Sunday 18 February 2018

My demanding mother is just impossible

Q - I have to write to you about my mother. She was not a great mother when we were growing up. She basically fed us, cleaned the house and shut down, reading as many as 10 Mills & Boons a day. She never attended a sports event and never made friends locally. She told us on getting married that if we had children it was nothing to do with her and to find childminders ourselves. She had reared her own kids and wasn't rearing more. The funny thing is, we raised each other, as we often had to help around the house, mind younger kids, etc. My Dad drank a lot and they fought all the time. He also was not involved in our childhood and was a very selfish and immature person.

Now that we are grown up, moved into our own homes, had our families, she wants all the attention and focus to be on her. She will ring at any time, complaining about minor ailments, complaining about her neighbours, telling personal details about my brothers and sisters to me, and about me to them. She will ring one sibling asking for something, then ring the others saying the first one wouldn't help her. Or if someone does something nice, she'll ring up all the others rubbing their noses in it and comparing one against another. She will ring my mobile and if I don't answer will immediately ring my home phone. If that's not answered in five rings she'll ring my partner's phone, make a big drama saying, "Oh, I couldn't get her, is everything all right?" Then he will be worried and ring me from work to see if I'm ok and ask why I didn't answer the phone.

She will tell neighbours that she is left all alone and that she could die and no one would know (she is a hypochondriac). The thing is, she was never there for us as kids or growing up. She was like a minder who came in, worked, cleaned, and then left. Except she was a mother. We were always in bed by eight no matter what was going on. She never got up to us at night as babies either.

My father died and we were very shaken as it was very sudden. She called me aside one day and said 'you all seem to want to talk about this and are upset, but I'm in a happy place now and don't want to talk about it so you can all talk among yourselves'! My best friend died suddenly and I was upset. Again, she called me aside and said I was making too much of grieving and I was to get anti-depressants and 'end this nonsense'.

We all try to be loving and affectionate to our own kids as we know what it's like not to get any affection, but she laughs and says we're killing ourselves for nothing. I've tried showing her how to be nicer or more caring, including her in things, taking her on holidays, etc., but she always makes some little dig and never ever returns the favour or asks us to anything.

She has a new car, four holidays a year, no mortgage, and is in good health, but she still manages to complain about things. She talks behind everyone's back and is just nasty. I can't find it in myself to even like her.

It's so hard and she won't change. All of this has been pointed out to her but she ignores what we say and continues ringing, harassing, and talking about us behind our backs. I read the term 'energy vampire' recently and it's very fitting. What do we do? It's exhausting. She demands the time and care from us that we never got from her.

AI can hear your frustration as you tell me about your life with your parents, and now particularly with your mother. It must have been awful to grow up without any affection, but what comes shining through your letter is the certainty of how things should be and the equal certainty that you and your siblings are giving your own children as much love and attention as you possibly can.

There is no law that says you must like your mother and from all that you say you are doing everything you can to be a good daughter to her. In order to fully understand her lack of love as a mother to her children, I would need to know her history, so I cannot explain it to you. But I can sympathise and admire you for your tenacity in doing the right thing by her. I'm so sorry that you lost your best friend at what was no doubt an early age. Best friends are our rocks and it is sad that you didn't get to grow old together.

I know it is very difficult for you to keep going with no thanks or acknowledgement from your mother but she isn't going to change at this stage of her life. All I can do is reassure you that you will ultimately be glad that you did all that you could in helping her have a happy life. I have no doubt that your children will have a different story to tell when their time comes to look out for you in your old age.

I applaud you, and indeed your siblings, for continuing to deal with your mother as best you can. Well done, even if you would prefer to hear those words from your mother.

Sunday Independent

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