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.
If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at [email protected].