting yours. There are several compromises listed above that you could share.

Disclaimer: I have a no-shoes-inside house. I also have a bench next to the door and slippers for people to change into, if so desired. I make this preference clear upon issuing invitations to people, so they can take any preparations (maybe they would make sure to wear socks without holes in them, if that matters to them ;-). And, when she was alive, my mother also made a bit of fuss, but she also had some physical reasons, which I did my best to accommodate.
posted by dancing leaves at 5:02 AM on September 17, 2017 [1 favorite]

Oh HELLLLLL no. I'm shocked at how many people are saying to just let her wear the shoes. You don't come into my house and slap me in the face and expect me to smile about it, guest or not.

It doesn't have to be a screaming argument. "Look, the shoe thing is very important to me. Is this something you can respect and agree to, or is it time to cut this visit short?" A or B, you choose.

I agree with everyone that it isn't about the shoes, but it IS about being blatantly disrespected in your own house. It's a dominance move, and that's why it's a hill I WOULD die on. And she would not be invited back ever until she sincerely apologized for her behavior.
posted by ctmf at 9:01 AM on September 17, 2017 [3 favorites]

A or B, you choose.

Which would put her in the position of having to say "Wearing my shoes in your house is so important to ME that I'm willing to leave over it." The "making a big deal of such a small issue" red herring works on both sides. You're not the weird one here.
posted by ctmf at 10:22 AM on September 17, 2017

It's a dominance move,

Sorry for the multi-comment string, but this question really got under my skin. The more I think about it, the more I think this is everything. Your apartment is ambiguous territory. She's the mom, so she's in charge vs. it's your house, so you're in charge. She has some kind of need to claim this as part of her territory, so she can not defer to you. You sense this. It has nothing to do with shoes at all.
posted by ctmf at 10:39 AM on September 17, 2017 [2 favorites]

This is all about boundaries, not about shoes. You've just chosen to make shoes the focal point. And the problem with creating boundaries over something as seemingly innocuous as your mom taking off her shoes is that when you try to enforce them, you seem rigid and superficial. Like you care more about your clean floors than your mom's visit. When really it seems as though you want your mom to appreciate visiting you, and to honor the life you've made for yourself.

So, figure out what is really bothering you about this - many people above have already suggested above what those things may be. Maybe your mom takes you for granted. Maybe you grew up in a house that was not well-cared for and you felt like you had no control. Whatever it is, that's where you create your boundary, and that's also where you come up with a consequence when crossed.

The thing to remember too is that your boundaries are not created to get other people to change. They're to protect you. Forcing your mom to take off her shoes in your house isn't going to get her to respect you, or to appreciate what you've done in preparation for her visit.
posted by lyssabee at 11:35 AM on September 17, 2017 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Just wanted to thank everyone for the advice. I was terrified of and enormously stressed about facing what I thought would be a miserable remaining week with my mother, but things have gone better than I ever would have thought.

I apologized and said she could do as she liked for the rest of the trip, and before long she apologized and now seems to be respecting my wishes. This doesn't mean all is completely forgiven and forgotten though. My mother admitted to and apologized for her temper, but I agree with others who said that that is where I'd have better reason to set boundaries than anything like shoes on the carpet.

This has been a good learning experience for me. I've learned to be careful not to let my worries run wild, because they could turn out to be almost totally unfounded. And I see better now the importance of genuinely trying to see things from the other person's perspective, and that even if I was in the right to enforce a no-shoes rule, there are many ways I could have gone about doing it better.
posted by Ryogen at 11:08 PM on September 17, 2017 [8 favorites]

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