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How to handle diffcult conversations with my mother

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  • This topic has 17 replies, 4 voices, and was last updated 3 months ago by avatarbrise.
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  • #963281 Reply
    avatarMrs. B

    I could use some advice on handling conversations with my mother.

    For background: my parents are our only family in our country and see wee them regularly (every month or so, usually staying overnight). I think it’s important for my kids to have a close relationship with their grandparents.

    My problem is that every time we see them my mom will bring up certain topics that she wants to discuss. Often these are things I don’t want to talk about with her, or I don’t have much of an opinion on.

    For example, this past weekend she brought up a graphic she had seen online about all the things women have had to learn (e.g. you can’t walk alone at night etc.). I made a noncommittal response, that I had seen similar graphics. She continued to try to talk about it, and search for it online to show me. I made more bland comments, said that I didn’t have much to say about this topic, and she ended up in tears. Later she told me that she felt dismissed and that she was stupid to bring it up. I apologised but I’m not sure how to prevent this from happening in future.

    Another topic she likes to bring up is how (in her opinion), womens’ lives are controlled by which men ask them out, and propose to them, and women don’t have any control over the dating process (?!?!? I guess this was her experience but not mine!). She likes to bring up my cousin, “Jane”, who is in her 40s, single, and recently moved back to her hometown. I don’t know Jane well, I haven’t seen her in 20 years, and I have no idea what her experiences have been. I’m really not comfortable talking about her or speculating about her life. My mom obviously thinks that Jane is sad and pathetic and this must be because she can’t be forward with men (!?!?!? even assuming that Jane prefers men!). I don’t want to talk about it but I also don’t want to to hurt her feelings.

    (It’s pretty contradictory that she wants to discuss womens rights #MeToo experiences but also assumes a single woman over 40 is sad and pathetic and must want to be married. She has said things to me before like “single women are the dregs of society”).

    Any suggestions for handling these conversations? I have tried changing the subject or finding an excuse to leave the room but she will bring up the topic again later on, or the next time I see her. Bland responses obviously aren’t working either.

    Often I think these topics are actually an attempt at discussing her own life/regrets. She needs a therapist for that (not me).

    #963283 Reply

    I’m not really sure but I was in a similar situation once. I would try to ask your mom why she wants to talk about these topics and if she mentions any issues that she’s struggling with, try to calmly tell her that you are not the person she should talk to about this. This is what worked for me but I obviously don’t know much about your mom or your relationship with her. Maybe you can also tell her that you want to enjoy the limited time you have with her rather than talking about such heavy topics?

    #963285 Reply

    One thing everybody should realize real quick is that MANY topics of conversations that people bring up are are one you personally actually rather boring. Or even disagree with.

    But there is no reason to be such a cunt about it.

    Sorry —- but your letter and attitude are both incredibly dismissive to you mother who —-frankly —- sounds much more WOKE than you about how things truly are for women in your pointedly unnamed or mentioned country of residence.

    #963287 Reply

    Well, why don’t you just engage with her? Ask her when and how she came to believe what she does. You don’t have to agree with her in order to listen to her. Maybe you’ll learn more about your mom. Tell her how you came to believe what you believe. Have — you know — an exchange of ideas. What’s wrong with that? It doesn’t sound like she yells or cuts you off or tries to force you to see things her way.

    If she is now a grandmother, #metoo is very likely something that she could never have imagined. It’s cool to think she’s open to learning from it, but it’s not like she’s going to change all her conditioning over night.

    If you listen with curiosity to her, a genuine interest in her past and how she came to think the way she does, then she will likely extend you the same courtesy. Hell, you could probably write a book about how women evolve over generations.

    At least she’s capable of talking about something other than the weather.

    #963288 Reply

    Why not engage her about these things? “Mom, do you think if I’d never married Bill, I’d be alone, lonely and useless?”

    “Yes, it so sad that women have to learn to be afraid of men and tailor their lives to the possibility of being assaulted, but it’s easy more sad men aren’t taught that women shouldn’t be assaulted and deserve equal respect.”

    “Why do you want to talk about this, Mom?”

    Why don’t you want her to talk about her life with you?

    I don’t think you owe your mother these conversations, but it sounds like you enjoy your parents and want to have that relationship, so…talking to them comes with that. She doesn’t need a therapist because she’s trying to talk about womanhood with you.

    #963290 Reply
    avatarMrs. Bond

    Thanks so much for your responses, @anonymous21 and FYI.

    – Yes, suggesting that someone else might be a better person to talk to about this would be good.

    I’ll try to think about doing that more in future. Sometimes it’s just a timing thing – I’m trying to relax or do the dishes or something and she wants to have a meaningful conversation. She does have a way of persistently trying to get me to agree with her about things even if I’m indifferent about it.

    It’s not that I don’t want to talk to her at all, but there are certain topics that she brings up often, and I don’t feel like it’s possible to have a productive conversation with her about it. We’ve been over it before. I need a way to politely move on without offending her.

    #963291 Reply

    Your conversations with your mom can be a give and take. They don’t have to be limited to topics that you personally find interesting. Hear her out. Say where you agree and where you disagree and why. Eventually, introduce a topic you’re interested in. That’s how people converse.

    #963292 Reply

    Like, this was pretty rude:

    “ She continued to try to talk about it, and search for it online to show me. I made more bland comments, said that I didn’t have much to say about this topic, and she ended up in tears. Later she told me that she felt dismissed and that she was stupid to bring it up.”

    A different way to react to this would be to ask her what she felt she had to learn as a woman and how was that for her. And then just freaking listen to her.

    #963293 Reply

    Yeah, it struck me as rather rude as well. Cluelessly rude, maybe. But rude nonetheless.

    #963295 Reply

    I’m not sure that the mother doesn’t want to talk about her fears for daughter’s life, rather than, as suggested above, her own life. If she is concerned about her own safety, it shouldn’t be an imposition for you to discuss her issues and give her safety tips. Older people can become very frightened by things they read on the internet.

    #963299 Reply
    avatarMrs. Bond

    Yeah, I didn’t handle that conversation very well at the time. I wasn’t in the right mindset to talk about that topic at that particular time. I could have said that!

    But I also realized that I think she’s bringing some of these topics up because she’s trying to process her own trauma. I’m not very comfortable with being that kind of a support for her, especially if e.g. I suspect she’s alluding to her own marriage. I think she’s pretty far from being ready to seek support elsewhere though.

    #963300 Reply
    avatarMiss MJ

    “She doesn’t need a therapist because she’s trying to talk about womanhood with you.”

    OMG, THIS!! Your mother is actively trying to relate to you by expressing and trying to talk to you about the impact society has had on women and things that likely were not been spoken about in her generation and she’s probably just now considering or reconsidering and you’re – brushing her off? Annoyed? I don’t get it, tbh.

    I mean, you do you, but my mother and I have had some fascinating conversations around the #metoo movement, rape culture, the trappings of the patriarchy, societal expectations and burdens on women (she couldn’t even wear pants to school until high school!!!) etc., and she is by no means super liberal on them. We come at them from different places at times, but she’s open to discussing and learning. And I’ve found her perspective fascinating as well. These are the conversations that lend us insight into each other beyond “Mother” and “Daughter” and see each other as “Mom of MJ” and “MJ.” I…I dunno, I really value talking to my mom about that stuff.

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