Dear Wendy
Dear Wendy

“I Can Hardly Stand To Be Around My Bossy Mother”

I have an issue with my mother that is damaging our relationship to the point that I dread being around her. I recently moved back to the town where she lives to run my own business, and now I see her much more often than I did before. She has always been fairly bossy and controlling, but now she is constantly suggesting a “better” way (i.e. her way) to do things. She comments on everything from what I should/should not wear, how to run my business, what I should say to my customers, where I should live, what to buy, etc. I would consider what she said if it was valid or occasional, but this is an endless barrage. Also, she knows nothing about running a business. I have a high-end vintage clothing boutique and she brings me things to sell that are not right for my business and then keeps nagging about if they are sold and how I should display them, etc. I am in my 50s and, like most people, can figure out how to conduct myself at work and what to eat for supper!

I find it so rude and disrespectful and like I’m invisible — like she does not want to see the real me, just her version of who I should be. I never tell her anything of significance because she would just tell me what to do/not to do, etc. She is afraid of everything, too, and gives me long lectures about staying safe, etc.

If/when she is not trying to impose her will, we can actually have a real back-and-forth conversation like most people do. I have tried to talk to her about this and she just thinks I am bitchy and unreasonable — that she is just trying to be helpful. She treats my father like a child too — like telling him to wash his hands and what condiments he should put on his food!

My sister thinks I am over-reacting and should just ignore her pushy ideas and her raining on a person’s parade, but I hate being treated like I am two when I have created a great life for myself. Am I unreasonable, in your opinion? How can I make her see that she is driving me away? I can hardly stand to be around her. — Ugh, Mom

If you’re in your fifties, that means your mom is at least in her 70s, maybe older. As people age, they change. Lots of times, older folks get crabbier, more argumentative, bossier. They also get lonelier, and they feel less needed. Their days of parenting are long behind them. Any career they might have had where they felt needed is likely long over. They may have a hard time finding ways to feel meaningful. Your mother, as annoying as she may be, wants to have a connection with you. She wants to feel like you still need her advice in some way, her guidance. You may feel invisible to her, but imagine how she feels. Imagine being a 70+ year-old woman in a world that values youth and contributions to society. She cannot be young anymore, but she thinks she can make her voice heard in the world if she’s loud and speaks frequently.

Fortunately, you can let her know that her voice is heard without her speaking loudly and frequently (and annoyingly). Rather than tell her all the things you DON’T want her opinion and advice on, you can give her things about which you DO want to hear from her. She wants to feel like you need her and respect her opinion. Throw her a bone sometimes. What’s the worst thing that would happen if once a week you ate something she suggested you try? What if you wore something she suggested would look nice on you? What if you simply told her you tried these things (even if maybe you didn’t)? What if you picked one or two things in your life where her — let’s call it, helpful advice — wouldn’t harm too much? So, running your business is out, but what about a section of your garden? Or a hair stylist she likes? Or a movie or book she recommends? Or dinner once a week? What if, once a week, you invited her over for a meal and you cooked whatever she suggested? And what if that dinner once a week was the one time you saw her (boundaries!) and your communication between those weekly dinners was limited to short phone calls or text or email exchanges?

I understand how much you may want your mother to celebrate your accomplishments and to see the woman you’ve become instead of, as you say, pine for the version she wishes you were. But, again, I think you need to re-frame how you’re seeing things. It doesn’t sound to me like she isn’t proud of you. It doesn’t sound like she is trying to rain on your parade. It sounds like she is simply desperate for a way to have some impact in her world, to feel needed, and to feel as though her life and existence still have meaning. Her “imposing her will” is simply her trying to stay visible in a world where women her age often aren’t. She’s trying to be heard in a family where everyone wants her to stop talking so much. Tell her when you enjoy hearing from her. When you have a particularly good back-and-forth conversation, let her know how much you enjoy and appreciate that — how much you relish that in your life and wish you had more conversations like that, where the both of you feel heard.

I bet that your mother wants to feel as visible and appreciated for who she is and what she has to offer as you do. Let her know she still means so much to you, and be specific about the ways in which she has impact. Set boundaries, and accept that, within those boundaries, your mother is probably still going to be annoying and say things you would rather not hear. But if those grievances are limited within clear boundaries, I expect you’ll have far more patience and compassion to deal with them.

***************

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If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at wendy@dearwendy.com.

38 comments… add one
  • Nookie

    Nookie September 20, 2016, 9:53 am

    My mom was just here in England with me for two looooooooong weeks. I think it might be different if we lived in the same continent and I could be more used to her but I don’t and I guess to see each other, it has to be a long time like this.
    .
    And she drove me nuts. And I’m sure I did the same to her. But she’s older and stuck in her ways and the only thing I can do is change how I react to her, to be patient as possible and bite my tongue when she tells me the same things over and over again.
    .
    I think Wendy is saying the same thing. You can’t expect your mother to change, you can only change how you react to her and her ways. And I hope that you find it easier, just as I did! There were no temper tantrums this time, unlike last time but that is a different story…

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  • Skyblossom

    Skyblossom September 20, 2016, 10:06 am

    I have a friend who says that old people are just more of what they were as younger people. I think that’s true. None of my grandparents became grumpy, bossy or rude when they were elderly. I think the elderly sometimes lose their inhibitions and you clearly see the true person that maybe they did a better job of hiding when they were younger. I see my mom being ruder and ruder to people and plainly enjoying it. She is saying the things she used to just think and doing the things she would wish aloud that she could do.

    I’d try to limit contact. Not totally cut contact but limit it. You don’t set and maintain boundaries by catering to someones unreasonable behavior. You set boundaries by deciding what you will not tolerate and then stick to the actions that you’ve decided on for that behavior. If she tells you how to run your business and you are at her place you can leave. If she tells you how to run your business and she is at your place you can tell her you aren’t going to discuss your business. If she then continues you can do something else like take out the trash, go do some gardening, go start a load of laundry but do something that stops the conversation. If she comes to your business to tell you how to run your business it is more difficult, especially if you have customers present. You can excuse yourself to take care of customers. You can think of a job that needs done immediately. Be polite but don’t let her drone on. Stay engaged longer if you are having a nice conversation. End it if it is anything else. She will learn that if she wants to spend time with you she needs to be less bossy.

    Research shows that if you give a little every once in a while that keeps the bad behavior going. If a person learns that they will be successful once every tenth try they will keep trying. Even a little giving in reinforces bad behavior. You can’t reward it ever or it won’t go away.

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    • avatar

      Andrea G September 20, 2016, 11:17 am

      Good point. It’s no so much that attitudes get more negative or grumpier with age it just seems we begin to loose our filters.

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  • CurlyQue

    CurlyQue September 20, 2016, 10:15 am

    Wendy your advice is so full of compassion and deep understanding, it’s why i and many people have stayed with you for so many years. WWS! Your mother just wants to feel like she’s needed and that she matters. Let her feel that way in re: to certain things like Wendy suggested. Who knows how much longer you have with her, enjoy the time you have. Also, CONGRATULATIONS on opening your own business!

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    • Skyblossom

      Skyblossom September 20, 2016, 10:24 am

      She can’t enjoy the time they have because her mom is so negative when they are together. I don’t think people who haven’t experienced this understand how emotionally exhausting it is. There is no enjoying their time together as is. She has reached the point she can hardly stand to be around her mother. Nobody can enjoy that. To welcome that pushiness and encourage it will only make everything more negative. If she wants to enjoy a relationship with her mother, not just grin and bear it and wonder how long she can last, she needs to set boundaries that allow her and her mom to have a more normal and happy relationship.

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    • avatar

      RedRoverRedRover September 20, 2016, 10:25 am

      Yes, and especially the part about old women being invisible. My mom has said exactly that; that she feels like she’s invisible when she leaves the house. She said people bump into her, they push her aside, etc. She hates going Christmas shopping now, which she used to love, because she gets banged around so much. And salespeople don’t notice her as often either. Our society really treats old women like they’re nothing.

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      • Skyblossom

        Skyblossom September 20, 2016, 10:41 am

        Maybe her mom needs to make friends and spend quality time with them. The trouble with highly negative people is that they usually have no friends because they are no fun to be around and people avoid them. My own mom doesn’t have any friends. My husband’s mom does and she tries to do things with them. She’s a much nicer, kinder, more thoughtful person than my mom and so people are glad to meet her for tea or to go shopping. I think in many ways what you get out of life is determined by what you are putting into life.

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        RedRoverRedRover September 20, 2016, 11:38 am

        My mom doesn’t have any friends either, but that’s because she had 5 kids and spent her whole life working the night shift and was so busy and on a weird schedule that it was next to impossible to keep friends. Her best friend is her sister, and she’s got me of course. Also she’s an introvert like me and doesn’t want more than one or two friends.

        That’s not why she’s invisible though. Nothing about her has changed except her age.

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    • Addie Pray

      Addie Pray September 21, 2016, 9:49 am

      What CurlyQue said! I loved this response.

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  • avatar

    ugh Mom September 20, 2016, 10:54 am

    Thanks Wendy-I have tried to encourage the positive in our interactions but she is not positive with me . My mom has build her whole life off of instructing others and has never developed herself. I understand to be more understanding of her but I feel Skyblossom really “gets” it. The comments are really judgements and disapproval that don’t quit-she has actually sworn at me,called me an asshole when I have dismissed her reccomendations. I guess I love her because she is my mother,but I do not like her. She is not my friend,and maybe I expect too much to hope she would be.

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    • avatar

      csp September 20, 2016, 1:32 pm

      LW, when she curses at you, do you nip it in the bud immediately? Do you say, “That wasn’t kind or constructive.” or say, “What was your goal by saying that?” I find, when I am about to have a tough conversation, I make sure I know what I want to get and what my intention is. Then if someone gets off topic, like cursing, I can bring it back and say “You are trying to have a different conversation with me, and I need to resolve this first.”

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    • avatar

      Bostonpupgal September 21, 2016, 10:43 am

      LW, I was going to reply with something to the affect of this. Wendy’s advice is great and extremely compassionate, and it would work for someone who has changed as they’ve gotten older and are depressed as a result. Unfortunately I know from experience that throwing a few bones and some attention at someone who has behaved this way their entire life and is very selfish and demanding by nature does absolutely nothing but egg them on to become more critical, more demanding, and more interfering.

      It’s time for major boundary setting. When she brings junk for you to sell, tell her calmly but firmly won’t be selling it, and that unless she takes it back you have no use for it and will give it away. When she asks you later if it sold, tell her you gave it away as you said you would and that it did not go into your store. She’ll get the picture after a few rounds of this. If she’s critical, say “mom I love you but it hurts me when we have these conversations. I’m going to hang up/leave and I’ll talk to you another time”.

      I know how hard it is to stand up to someone like this because of the barrage of tantrums and guilt and yelling that comes after it. But the thing is, those tantrums and guilt are designed to keep you from standing up. Once you suck it up and set those boundaries and weather the storm afterwards, and do that repeatedly, she will start respecting those boundaries.

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  • Skyblossom

    Skyblossom September 20, 2016, 11:17 am

    This is from Stillrunning in the abusive relationship thread in the forums.

    “You sound exhausted. A good relationship nourishes the people in it; it’s not something you have to endure.”

    I think it is perfect insight and applies to all relationships whether they are parent/child, partner, siblings, or friends. You have to ask if the relationship is nourishing or if you are merely enduring it.

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  • avatar

    csp September 20, 2016, 11:33 am

    I agree with creating value and purpose. Really focus the energy. I actually have running to do lists for both my mother, mother in law, and father in law. They all are long term retired and want to help. So I started asking favors and when I did it, it stopped the critiques almost entirely. Some examples:
    1.) I gave my inlaws full reign on what I should plant in my front yard. They measured the house and brought out graph paper. They had a whole plan which was way better than what I would have done.
    2.) I ask my mom to find me recipes and she combs through books and gets them to me.
    3.) I ask my mom to keep an eye out for things at the store. Most recently, it was a spritzer bottle to wet my hair. I needed one and she went stores.
    4.) My inlaws helped with home projects like painting or organizing. ideas for storage.

    I started doing this because I was dealing with long term infertility. And both sets of parents were giving me helpful suggestions on different ways that I could get pregnant. It was a constant focus on my failures even if it was with the best of intentions. I was resentful and buckling under the pressure. So by redirecting their energy, everyone was super helpful, my life got easier, and my relationships with both improved. I would suggest giving her a project at the store. What about filing receipts or the like? What about ideas to bring in more business or how to be part of giving back to the community? What about asking her to make you dinner because it is hard to do that while you are working?

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    • FireStar

      Firestar September 20, 2016, 12:53 pm

      Love this.

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  • avatar

    ugh Mom September 20, 2016, 11:38 am

    Thanks Skyblossom-I know that old friends of my parents stopped socializing with them because they could not stand the way mom treated/treats my dad. I guess he has tolerated and is used to it-but it bothers me to see him treated as a child/person without a mind of his own-the same way she treats me. I could understand if I had big problems I was going on about, and she felt she could advise me on those. It is just constant-“you should do this, you should do that..” She tells me what I should or should not say to my customers ,sometimes when they are in the store and she is there. She is afraid of everything and worries constantly on my behalf. I try to understand and reassure her, but I can’t give up my choices(like what type of apartment I choose to live in) and things that make me happy to appease her fears. Others in the family seem to be able to accept/laugh it off, but I can’t seem to and really don’t know that I should. Also because I am the oldest child and very different from her, she bosses me the most.

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  • avatar

    for_cutie September 20, 2016, 11:41 am

    Based on the letter, I am wondering if the LW’s Mother maybe has some early on-set mental health problems. Repeating oneself, being argumentative, given her age of 70+ start to sound like early symptoms of dementia. Wendy’s advice is excellent, but maybe also too keep an eye on her overall mental and physical faculties in case there is something more serious going on.

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  • avatar

    Slanonymous September 20, 2016, 11:59 am

    The degree to which you are emotionally exhausted by your mother’s behavior is the same degree to which you are (kind of, but not entirely) doing the same thing to her that she is doing to you: refusing to see someone as they really are, instead of who (you or she) wants (she or you) to be. The reality of who your mom is right now (bossy, controlling, nagging, annoying) is not who you want her to be (less bossy, more considerate, etc.).

    Let’s walk through this idea. So, you can see your mom clearly for who she really is. Not all people can see reality clearly, you know. But you can, of course you can — you are a sane, rational, successful, independent, self-aware and competent person capable of seeing reality as it is. Your fifty-something wisdom helps you see even clearer.

    Your mom doesn’t enjoy your same clarity of vision. She’s older and living with some unresolved issues … treating others like children and being so bossy and controlling means she probably never evolved past being an authority and parent and struggles to bring meaning and purpose and control to HER OWN life because she’s so hung up on controlling others. Maybe there are other issues weighing her down as well, maybe she’s harboring regrets at her age or facing down financial insecurity.

    It’s not that she refuses to see you as you are … it’s much sadder … she CAN’T see you as you are. You were right when you said you are invisible. She is too clouded by her own issues to recognize you and respect you as you need to be recognized and respected. Her bossiness and controlling commands and comments are her reaching out for a lifeline of purpose and identity (being the matriarch, the only thing she knows!). She is unable to evolve past that, and until she does, she’ll latch on to anyone/anything that will allow her to persist as she is.

    Accepting that she’s come up short in this area is just something all adult kids must see and overcome eventually. Our parents don’t always stay ‘ahead of us’ our whole lives. My guess is, at your stage in life, many of us will psychologically mature, evolve and level up past what our parents have achieved. Yet, expecting them to always lead the way will set you up for grief.

    Expecting her to treat you the way you wish she would, and getting upset when she does not, upset enough to write a letter … represents a refusal on your part to accept your mom for who she is (bossiness and unpleasantness included). The degree to which you refuse to accept her is the same degree to which you will stress and be affected.

    The way out of this is to accept that this is her, at her best right now, and then gently grieve the difference between who she is and who you want her to be. Wishing and conniving and trying to figure out how to change her represents resistance — the opposite of acceptance. Let go of your vision and wish for who she is, just as you wish she would do for you.

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  • avatar

    ugh Mom September 20, 2016, 12:22 pm

    It is not like mom needs more tasks so she can be/feel useful-like the filing that was suggested. She already takes on too much ( others peoples stuff that they do not ask her to etc. ) If anything ,she does too much and martyrs herself. She won’t let anyone pay /take her out for supper etc. I guess I just want to vent as I know she won’t change. I have asked her to help me, as was suggested-shopping for me etc. It just makes her push harder to do more. The truth is I do not like her and maybe she does not like me either. I could deal with that if we could avoid each other but we can’t. We can get along quite well when she remembers that I am an adult but this is rare. I will try to be polite and ignore her comments going forward but I am angry for sure.

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    • avatar

      Vathena September 20, 2016, 2:03 pm

      But why CAN’T you avoid her? Not completely, but with limited contact? Just because you live in the same town doesn’t mean you need to see her all the time. If she’s just showing up (at work, at your home) then tell her you don’t have time to talk and stick to your boundaries.

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    • avatar

      csp September 20, 2016, 3:08 pm

      one more comment then I am out. LW, I feel like your comments show that you are so defeated by this and don’t see a way out. One thing to realize is that you both have conditioned responses to each other because you have interacted for 50 years. Those patterns are hard to change but they feel so overwhelming because you have done them for so long. Work on breaking your pattern. I know you can do it.

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  • avatar

    Ron September 20, 2016, 1:28 pm

    It sounds like LW’s mother, even as a younger woman, was much the same and that the relationship between the two survived largely because of distance making the unpleasant criticism less frequent. Some mothers want clones rather than independent daughters, capable of running their own lives well, but in a direction a little different than what their mother chose for herself and wants for them. The problem likely is exacerbated by the mother’s age and that clearly makes a solution close to impossible, but I don’t think we can blame this on age-related dementia. Some parents encourage their little eaglets to fly, others want to chain them to the nest.

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  • avatar

    ugh Mom September 20, 2016, 2:07 pm

    Thanks Ron-on a positive note I am a better parent to my son because I am careful to listen and treat him with respect, support that he is capable of making good decisions for himself . I couldn’t care less what he wears if he feels happy with it. He really talks to me and we are very close. She probably pushes her view because she is judgemental and thinks others are judging her by her children. Anyway, thanks everyone for the feedback-it was interesting to get various viewpoints.

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  • Skyblossom

    Skyblossom September 20, 2016, 4:34 pm

    I think one of the most effective things you can do is to go to a therapist/counselor and discuss specific things that come up with your mom and get their recommendations on how to handle those things. Then try them.

    Nobody would tolerate anyone else coming into their business and trying to interfere, especially while there are customers. You definitely need to learn how to set boundaries and effective ways to enforce those boundaries. Just because she is your mom doesn’t mean she has the right to interfere with your business. Just because she is your mom doesn’t mean she can tell you what to eat or wear or how to decorate your home.

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  • avatar

    ugh Mom September 20, 2016, 5:13 pm

    Thanks Skyblossom/Ron. I will work on detaching from any hoped for outcomes. I have talked to a therapist about this. Only a person who has experienced dealing with someone who always has a better idea, a better plan, “knows how you should live better than you” knows as Skyblossom said-“How exhausting it is”.

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  • Skyblossom

    Skyblossom September 20, 2016, 5:41 pm

    I wonder if you could direct her focus away from you in some way. When she brings things to your business that don’t fit what you sell tell her why they don’t work and then say you think she has a great idea with them and suggest she sell them on eBay or etsy. Keep telling her you think she’d be great running her own business online. Or course, that would depend on her having an internet connection and an interest. I have no idea if this would help or if she just wants to be focused on you.

    One other option is to move which would mean taking your business and establishing it in another location which might or might not work.

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  • avatar

    ugh Mom September 20, 2016, 6:06 pm

    Thanks-She is not on a computer and would not want to actually create her own business-this is all about “me”. I have given her gifts different times that she hinted would be something that would interest/occupy her or she would like to do, but she did not ever use them. She thinks she is “helping” and she is no,t and for many practical reasons (space) availability etc.,I can not keep all the stuff she insists on getting me even when she knows I don’t need or want them. I feel guilty getting rid of it because she asks and I either lie ( then she will do more of the same ) or hurt her feelings by being truthful. she really just wants me/us to allow her to run our lives. I have just moved back to her city to help because Dad is sick and I have other friends and family here. Thanks again all for your responses.

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    • Skyblossom

      Skyblossom September 20, 2016, 6:13 pm

      That’s tough. I think the best thing you can do is severely limit contact but I don’t know how you do that if she keeps showing up at your business. I don’t have a good enough idea of how that could or would work.

      You can go to her house much less often. You can not answer the door when she goes to your house. You can’t lock her out of your business because you would also be locking out your customers.

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  • avatar

    saneinca September 21, 2016, 12:08 am

    How about returning the stuff she gave you after sometime saying that you could not sell it ? Also encourage her to get a job ( I know this additional work for you but still) that could keep her more busy ?

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  • avatar

    LisforLeslie September 21, 2016, 6:11 am

    You are between a rock and a hard place for sure. In my family we have a term that we use for the response that is required at times like this: The GrinFuck. When someone is giving you advice or telling you how to run your life and you have absolutely no intention of following instructions you simply nod and grin and toss off a comment such as “I’ll consider that.” or “Thanks for thinking about me”. We do it to one another when we’re getting too up in one another’s lives – my cousin is the queen. She does it and you don’t even know you’re being grinfucked. Luckily no one really holds tight to their advice and feels put out if it’s not followed.

    You must be exhausted. As I think about your situation, I’m wondering if you went nuclear in a few areas it may rein in your mom. For example, if she bought things for you to sell, what if every time you just say “Nope. Take it back or I’m donating it to the Salvation Army down the block.” Every. Single. Time. She’ll throw a tantrum to be sure, but like a toddler, eventually she’ll learn that she doesn’t control this aspect of your life. If you stay calm and treat her like a toddler, eventually she’ll wear herself out. Like a toddler. And every time you say “No” you then tell her something nice or redirect her. Like a toddler.

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  • Skyblossom

    Skyblossom September 21, 2016, 10:11 am

    I think people should look at this like they did the grandmother running the grandson’s finances. If the LW started letting her mom control aspects of her life and then met a guy she wanted to marry and he wrote in the letter would tell about her mom telling her what to eat and she does it. Her mom telling her what to wear and she does it. Everyone would say she needs to set boundaries around her relationship with her mom and to not marry her and that the mom controlling the life of someone who is 50 is a huge red flag. For her own well-being she needs to be an autonomous, independent adult and her mom has to transition to being the parent of an adult. Part of parenting is understanding that you kids grow up and make their own decisions and run their own lives.

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  • avatar

    Ron September 21, 2016, 11:19 am

    I think the most difficult thing about a situation like this is the impact upon the daughter’s self-esteem. We all grow up craving parental approval. When we don’t get it, it hurts a lot and we can start to take invalid criticism too much to heart. Even in a case like this, where LW is 50 and knows that her mother is unfairly critical and manipulative, it is difficult to prevent the rot caused by constant parental criticism from seeping into one’s subconcious. This is where therapy can help. It is nice to try to give your mother a sense of usefulness, as many suggest, and this certainly is a kind thing to do, but for self protection, LW has to reach a point where she both knows and feels that her mother’s criticism of her is both wrong and worthless and also coming from a place of selfishness and mental weakness within her mother. That is a very fine line to walk: trying to have a helpful and at least partially satisfying relationship with mother while utterly discounting virtually everything she says. Since LW was drawn into proximity with her mother by the need to help her ailing father, unfortunately withdrawal is not an option. What is needed is the same mind-switch in thinking about mother as has already, in different circumstances, occurred with father. LW now has to be in the parent role. It is a difficult adjustment to make, for all parties involved.

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  • avatar

    dinoceros September 21, 2016, 11:32 am

    I think this is all pretty interesting because it seems to hinge on the mother’s age. If she were younger, it sounds like some of the advice might be skewed toward the fact that she’s not respecting boundaries, etc. But because of her age, there’s the idea that it’s out of her control or it’s a response to her feeling bad or, I suspect, undertones of “she might not be around much longer, so be grateful for whatever you get.” I think that’s hard because I’m not sure that for everyone the feelings that you get when a parent is being controlling and nitpicky change simply because they age.

    What I’ve been wondering is, what is the age cutoff where it goes from their rude or hurtful behavior being their fault and where it is excusable because of their age? At what point does it go from a toxic relationship to them just needing empathy because they are acting out over negative feelings about themselves?

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    • avatar

      LisforLeslie September 21, 2016, 2:24 pm

      I think that’s an interesting question. When kids hit their 20’s/ 30’s parents can have a hard time letting go and kids can have a hard time establishing a new relationship with a parent – one that is more adult to adult than child to adult. But that should really end in the mid 20’s (maybe early 30’s depending on the people). This situation represents a long standing and well entrenched relationship in which the LW left the region to avoid the nonsense. In not establishing those boundaries 20 + years ago (and no one else in the family establishing boundaries – this is not just the LW and her mom) – it’s harder to imagine the mom suddenly “getting it” and backing off. So you have to deal with it as a person who likely won’t change because the faint repercussions (friends avoiding her, family dismissing her) aren’t enough.

      But I get Wendy’s original point – there’s another transition as you retire and lose that set of connections/sense of usefulness that can cause people to lean heavily on others – or pick them apart to make themselves feel better. For those people volunteering, getting more social, finding something to occupy their time is very beneficial. I think that’s less likely the situation here.

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    • Skyblossom

      Skyblossom September 22, 2016, 8:24 am

      I think if someone has always been this way then you don’t give them leeway for age. This is who she is and has been. I think you give someone more unconditional acceptance if they’ve been a kind, loving and positive person in your life and then change. You can then assume that the change is beyond their control and due to something like dementia. If they’ve always been mean, rude, insulting and controlling then that is who they are and you need boundaries. I think you have to know their history to know the difference and she gave us enough history to know her mom isn’t suffering a change due to dementia. This is who her mom is and who she always has been.

      I don’t think that acting out over your own negative feelings is ever ok. Each of us must earn respect and earn relationships by being good, decent, thoughtful, kind people. When someone manages their own negative feelings by lashing out at those around them they usually lose their friends or don’t make any to begin with. Family is usually stuck tolerating it longer until too much is too much and then they also distance themselves.

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    LadyK. September 24, 2016, 2:35 am

    Dear LW,

    My grandmother did the same thing to my mom and now my mom does the same thing to me. If you have kids you will do the same to them. Circle of life.
    I’m an adult, but if I don’t answer the phone, my mom would assume I am dead in a ditch. I wasn’t, I was just driving and couldn’t answer the phone. Of course if I answered the phone while driving, I would probably end up dead in a ditch.

    I suggest, you just do what your sister does, it makes life much easier. Maybe if you spend more time with her outside of work, she will come by your work less often. Worth a try.
    As people get older, they become more set in their ways. Thus it is difficult to set boundaries with your elders most often. They feel, they are older and wiser, thus our younger folks opinions/request are not often listened to. Get used to it. s\She is your mom and still sees you as a 5 year old who needs help running their lemonade stand.
    You could sign her up for some jazzercise classes or retiree outings, so she has something to do during the day, besides bug you at your office. She may just need something to do during the day to fill the time. Find her a hobby, just don’t force it on her. She needs to think she found it on her own.

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    • Skyblossom

      Skyblossom September 24, 2016, 10:24 am

      You can choose to be different and many, many people make that choice.

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  • avatar

    PBS March 15, 2017, 4:12 pm

    I’m sorry, But in your 50’s You are just starting to see who your mother truly is. I moved away from my parents for 8 years. I moved back near them when i received a better job closer to them. That is when this type of behavior became more apparent. Your mom was probably always like this, but you were too close to it growing up. Once you take yourself out of this situation and have an independent life, then move back you start to see it. My mother is a narcissistic mother. I believe she is in the Borderline personality disorder equation of narcissism. This message hit close to home with me. They don’t see you as a separate person. They see you as extensions of themselves. They bully, put down, manipulate, lie…etc to get what they want. They do this more so with their own daughters and family members. Most children of narcissistic mothers don’t realize it until they are well into adulthood. They need that “AHA” moment and I think you are having yours. These people never developed and independent self. They live their lives through their children. I say children because they are a child in an adult’s body. They don’t know independence for themselves. They are envious of the people that have a life that they want and they will put down that life at any turn. Nothing will ever be good enough. It is the bully mentality. They become controlling. They micromanage everyone and everything. They are invasive and intrusive. You need to set boundaries with her. If you don’t, then she will continue to steamroll over your wishes at any given moment. She has her own agenda in mind and couldn’t care less what you want. Do yourself a favor and read up on borderline personality disorder ( BPD) or narcissistic Personality disorder (NPD). I think this will ring true and give you a wake up call. “Daughters of narcissistic mothers .com is a lovely website that helped me figure this out. Then family tree counseling helped as well (They have their own channel on you tube that is wonderful). Then Lisa A Romano ( also a you tube channel) all channels are free to subscribe to. In the past few years i have realized what my mother is and getting help for narcissistic abuse. I hope you find your answers and i think you will. many blessings to you

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