Aging Parents and Elder Care logo

Support Group

My mum who is very young at heart and fitness and ability, at 61 years old has moved in with me and my two very young children who are aged 2.5 and 4.5. I am a single mom.
She has always been a micro controller and is still trying to control every element of my life. I’m in the middle of an international divorce among some other problems and thankfully I’m doing really well with it all. My mum left my dad and the family home about 4 years ago and never dealt with her problems or sorted the divorce. Because of this she was technically “homeless”. She lived with my brother for a year ( he has no kids), my sister for a year ( she has an older son) but they fought constantly and now with me. Today I had a particularly stressful day. It included a lot of difficult legal paperwork and a trip to a dietitian with two young children among many other things. At the end of my day the children were asleep in bed and I felt like having a glass of wine - which is not the norm but I thought it would be nice. She gave me constant grief for even thinking about it. I am a great mum I think. Everything I do I do for my kids. I just wanted to help my mum get sorted in a new place but now I think I’ve bitten off more than I can chew. What should I do. Please kind people who have read so far , please may I ask you for advice?
Quote 0 0

It is very challenging to live with someone like this.  Her sense of entitlement jumps out at me. Even though it is her responsibility to find her own housing, she is more than comfortable allowing you (and your siblings) to manage this issue for her.  Perhaps she is afraid or maybe she really likes controlling others this way, but either way, it is a huge red flag. Here are some other red flags you have indicated:
  • Your mom doesn't have very good boundaries.
  • She cannot seem to get along with people.
  • She needs to feel in charge and in control, even though she won't take control of her own messes or manage her own affairs.
  • She lacks a sense of whose house she is in or what stress you are under
  • She lacks empathy
  • She picked on you concerning your choice to have a glass of wine. Perhaps she is triggered by drinking (based on a past experience with someone who drank) and now she cannot see the difference between one glass of wine and full-out alcohol abuse; or perhaps she simply likes feeling superior to people and looks for things like this to harp on. Either way, consider the possibility that she may actually enjoy putting you down just so she can feel better than you.
  • She doesn't respect the truth that you are an adult and she no longer has any say in how you manage your life.
I am familiar with situations like this. If you are like me, you feel compassion for her situation, but get frustrated when she acts disrespectfully. Sadly, she likely cannot change her behavior because this is how she survives. She relies on dysfunctional behavior to keep herself stable.

Sometimes we think we are helping people by giving them a break, but sometimes all we are doing is enabling them to stay stuck in their dysfunction.  If people are moving forward, then we are helping, but if they are not, then maybe we need to consider that all we are doing is enabling more destructive behavior.

In order for her to continue her dysfunction, she needs people like us to base our choices on our feelings rather than on the truth.  On our end, we need to see that our parents shaped us to be part of this dynamic, and we often cooperate with dysfunction thinking it is "love."

In my experience, the only way to see improvement is if we change the dynamic.  That means we need to learn new ways of managing things. Right now your mom is interfering with you, but eventually she may go after your kids.  People who see others as objects use do not limit themselves to adults.  Children are fair game.

You may want to read about the Karpmen Drama triangle, as it provides a pretty clear model of what many of us are dealing with on a day-to-day basis.  Seeing the dynamics in play helps us realize that it is not healthy for anyone to be caught in this dynamic.

On a practical level, you can probably assume that she will not work with you to find a mutually agreeable solution, so it will be up to you to establish some strong boundaries. I would not expect her to be a cooperative tenant, so if you can detach from her emotional reactions and establish some healthy ground rules, it might help. Maybe you could make it a condition of living there that she has to find a job and get counseling.

If she resists, be prepared to see her storm out and choose homelessness.  She knows you would be uncomfortable with this, and that is why she feels so powerful right now.  Even though it is very hard to imagine this as an outcome, it truly is her choice.  She may try to paint you as the enemy so that she can appear the victim, but try not to fall into this black hole. If she chooses to leave rather than doing healthy things like seek a job or get counseling, you are not responsible.

Finally, if you are having a difficult time with this, get some support.  It is not only the right thing to do, but also a great example to your children.

Please take care.
Quote 1 0