Relationship with Mum

I just need advice please ?
We live with my 72 year old Mum, she needs support as she has rheumatoid arthritis and when my Dad died 3 years ago we moved in to help her .
She is very controlling and expects me to jump as soon as she calls me. I have heart failure and work part time, and I don’t mind helping her at all.
She gets quite depressed and can be quite nasty, I guess she still misses my Dad. It’s just that I find her very difficult to deal with. I feel that I am treading on eggshells as I worry about upsetting her or what type of mood she will be in. I am 48 married and have a 13 year old daughter. It’s just that she does so little and expects a lot of me .
I have a brother who does nothing. She thinks he is wonderful and will not see any wrong in him . The way I deal with this situation is to say nothing and try to ignore it . I just feel that she is being controlling and I feel that I have no option but to put up and shut up . Am I doing the right thing by keeping quiet and not making a fuss ? Is her behaviour normal and are others in a similar situation? If you are what do you do ?
Thank you

Hi Clare,

it sounds a stressful situation.

Unfortunately, it’s common for parents to worship the absent child and give the one helping a hard time! Its also common for one child to do everything and the other(s) to do nothing. I don’t think you will be able to change your brother or get him to help more.

It is hard as you are living in her house so she has gone back to treating you as a child and it is hard for the roles to shift/change.

I don’t think you can keep making so many allowances now three years on. Of course she misses your Dad, but that’s no excuse for treating you badly.

She is only 72 years old so could require care and support for many years. Therefore, the way I see it you have the following choices;

  • carry on as you are
  • make a stand about what you are willing to accept/not accept
  • move out and arrange care visits for her through a needs assessment
  • look at assisted living/ sheltered living for her


Stop being a good little girl!
It took counselling when I was 60 before I learned to take control. Don’t refuse to do anything by saying No, you choose what you will do, how and when. Strictly on a one at a time! Say things like, I’ve started so let’s get this done before I start anything else. Don’t do ANYTHING for your idle brother, including food!!!

How much is mum paying you???

Hello, Clare. So you do your mother a favour and she makes demands on you and abuses you; whereas she praises your brother who does **** all. That is not a good balance. You deserve better treatment than this. The solution is in your hands.

Stop treading on eggshells. Stop worrying about upsetting her. You are the one that is getting upset, and this is not right in view of what you do for her. Do care for her, but make it clear that there is a limit to what you do. It is OK to say, “I’m busy right now; please wait a minute.”

When she sings the praises of your brother, don’t remain silent; point out that you are the one caring for her. She may respond with a tirade; well walk out and let her get on with it; but at least get your point across.

When she gets nasty, don’t keep quiet and do make a fuss. Take control. Decide what is and is not acceptable and make sure she realises this.

If she still will not accept your terms, you should be thinking of moving out again.

Same here. Eventually we had a blazing row in which mum said I was difficult and argumentative and I said she was a bully. After that we made peace. She realises that she couldn’t manage on her own and is grateful for what I do. Maybe you need a confrontation to make mum realise that she needs you?

I think most of us tend to avoid confrontation, and perhaps for good reason. The text book approach is negotiation is better than confrontation.

But some people do not want to negotiate - certainly not bullies.

A blazing row can sometimes clear the air, as in Jackie’s example. I know this from personal experience.

Bullies don’t want to negotiate; they want to dominate. Their biggest fear is failure. The way to deal with them is to stand up to them.

Hello @Clare,
It sounds a stressful situation. But, relationships are complicated as an adult and becoming a mom can complicate things with your own. There is nothing wrong with spending time with your mother; it’s wonderful to see a mother/daughter relationship that has flourished, but it is not okay for you to be expected to drop all other plans to be with your mom. If you are finding that you are breaking plans to accommodate your mother’s demands to spend time with you, there need to be boundaries set up so that you can live your own life.

I can relate to what you are saying Claire. Mum never really got past her husband dying and seems to be stuck in a rut.

She is very controlling but I think it’s because she is so scared. She gets all worked up if I say I have to go to the office twice in one week and then I feel awkard and bad for even mentioning it. I love her to pieces and would do anything for her but there is no compromising with her and it does my head in.

I, too have, mostly absent siblings who seem to get praised all the time but I am like the male version of Cinderella who gets no thanks and is just expected to get on with it all.

Well, things have been better since the row and we haven’t argued since. I think mum knows she can’t manage on her own and appreciates what I do. I have now rented out my house and moved in with her and I think she appreciates that too. I am sympathetic because she is 94 and doesn’t understand how the world has changed and wants it to be as it was and how she understood it .

We’re all just doing our best. I’m very grateful to my dog who provides entertainment and gets me out of the house every day!

I know you want the best for your mother but I don’t feel like living with your mother at that age is healthy. Your mother should seek psychological help after your dad’s loss and she should live elsewhere. Of course, you should pay her lots of visits but living with her is not the solution.

My situation is very similar to yours, so I feel your pain.
I don’t live with mum but until last week did her shopping, cleaning and hospital appointments, medication support. Mum is 68 with severe osteo and rheumatoid arthritis, she is also anxious and like your mum misses my dad terribly - we lost him in 2013.

Thankfully, she has just been placed in respite for two weeks, following crisis point last week, but she is really upset and I know she is angry with me. I feel guilty for her being there, but as she needs medical as well as usual care, it’s the best place.
My brother doesn’t do much as he lives further away, so I’m shouldering all the guilt, as I am seeing mum most days.
I go back to school tomorrow, so cannot visit her until Saturday now and I feel so guilty.

I’m also worried about what happens next, can she stay there, if she wants… is there assisted living available for her.
She has now dropped below threshold, so we are at the mercy of social services….
I don’t want my relationship with mum damaged…. But this is sooo difficult!

You have to be honest with mum, who probably thinks that “one day” she will get “better” and do all the things she used to. It isn’t going to happen. I’m approaching 70, after 8 operations I can’t do the things I used to either.

You have to keep saying, like a stuck record player, that they have to look after her NEEDS.
She has to be SAFE.

Ring Social Services and ask them outright what their plans are and say you CANNOT support mum, that you work!