Advice please

Help!. I am a 42 year old man with a young family and a full time job. I have an elderly mum who is widowed for the past 3 years. I am the only child. My mother suffers from anxiety and depression and is addicted to pain killers. She has been this way all her life according to my late father. She is always complaining and bitching about others including my wife. Due to this she has ostracized other family members who want nothing to do with her. My wife and my three sons want nothing to do with her as all she does is moan and talk about the past. She talks about the same things every day and shows no interest in her grandchildren. We have tried many times to help her but no idea how, I honestly belive that she does not want helping. All she wants is me to wait on her everyday, in her mind my family and my job are a direct rival for her attention. She wants to know what I am doing from one day to the next and tries to manage my time to manipulate me. She has a few friends who to be honest do not really know her yet. Many of her friends run a mile when they find out what she is like. To her current friends she compares me and my family all the time. Such as so and so are spending a day with her family or the weekend. When she does visit my house she sits and moans. My wife bites her tongue and the children just walk away.she really is not fun to be with, she exhausts us with her negativity.
At the end if the day she is my mum and I have a duty to look after her but she is driving me insane. I have little time to my family as my mum wants me to entertain her every weekend.
Any advice?

Hi S,

welcome to the forum.

Your Mum does sound difficult to be around.

Although you feel like you have a duty to look after - you do have a choice, the same as family members do. It’s up to you to set boundaries - what support your are willing to give, how often and what behaviour you won’t accept.

Does your Mum need help with practical things or is she ‘just’ expecting you to sort out her social life for her?


Thanks for the quick reply
We have no problem shopping for her , cleaning etc. The issue is the clingyness and guilt trip if I am not with her. She wants entertaining everyday that I am not in work. I have my own busy life which she does realise but annoys her.

Do you live with mum?

In which case, S, it’s down to you setting boundaries. Not easy but doable and if she starts being too negative etc walking away until the next scheduled visit.


I think I would start to talk to Mum like …

Well Mum you are quite unhappy a lot of the time … And it’s not a good way to live … I think maybe we should think of some professional input … This could be with your G.P. and/or organisations like Mind UK. Who understand your mental health issues.

I actually think your wife should acknowledge to your Mum her behaviour. And say she is also upsetting the children. I don’t know how old your children are but it’s also OK. For them to also say in however they address your Mum. To say her behaviour makes them feel sad and upsets them. And they want her to be a happy not a sad person.

While your Mum complains she has your full attention.

Thanks for the reply. I have tried Age UK got her a pen friend. The Drs have been no help, occasionally when she gets really anguished / moody she says that she will kill herself. I called the Dr who said that he would not be surprised. The Drs over the years just prescribe more drugs and are part of the problem.

Thanks again

Mum sounds totally “self focussed”, I think the more formal term is a “narcissistic personality”.
You will never be able to please her.

She wants your attention all the time. I would suggest that counselling would help you manage her expectations.
Start by putting your answerphone on, and leaving it on.
Think about your other responsibilities.
When I was constantly pulled in all directions, newly disabled myself, newly widowed, business to run, demanding mum and disabled son, I was encouraged to set my priorities.
I had to work, to earn a living.
My son couldn’t speak up for himself.
Mum could. Furthermore, mum had enough money to arrange what she needed, but “saved” jobs for me!!!
With the help of the counsellor, I decided that son had to come before mum, and told her so.
She didn’t like not being top dog, but had to agree with what I was saying.
It was OK to say “No” to some of mum’s jobs, others could do them.
I had an absolute right to choose what I did in my own time, it was OK to do what I wanted.
If I was doing one job, and was given a second before the first was done, I said “you asked me to do this, so I’m going to finish it before I start anything else”. Again, mum had to agree that was sensible.

Your role is NOT that of entertainer!
It’s not cleaner and shopper either. Both these jobs can be done by anyone.
You are son, not slave!
Not an obedient child, but a grown adult with lots of responsibilities, and children that want a happy ad to play with them.

At the end if the day she is my mum and I have a duty to look after her

No it is not your duty. Older people choose how they live and that’s fine if not demanding on others time. Your Mum has had her life you your wife and children have a right to a stress free life. I have family members who choose to live where there are no care services. And they don’t want to move. And that’s fine but I have made arrangements with social services. If one or both need care services they will have to go into a care home. And they have agreed although there is no alternatives to this anyway. I put the ball back in the court. Mum can be a miserable as she pleases but she can not inflict her will on others. You have to be the strong one and make boundaries. You do realise as she ages unless a change happens she will get more demanding.

Can I ask who is telling you it is “your duty”?

Does mum have any brothers and sisters you can talk to about her attitude?
Has she always lived in the UK, or in a different country where things are different?

No brothers or sisters who are still alive. Brother in law who will not ho near her as he knows what she is like and said that she made my dads life hell. We are British, the duty I feel is out of loyalty and I guess that I feel sorry for her deep down. Thanks for the advice.

Try to think differently, I know it’s very difficult because often hour parents think we are still their children who can be told what to do, but we are now adults with other responsibilites.
It took counselling that made me realise that I was doing this, I was told as an adult it was OK to say No!

Write down everything you are both currently doing.
There’s a lot of difference between what mum needs and what mum wants.
My mum was chair bound, spent all day dreaming up more jobs for me, newly widowed, newly disabled!
Try to think of yourself as care organiser, not hands on provider.
Have you had a Carers Assessment from Social Services?
Has mum had a Needs Assessment?
Is her house well organised, easy to look after? Dishwasher? Tumble dryer?
Ignore any negative comparisons with others, you are doing your best, given her attitude she is lucky you are visiting at all.
How often is she coming round to you? Is she taking over there too?
Does she just turn up, invite herself for meals?

No she does not drive so I collect her. She can catch a bus but has not done this for many years and the bus is almost door to door. We have had her today, she again was telling me about others perfect families. Currently digesting today’s visit with my wife and a bottle of wine.
She does not need for anything we make sure if that. I have made the decision not to see her next weekend to give me a break.

Why not go away for the weekend? There are some good hotel deals at the moment. Then you can escape completely. I do this now and then, it’s lovely being away from it all.
If she won’t get the bus, do NOT go and get her. Tell her to get a taxi!
Keep thinking about how to wean her off the dependency on you.
If she starts on about perfect other families, tell her to stop it, you don’t want to spend your weekend with her moaning, get her coat and take her home!
You must be more assertive.