I hate my mum
April 18, 2007 12:50 PM   Subscribe

I hate my mum. She has done nothing to deserve this. How do I start loving her again?

I left home when I was 18. For the last two years before I left, I was always in fights with my mother, for next to no reason. I was the rebellious teenager, and always defied the authority of my mum. I'm 25, and I see my mum maybe twice a year (we live in different countries). Everytime I see her, I have this uncontrollable irritation, and I just get more and more annoyed at her.

She's a nice person - with the usual faults most people have. It's those small things that annoy the hell out of me.

Why am I like this towards her? I don't want to be this way! I want to have a nice cordial relationship towards her. She tries so hard to be nice to me, and I'm all snappy and irritable. I frown when she's around, I ignore her when she talks sometimes, and I can tell she gets uncomfortable when I'm around.

I REALLY don't want to go on like this, but I just cannot control this irritation that bubbles up everytime I meet her. And I see her so little in the year, so there is no opportunity to really hang out and reconnect.

Help me and her!
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (24 answers total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
The tried and true response is a fair one here: See a therapist. You have reasons for being angry at your mother, but it sounds like you don't know what they are well enough to verbalize them.

A therapist can help you untangle some of that, and with time your relationship may heal. You may even feel better about yourself.

Good luck.
posted by brina at 1:07 PM on April 18, 2007

I think your irritation is just the result of how you learned to react to her when you were rebellious. You are now "conditioned" to have this emotions around her.

If you know these feelings of yours are now irrational and don't make any sense, you can begin to control them and "re-learn" how to act around her.

Or in other words, fake it till you make it.

And please do make the extra effort, she's your mom and if you know she's pretty much ok, your effort will surely pay off for both of you.
posted by CrazyLemonade at 1:08 PM on April 18, 2007 [1 favorite]

My mom and I have a similar relationship. When I was a teenager, we would fight all the time, and for a long time after I moved out I'd be irritated by every little thing she did. Stupid stuff, like her penchant for saying "just a tad" instead of "just a little". Eventually I grew out of that level of nitpicking, but I still can't spend more than a few hours with her without needing a good stiff drink or perhaps an icepick lobotomy. I just don't express it by being snippy with her anymore - I let it go while she's around and just bitch about it later to someone else. (Usually my poor, long-suffering boyfriend.)

I am not really sure why this is - my mother is a very nice person who has plenty of wonderful personality traits, yet a few tiny habits and quirks that drive me insane. Once I recognized that I was being a total bitch to her for really no reason at all, I made a conscious effort to stop. I think you're at that point - where you realize that you're not being very nice to your mother, and you want to stop behaving that way. You should try and focus on catching yourself in those behaviors and stopping yourself - get up and get a drink of water, go in the other room, take deep breaths, whatever you need to do to break yourself of the habit of snapping at her. It can be done.

On preview: or, what CrazyLemonade said.
posted by bedhead at 1:10 PM on April 18, 2007

I have a similar relationship with my mother too. Wonderful person but I am short and snappy with her too. However, in my case - and I've spoken to therapists about this before - it has a lot to do with my mother's tone of voice. She speaks very softly, sometimes in a timid fashion. Despite my better judgment, I often see that as weakness which makes me angry (as it relates to some things that happened when I was younger that I also related to her perceived weakness). So my angry at the "little things" is a manifestation of larger issues. I do my best to control it but even after being out of her house for 10+ years I still have trouble controlling it when I'm around her for more than a few hours.

Long story short, if you only react that way to her (e.g. its not a general pet peeve that you also share with other people) then it is very likely a manifestation of some larger issue that you have yet to deal with in your relationship. Hope that helps.
posted by tundro at 1:26 PM on April 18, 2007

I spent 3 years not speaking to my parents, also starting when I was about 18 & left home. I am not lying when I say that upon first moving to Los Angeles I used to tell people that my parents had died in a plane crash because I didn't want to talk about them.

Fortunately I soon realized that if I didn't fix this & if they passed away it would screw me up for life. So I moved back to where I grew up and I tried to get to know them. I made a point to sit with them and ask them questions about themselves. About their lives. I took road trips with my mom, when before that I wouldn't have stepped in an elevator with her. At one point I even pulled out that Book of Questions thing and played that with her. I sat around my dad's house & listened to him. I worked my way from asking them about little things to eventually asking them about big things when the timing was right and they felt comfortable.

What I found was that I began to understand them. With my mom in particular, I realized why she did the things she did and why she is the person she is. I realized that while I might not agree with her, she has always done the best she could with what she had to work with. Which is what everyone does. And I realized that her life was actually a lot harder than I'd realized. I gained an immense amount of compassion and the anger left me.

And something interesting happened, as I took the time out to get to know my mom SHE BECAME A NICER PERSON. She was so happy that I was trying to get to know her, it really softened her. She had someone to confide in who actually listened and cared. So she started talking to me about her deeper feelings, and I was actually able to help her get through things that she couldn't have gotten through without my help. For example, she wasn't on speaking terms with her oldest son from another marriage ever since he went to live with his father, and she had buried that pain deeply & hadn't talked to anyone about it. By understanding her instead of judging her, I was able to help the two of them to reconcile.

Now mind you, I'm very clear with her about the things I disagree with her on (and there are many), but I have made a point to let her know that although I don't always agree with her or think she's right I also don't judge her. I have let her know that I expect the same respect in return, and she has learned how to give it to me. I just tell her I don't agree and when she gets on my nerves now, I can just say "You know that you're annoying me, right?" We can laugh it off without getting emotional or personal because we accept eachother for who we are now. It took years, but learning how to like my mother was one of the best investments of time I've ever made.

As my mom gets older and her health has failed, out of her five children I've been the only one that's been there as comfort for her. Through strokes & pneumonia, I nursed her. Meanwhile, the others are still reliving their petty childhood problems & talking about things that happened in the 70s they can't get over.

When she passes away I'm going to feel sadness but no regret. I know for a fact that my siblings will not be so lucky. I can honestly say that I have a mother that I love, and that when she passes away I will miss her a great deal. That was not something I could've said when I was younger. And that's worth a Hell of a lot.
posted by miss lynnster at 1:33 PM on April 18, 2007 [18 favorites]

How often do you talk on the phone? When you do, do you get the same irritation?

I would try simply calling her more, at unpredictable times, just to chat. This way your visits in person will have less pressure on them. Plus you have the ability to choose times to call when you are at your most prepared and collected.

But yeah, otherwise, therapy is key here. At least then you'll get to say out loud all the things you've felt, in the presence of a live human being who won't be hurt unnecessarily by them and won't judge you. That alone will be worth the time, effort, and expense.
posted by hermitosis at 1:34 PM on April 18, 2007

I can see two possibilities here (and they might both be in play).

The first is what brina suggested -- you have some deeper, problems with your mom that are difficult for you to name or acknowledge, and these are bubbling up in your small interactions with her. This is totally possible -- and if you suspect this might be the case, then you'll have to figure out the real source of your anger before you can let this petty stuff go.

The second possiblity is this: you see your mom as an extension of yourself, and you're treating her the same way you treat yourself.

It's easy to be annoyed with the smallest faults of people who are very close to you -- things you'd never be irritated at in a stranger. Because you feel that their actions reflect on you, everything becomes much more high-stakes. Your question makes me wonder: do you judge yourself with similar harshness? Are you a perfectionist? Do you level really harsh self-critiques against your own small flaws? If so, you're going to have to figure out why and what you want to do about it.

In either case, a therapist might be helpful. But you don't have to jump into therapy -- it might just be really useful for you to sort through this stuff as much as you can on your own first. Just think over your interactions with her and your history together -- and don't rush to make a judgement about her or yourself. Consider it a scientific inquiry -- treat your own mind like a natural phenomenon you want to investigate.

I'm pretty sure that if you ease up on the desire to control yourself, you can find some insight into your own questions. Once you have, you'll be in a better position to decide whether you're interested in therapy or other outside help.
posted by ourobouros at 1:35 PM on April 18, 2007 [1 favorite]

By the way, I did catch that you said your mom did nothing to earn your hatred. I don't think it matters if she did or not, the fact is that she apparently has it. So if you step back and try to see her as a human being instead of as your mom, you might find yourself soften a bit. It would probably be good for the both of you.
posted by miss lynnster at 1:37 PM on April 18, 2007

make sure you tell her that you wish you weren't so bratty around her. It's tough to break out of those 'roles' you get assigned when you're growing up. No matter how completely different you've become over the years, "you're always 17 in your hometown".
posted by ZackTM at 1:39 PM on April 18, 2007

I agree with CrazyLemonade. I've found that sometimes, when you see that you're having a reflexively negative reaction to someone, you should make a conscious effort to at least observe the outward forms of social niceties and politeness. Take a deep breath and ignore the little things that are setting you off (telling yourself "Self--chill...Are you gonna get torqued over THAT?") and continue on in as courteous, and yes, exuberant a fashion as you can manage even if it feels fake and mealy-mouthed.

As noted, this is a bit of a conditioning exercise (and maybe a desensitization to those maternal quirks that bug you). In the long run, it might help make some of those behaviors that you find disproportionately annoying invisible, or at least manageable.
posted by Midnight Creeper at 1:54 PM on April 18, 2007 [2 favorites]

I love my mother and for the most part we get along, but I sometimes feel frustrated or annoyed with little things she does. One thing that always works for us is to carry out certain traditional activities we have always enjoyed. There are certain games we played together when I was a kid that are still fun now, certain restaurants we often go to. We always go out to the movies a lot when I am visiting home and it's become sort of a tradition. Develop some positive traditions, something you can share with your mother.
posted by mai at 3:05 PM on April 18, 2007

Also, moms are annoying. You've lived with this lady for how many years? Odds are that you are different enough people that you wouldn't have picked her for a roommate.

However, you're stuck with family, so suck it up, and pretend not to be irritated. Like Midnight Creeper mentioned, it's a totally "fake it 'til you make it" kind of thing.
posted by mckenney at 3:20 PM on April 18, 2007

Lots of good answers here; let me urge you to take advantage of them and not just let it slide. My mom dropped dead unexpectedly, and I was very glad that I'd gotten over whatever issues I had with her years before and the last thing I'd said to her was "I love you." It's natural to have problems with parents, especially in adolescence, but it's usually not about anything that needs to be carried around forever—congratulations for realizing this and wanting to do something about it.
posted by languagehat at 3:35 PM on April 18, 2007 [1 favorite]

My mum used to annoy me.

It took me a long time, but I eventually realized that she was a fully realized human being, with all the faults of anyone else, and that I was holding her to an impossible standard.

She has made what I consider mistakes in her life, in bringing me up, and continues to do things I disagree with, but that's entirely normal. She's a real person who has had hopes and dreams and loss and failures. She is no longer an infallible comfort to me. You nod towards this. But I think you have to really live it and understand what it means to think of your parent as a normal person. Can you get to know her as another adult?
posted by idb at 3:45 PM on April 18, 2007

Just try to remember... your parents push your buttons because they're the ones who PUT them there.
posted by miss lynnster at 4:04 PM on April 18, 2007 [1 favorite]

I agree with everyone else who had said that you're too worked up about this. Remember this: all you have to do is overcome your annoyance-- baggage from the past and awkwardness don't mean shit because your mother is willing to ignore them starting immediately.

I was your age just a few years ago and I felt annoyed at and disconnected with my mum. I didn't have my shit together and every earnest question from my mother felt like a nag that cut down to my soul. But the problem was really with me. And when I got a bit more collected and realized that I had to make right with Mum, it was as easy as picking up the phone regularly. And it got easier and Mum never held it against me.

My guess is that just because you feel compelled to even ask this, your relations are going to start improving because it's a sign that you're ready for them to. And that's what really matters. Don't over-analyze, just start calling. And be prepared to grit your teeth and to take an occasional step back. But you're already getting there by thinking this hard.
posted by Mayor Curley at 4:09 PM on April 18, 2007

If you get annoyed even when talking over the phone, you could try instant messaging as a first step. She won't be able to see or hear if you get annoyed.

I know you aren't going to run out and have a kid just to solve this problem, but I'll mention just because it might come up in the future, that after I had my baby I immediately started to understand and appreciate my parents more than I thought possible. I used to be impatient with them, and get annoyed with what I felt was horrible nagging from my mother, but once I started getting up several times a night with the baby, handling someone else's waste products regularly, and so on, and realized that they did the same thing for me, I just felt very grateful. So if you ever have kids (for better reasons than solving this problem), it'll probably help.
posted by textilephile at 4:26 PM on April 18, 2007

When I was around 18 my mom and I got in all sorts of fights; she didn't understand me, and the awful things that were going on in my life. She was clueless and completely out of touch.

Or so I thought. But then, I was an idiot teenager who didn't have a clue as to how clever my mother actually was. It took me years to realize that while I thought she was being obstinate and intractable, she was setting me on a path that would make me a better person.

Of course, at the time I hated her for it. It took years and distance for me to come to grips with the idea that all the things I liked about myself were directly tied to things she taught me.

I didn't have therapy, but I did have a good friend who pointed this out to me. So maybe that was close enough.

And just for fun; like me, my mother has a twisted sense of humor and every once in a while she will push my buttons just to prove that she still can, but now I know it's not done out of malice, I can laugh when I realize how riled she can get me without even trying.

That said, my wife and I have a firmly established agreement. Whenever our parents need computer tech support, I help her mom and she helps mine. There is something about fixing a loved ones computer that can make a perfectly sane person turn into a raving lunatic in mere minutes. Swapping folks seems to solve this nicely.
posted by quin at 4:53 PM on April 18, 2007

I hate my mum.


She has done nothing to deserve this.

Not quite. Nobody's perfect, not even your dear old mum. She has annoying little things that a) yes, you should be less annoyed by, but b) if she didn't have these things, she'd be perfect and you'd have no problem (perfect world, I know).

Realizing that someone is NOT perfect (especially your parents) is a huge step in moving towards loving them more - you actually expect them in advance to let you down, do things that annoy them, etc.. This leads us to:

How do I start loving her again?

If there's one thing I've learned about love, its that it is a decision. It is not a funny feeling in the tummy that happens upon you sometimes. Its not a wonderful state of the world that you fall in and out of on chance's whim. Real, true love - the kind that makes you marry a person and actually want to stay with them til they need you to feed them and change their diapers on their way back out of the world - that kind of love doesn't happen to you. You decide to make it happen, every. single. day.

Once you accept mum for the imperfect (but still wonderful!) person she is, you can start to not let the annoying things annoy you so much (this takes time). You start to instead smile to yourself when she does said annoying thing and you see yourself recognizing it for what it is and DECIDING not to get annoyed about it because you are instead choosing to love her when she's being less than lovable.

Now, I say its a choice, but it is in the sense that an alcoholic has to choose not to drink. Choosing to not get mad at mom is not going to be an easy choice, and you're going to have to keep making it over and over and over, and its more than likely you're going to fail a lot. The important thing is to admit when you made the wrong choice, pick yourself up, and start making the right choice again.

Loving mum is the right choice. (I hope you make it).

I think a great way to start would be to tell her exactly what you told us. Word for word - you pretty much said what you need to get on the table with her. That will give her the opportunity to start choosing to love you by not doing said annoying things, and meeting in the middle is a lot easier than one person doing all the work.
posted by allkindsoftime at 5:43 PM on April 18, 2007 [3 favorites]

I understand where you're coming from. It wasn't until I got married and really became comfortable with calling myself an adult that I became able not to start working on having a less antagonistic relationship with my mother. I guess, even though she hadn't changed toward me, I felt like she was trying to nag or mother me all the time. But really, she's just opinionated, as am I, and she was just being her well-meaning self.

I like what CrazyLemonade had to offer. A slight variation on this: Perhaps it would be easiest to set yourself a goal in advance of each meeting with your mother? Example: Today I am going to try to listen intently without dismissing her thoughts or feelings. Today I am going to make an effort to compliment her for one of the many things she has done for me throughout my life. Today I am going to try and find out something about her childhood. Etc. By having a specific, preplanned act of kindness, it might be easier to recondition yourself to be pleasant to her.
posted by laskagirl at 7:26 PM on April 18, 2007

Woah, needed some editing up there. You know what I mean. After I was on my own for a while, I became able to get past the annoyance to learn from her as a person. Best of luck.
posted by laskagirl at 7:32 PM on April 18, 2007

I went through the same sort of thing with both parents at different times. With my dad, it was during/right after college, when they were still paying some of my bills and he kept calling me a "presumed adult". Drove. me. nuts. I got out of college, got married (which to my shock shut them both up completely about a ton of things in my life) and moved 1110 miles away.

That helped our relationship considerably. M&D went through some trials that made them 'grow up' some(so did I, for that matter), and we all got along better.

My 'making up' with mom was a bit of a longer trial as she had some medical and (unacknowleged) emotional/mental issues. We mostly stay on safe subjects(the grandkids are great fodder), and as time goes on, we get different perspectives on events from years past and are able to talk about some of them.

I'm thinking you two might be going through a stage or transition. Maybe you don't hate her so much as you hate the state of the relationship.

Oh, and go here for some practical tips on anger.
posted by lysdexic at 7:36 PM on April 18, 2007

I would try simply calling her more, at unpredictable times, just to chat.

Mothers absolutely love that.
posted by Totally Zanzibarin' Ya at 11:15 PM on April 18, 2007

"If there's one thing I've learned about love, its that it is a decision. It is not a funny feeling in the tummy that happens upon you sometimes. Its not a wonderful state of the world that you fall in and out of on chance's whim. Real, true love - the kind that makes you marry a person and actually want to stay with them til they need you to feed them and change their diapers on their way back out of the world - that kind of love doesn't happen to you. You decide to make it happen, every. single. day."

Wow. And so many divorced people who never learned this lesson O.O
posted by electric_bonzai at 7:55 AM on July 2, 2007

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