Looking for advice and support

My Mum is in her late 70’s, lives close but alone. I am a working parent to a young child.
We have a close relationship but it has it’s difficulties. Mum is controlling in her behavior with me. Feels she should never have to ask me for anything, I should just know! She talks in a way that often makes me feel guilty even though I do everything she wants. I have never done what I wanted to do because she plays the guilt card. She is also very critical of me and I do feel we have a dependent relationship.

She suffers with anxiety and has for a long time. She is very negative, can’t make any decisions, always poorly with sickness etc due to her anxiety. She has distorted thinking, anxiety attacks and a very selfish attitude.

I listen to her constantly and offer help and advice. Some of the issues she has are self inflicted eg her terrible diet, drinking 15 cups of coffee per day etc.

My problem is that dealing with her emotions, worries etc is making me poorly. I also suffer with anxiety and I am struggling to cope with Mum. I feel like she never leaves me alone, that her problems are my problems and that it has got to a point, over a long time, that I can no longer offer a shoulder to cry on. I am starting to resent it. I want to run away and not deal with her for a while and these thoughts make me feel selfish and guilty and a bad daughter.

I feel trapped. I am even looking at Jobs elsewhere and imagining what it would be like to be somewhere else! I feel my life is not my own and that I will never become anything I have to stay close by and do my duty. Ihave a brother but he lives 4 hours away so it’s just me and he left for the same reason. He lived with Mum for years and was becoming her friend, carer, confident. He left and I understand why and don’t resent him a thing. We both love her so much but we should have the right to live our lives.

She is mobile and is physically very well for her age but she won’t go out. She went to a craft class and only went a few times because she said two ladies had fallen out with her (they hadn’t)

I have told her she needs to go to her GP and get some help.

How can I help myself and still give her the care she needs. She has no friends, only me and I am so scared this will get worse.

Thanks for listening. Xxx

Welcome to the forum.
Can I ask what care mum actually NEEDS (not wants)?
Is she claiming Attendance Allowance?
Are you receiving Carers Allowance?

Presumably you still ive with her?

No physical needs really, it’s all emotional and mental. She is very needy in this way because of her anxiety.

I don’t live with her but very close by.

In that case, mum needs some “retraining”.
I had a disabled mum who wanted more and more, counselling helped me realise that I was behaving like a dutiful little girl (at 60!) and I never ever said no to her.
I learned how to subtly manage her expectations. At the time I was newly disabled, newly widowed, with a business to run and a son with severe learning difficulties.

  1. Put the answerphone on, permanently. Then I could listen to the messages, but I responded when I was ready.
  2. If mum gives you a job, then another one, say “we agreed that I should do this, so let me finish it first, I’ll do that presently”
    My mum had a notebook in which she wrote down what she wanted me to do on my next visit, how I hated that notebook!
  3. Never commit to doing a job in a certain time.
  4. If mum wants you to come immediately, say "I’m sorry mum, I’m busy at the moment (don’t say what) but I’ll be over tomorrow or …

In this way, you never say “No” immediately, you are just managing her expectations. It was life changing for me.
Always remember that you cannot be forced to do anything. The only power mum has over you, is the power you let her have.

Sadly, you can never make her happy. She is the drowning person who will drown their rescuer.

I recommend counselling to help you see that.

Love her, but don’t be a victim to HER unhappiness. It’s HER responsibility to appreciate what she has good in her life (which is a LOT - write it down, the list will be long!).

Time for more space between you.

She’s going to be unhappy whatever you do. So you might as well focus on YOUR happiness, (by backing off!), since you cannot make HER happy.

Sad but, alas, true.

I agree totally with Jenny. We are all responsible for our own happiness. My mum always blamed other people for things, or bought things to make her feel better. She was obsessed with Ercol furniture. Had at least 60 dining chairs, 10 dining tables, 10 sideboards…It took me and my sons a year to empty her home.
I read somewhere that the happiest people are those with the fewest possessions.

Oh thank you so much for your advice

It is a constant situation. I think it’s just about to get better and then it starts again.

May I give you some examples so you may understand better. At the start of October she decided she wanted a dog and found one. From that date she continually contact me to ask what I thought, was she doing the right thing etc. Endless worries, questions, self doubt. I listened and helped but said I could not make this decision for her. She was having the dog, then not, then contacting the owner when it was not necessary. This conversation continued until December.

Eventually we made the 2 hour journey and got the dog. She had not had it 3 hours when she was sending messages saying she had made a mistake, she was so upset etc and she didn’t want it.

I told her she needed to do what was right for her. I went to check on her the next day as she was in a mess. She was even worse! The dog had slipped it’s lead and she lost it. This was the case for over 1 week until I found out the dog had died on the road. I was trying to deal with Mother and her emotions and anxiety and look for the dog. She did know she shouldn’t have been taking it out until the dog had settled.

Last night I had more messages after talking to her for over 1 hour. She feels poorly, upset, sick etc and again today as soon as I had finished work.

This is incessant, drama after drama. She had a relative visitbthis week. She is lovely but Mother got envious about some things she told her and now she doesn’t want her going again.

I just can’t cope with it all.

I also think I could benefit from counseling but can’t afford it at the moment. I just do the know where to start with her.

Start by putting your answerphone on, and leaving it on.

Say “sorry mum, I don’t have time for this, we’ll talk about it later”, and then put the phone down.

In other words, YOU must take control. You can do it.

Thanks Bowlingbun. it has been this way for so long I do t know what to do. I am scared that she will fall out with me, cause issues.

I have tried to some extent before. She tells me I have changed then is quite nasty with her tongue.

I know I just need do it. Can you tell me what else worked for you and did your Mum resent this change?

My mum was never nasty, fortunately.

Others have advised that the best thing to do is say “I don’t have to stay and listen to this” then put their coat on and go home (regardless of what they are doing at the time) or else simply put the phone down.

You are NOT a child, but an adult, and deserve to be treated as such. After all, you do not have to do ANYTHING for mum at all. Maybe she needs reminding of that?

"I am scared that she will fall out with me, cause issues’

And this would be a problem because…?

It would give you freedom never to go near her again! If she doesn’t want you there…(ie, because she has ‘fallen out’ with you!)

Think about it…!!!

"I have tried to some extent before. She tells me I have changed then is quite nasty with her tongue. "

Yes, of course she’s ‘nasty with her tongue’ if her ‘prisoner’ dares to rattle her chains!!!

Look, I know it’s going to be hard to see your mum as others see her, but she is a NOT NICE PERSON.

She is NOT sad and pitiable, she is SELF-PITYING!!!

Maybe the way to help you cut the umbilican chain that she is strangling you with (and has been all your life by the sounds of things) is this:

Somewhere inside, your mum is probably a nice, decent human being. But for reasons that are NOT YOUR FAULT, she has allowed a MONSTER of selfishness, self-pity and narcissitic self-obsession to ‘take her over’.

The more attention you give her, the more you do what she wants, blah lah blah, the more you FEED this monster.

I’m sure you want her to be a ‘good’ human being - so don’t feed the monster with your attention.

If you can see that paying her attention is NOT good for her (it’s the monster that has a nasty tongue etc, who will ‘fall out’ with you), then it can help you strengthen your resolve to keep a much further distance from her and develop ‘immunity’ from her (ie, you no longer ‘fear her displeasure or disapproval’, and you have the strength of mind NOT to be at her beck and call as she yanks the chain around your neck). YOU TAKE CHARGE of the relationship.

You MUST get counselling on this. It isn’t easy, breaking that chain, but it is not good for HER to be monstrous like this - and it damn sure isn’t good for you!

I’ll try and find you some website forums about ‘controlling parents’, narcissitc parents, and smothering mothers! She is all three!


Your mother killed a dog.

What does that say about her?

Did she even feel guilty?

Don’t answer that - I know the answer. NO SHE DIDN’T. She just felt sorry for herself. As usual.

Please understand that you have been ‘programmed’ all your life to see the world as your mum’s ‘inner monster’ sees it - as a world that has done ‘terrible thingss’ to your poor poor mum…

Well, it hasn’t. SHE has, to herself.

She’s a bored, selfish woman.

YOU can make her a nicer human being, but, as I say, you have to take control of this malign and unhealthy relationship, and help HER be nicer. But you can only do that by standing up to her.

And resisting her ‘punishing’ you for your ‘opposition’. Of course she wants you back in your place as her slave, but you have to DEFY her anger and disapproval and displeausre (her ‘nasty tongue’).

So what if she’s angry with you? Who gives a monkeys? Her anger, her problem. Not yours. Don’t let her make it so.

You are STRONGER than you know. You can love your mother - but not her ‘monstrous’ side.

Check these out - only a first quick pass, but it’s a start.

It will help reassure you you are not alone in your unhealthy relationship with your controlling mum, and that there ARE ways to ‘manage’ the relationship so it does NOT destroy you, as yours currently is…

I haven’t read all the links totally, just glanced at them - some of them will definitely resonate with you!

“Sometimes, you have to let go of wanting to make your mother happy. Try to block it out. Remind yourself that it is not your problem – it’s her problem. You may have to limit the time you spend with her and you may have to tell her to stop being critical of you. Do whatever is necessary, without being cruel, to set some boundaries to protect yourself and to preserve your well-being.”

Smother Mothers (bit religious, but read below!)
“So many adults today still have the emotional umbilical cord attached to their mothers. They need to cut it themselves so they can be freed from their mother-control to become their own person.”

Narcissistic Mothers: The Effects on Their Daughters and How to Heal
These mothers steal their kids’ childhoods, identities and future healthy relationships. They will keep on taking and sucking the life out of their children for as long as they live, if their children allow it. It is incredibly difficult and painful to acknowledge that your mother never loved you without blaming yourself — she raised you to blame yourself for everything. But it is necessary to put the blame where it rightfully belongs in order to insure that this insidious disorder isn’t perpetuated generation after generation.

Mum will probably try all sorts of way to keep “control” of you, but it only works if you let it!

Do NOT let her provoke you into any nasty response, because then that shows that whatever she said hurts. Just turning round and going home, putting the phone down etc. will just show that it might have worked in the past, but it’s not going to work any more!

I know some parents have deliberately undermined their child’s self esteem for their own benefit.
Did mum encourage you to do well in school, support you when you wanted to do something new, or different?
Did she give you reasons why you COULD do something, or reasons why you couldn’t?

Good parents give their children all the encouragement they can to make their children ready for life and all it offers.

PPS again…Just wanted to tell you that I DO understand your sense of ‘endless responsibility’ for your mum and her happiness - that you HAVE to ‘make her happy’.

My mum was ‘similar’ in some ways - not as overtly narcissistic as your mum appears to be, but she was, like yours, very very emotionally needy - she could not face life ‘on her own’.

She was a lot more loving than yours sound, and she was NEVER ‘nasty’ to me - (that alone, condemns your mum in my eyes -the daughter who is doing SO much for her, and yet your mum presumes to be ‘nasty’ to you!!!).

BUT, it took YEARS (and my sister in law!) to see mum as someone who basically was ‘the only one to suffer’ the ‘only one to be unhappy’. HER unhappiness was all there was. No one else could be unhappy the way she could!

She could lash out at her long-suffering husband (for no reason - and yes, that WAS cruel, just as it is cruel of your mum to turn her nasty tongue on you!), and that condemned her - ie, lost sympathy.

But it wasn’t until my SIL who obviously had not ‘bought in’ to this story of ‘unhappy mother’ (as in SHE was the only one who could POSSIBLY be unhappy) started to ‘show’ me how ‘self-pitying’ my mum was in many ways, that I started to see her in a new ‘clearer’ light.

Don’t get me wrong, I loved my mother HUGELY, and she was a warm loving woman (except those lash-outs at my dad sometimes), but I can now see the ‘deep flaws’ in her personality, and the endless ‘dramas’ about herself (ring a bell!!!).

Learning to distance myself emotionally, so I was not so ‘raw’ to her neediness (though I never ‘rejected’ her, just made more ‘space’ around myself), was vital to making our relationship less ‘needy’ and more emotionally sound.

It’s entirely possible you, too, can help your mum in that respect - but NOT by endlessly giving in to her self-pity and self-obsession.

I do recommend you write down a list of all the GOOD things in her life - it will NOT be short. She should be THANKFUL for what she has - INCLUDING HAVING YOU! - not endlessly moaning and agonising about things.

(I’m still horrified about that poor dog - that is deeply shocking. Poor innocent animal.)

Thanks for your wonderful, helpful replies. Wow, at times I think it’s me, making these feelings up in my mind xx

I am going to try some.of your suggestions.

I am very lucky that I have a wonderful husband who tells it like it is. He knows what my Mum is like and has seen it first hand.

When I look back I remember times such as steaming open my mail, listening to phone calls. I wanted to do performance art but remember her saying I shouldn’t " you will never get a job doing that". If I remind her, she denies most of it.

When I had my daughter she said she would look after her for work, but not so we could go out enjoying ourselves.

When I was pregnant she invited us to her house for a party and I was going to break the good news. She found out I wasn’t having alcoholic drinks and went on and on about it until I was forced to tell her why over the phone. She kept saying “you drink wine when you go to your MIL’S parties, but not mine”

She was envious of my MIL and caused problems when she babysat too much!

We talked about moving house but Mum said " don’t move, what about me, I will be lonely". Then looked at house on her road.

If I book a holiday, she looks it all up and gives her opinion.

She told me she couldn’t manage child minding anymore so I reassured her and found a childminder. She fell out with me for 2 weeks, swore at me on the phone and bad mouthed my husband. All because she still wanted to child mind for 3 weeks and wasn’t quite ready to give it up.

The list is long. I love her very much and she has been a good Mom and helped and supported me. I do wonder if this comes when it is beneficial for her to do so.

I just feel.so guilty because it’s all I know. I have encouraged and accepted her behaviour. I get angry with myself and wonder what might have been if I had drawn the boundaries earlier in my life.

Thanks all. Feel stronger with your support xxx

Draw a line under it. After Christmas, sit down with your husband and make a plan to keep mum “at bay”. Then book a holiday and do NOT tell her!

Ps Jenny Lucas.
You have made me smile. When you said about everything being against her.

My husband said to me, why do you think she had to move house cause the neighbours were horrible to her, fell out with her Sister, was bullied my siblings when she was young, her mother in law talked about her, her husband didn’t help her when she had appendicitis, left volunteer job cause other lady wouldn’t let her use the till, fell out with workmate’s, has suffered more than you etc

My Mum has been mistreated all her life. Isn’t that odd??:joy::rofl: