Mom treats the family as a burden.

By Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

For the past few years my mom seems angry at our family for no apparent reason. She’s always acting like a martyr and like we are all huge burdens to her. My dad is quite helpful around the house and when I am home from university I either cook supper for all of us or help with cooking and cleaning but my mom acts like we do nothing. Often when my dad or I clean something she will re-clean it after us, sighing as if we didn’t do a good enough job. She is often in a foul or sullen mood and if we ask what is wrong she just sighs ‘nothing’, making it seem like we are the problem.

It really upset me when I was at a neighbour’s with my mom and she was talking about how horrible it is to be a working mother, like I had been some huge burden in her life. My mom had been retired for two years and she still often says things like this.

It has gotten to the point where I don’t want to come home from school because of my mom and my older sister rarely comes home now because of the way my mom makes us all feel like burdens. I feel really bad for my dad because he is such a good, helpful guy but my mom is always exasperated at him for something.

I feel bad for this but I sometimes fantasize that other people are my mom — like a professor I had a school or a nice doctor that I’ve seen. I even sometimes wish that my dad would divorce my mom so that he could have a partner who is nice to him more often. I hope to have kids one day but I’m afraid I might treat them like my mother treats me and being made to feel like a burden is not good for one’s self confidence.

Do moms just not like their children as much once they are grown up? I just want her to act like she likes me and not like I am a problem and burden to her. When I am at home I sometimes can’t help going to my room and crying because I wish so much that things we like they used to be when my mom wasn’t always angry at all of us. Is there anything I can do?

A: It’s very possible that this is a medical problem. When someone’s attitude and personality change so dramatically, it usually means that something is wrong. Your mom feels lousy and tired. She is irritable. She isn’t enjoying the people she loves. These are all symptoms that are consistent with a depression. And the depression may be caused by such things as a thyroid problem, a vitamin deficiency, or menopause (to give you just a few examples).

A thorough medical work-up is long overdue. If everything checks out okay medically, then she should be seen by a mental health provider for an evaluation and treatment. Please share this reply with your dad and sister. Maybe you can all find a loving way to let your mom know that you care about her and worry about her and want her to be happy again. Urge her to see her doctor. If possible, your dad should go with her to help the doctor understand what living with her has been like since your mom probably doesn’t know how her behavior has been affecting all of you. Fantasizing won’t help this situation but treatment will.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 11 Sep 2007

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2007). Mom treats the family as a burden.. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 18, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2007/09/11/mom-treats-the-family-as-a-burden/