Guest agony aunt Philomena Lynott tells a reader: ‘Break it to your mum — she’s not one of your girlfriends’
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Published 16/04/2011 | 05:00
Q: My mother is trying to be my new best girlfriend and it’s driving me spare. I know this makes me sound like a right so-and-so,but I can't help how I feel. My mum had me when she was 21, so she was always a young, cool kind of parent. I'm now 32 and my mum is a youthful 53.
We always got on well while I was growing up. I have a younger brother in his 20s, but he and mam have never been that close, so she's always looked to me and relied on me more.
My parents split up when I was a child, so my mother has been a single woman for a long time. She has had boyfriends and partners, but she's been on her own now for about three years. Maybe she's getting lonely as she gets older, and she's been asking a lot more of me and my time. She wants to go for drinks, see movies and come round for dinner, and I always feel too guilty to say no.
She has even been out a few times with me and my friends. She doesn't disgrace herself, thank God, but she would be talking about how hot some fellas are and contributing to conversations about sex and things. My friends all think she's a laugh, but I'm not happy about it. I need my own space, away from my mother, to make my own life, but I never feel like I can say this to her.
The latest thing is she wants us to go on a 14-day cruise together. She's all on for it, but I dread the thought. We'd have totally opposite ideas of what would constitute a good time on that holiday.
I've been putting her off for weeks, but need to make a decision soon. How can I bring all of this up with my mum without hurting her feelings?
A: You seem to have a good grasp on what is occurring here. It strikes me that the boundaries of the traditional relationship between a mother and her daughter have become blurred, and it is obvious from your letter that this situation is creating a lot of discomfort for you.
While you might take some comfort from the fact that your mother obviously enjoys your company, and also seems to like your choice of friends, in a real way she is trying to take on the role of your friend or sister — and maybe she's forgetting that she's your mother.
She doesn't seem to see any conflict in playing this new role and this is understandably putting you under a lot of pressure, both emotionally and in practical terms. Of course, the situation needs to be resolved before it gets out of hand or before something is said, by either you or one of your friends, that will make the situation far worse for both of you.
The first step I think you need to take is to sit down and talk to your mother and explain your feelings to her. Part of that discussion might include you suggesting that you both go out on other occasions together, maybe to a film or to a concert and dinner. If you really think you might not feel comfortable about talking to her calmly and openly, perhaps you can think of a mutual friend or a relation you can trust who could mediate between the two of you?
Either way, I think you need to act soon before matters come to an unpleasant head. Your mum has obviously done a really great job in bring up an articulate and smart daughter, but she seems to have lost her own way in terms of separating the relationship between daughter and mother.
It's quite possible that she’s feeling lonely and craves company of people like yourself, whom she obviously loves. It's also possible that she is getting on in years, and that joining the company of younger women might make her feel younger and more vibrant than her age. That said, it is not really healthy or appropriate for your mother to want to live her life through her daughter. She owes it to you as an adult to allow you to have your own space with your own circle of friends so that you can live your own life.
However, there is a need for both consideration and clarity in your discussions with her so that you do not inadvertently give her any impression that either you or your friends do not enjoy her company, or that you do not want to spend time with her. It's just that there's a time and a place and she has to understand that you have your own independent life to lead. Given that she's obviously an outgoing woman who enjoys company, it's reasonable to assume that she must have friends of her own age she can socialise with or confide in on a regular basis. Without being aggressive or rude, it's time to send her a clear message: it's time to grow up, mum — your daughter has! All the best.