Since highschool I have known what I want to do with my life and I have worked hard for it. My parents are cuban and pretty traditional, but my dad is not the issue. ALthough I could have gone ot an ivy league school out of highschool, my mother wanted me to stay at home and I obliged and commuted to my local university 0 which is a great school and i received a huge scholarship. I felt as though I was missing out on the college experience and when I was 20 moved on campus. This really hurt my mother and she cried nearly every day, even though I came home every thursday and did not return to school until sunday. I graduated from the honors college at my university, with numerous honors and at the top o my class. I also made it into one of the top 5 graduate schools for what I want to pursue. My mother says she wants to die. She says she never expected for her children to leave home and her dream was always to have me live at home until I got married and even then I would live nearby. She says she is hurt because she stayed home with her parents and never wanted to leave. Apart from sadness she expresses this very angrily, saying I am overambitious and am putting my own selfish pursuits in front of family. I do not understand why she can’t just be happy and proud of me and let me go like the majority of mothers who want the best for their children. I am miserable and every day there is screaming and crying because we want different things. She seems to pride herself on the fact she is “letting” me go to school and says she will suck up the pain, but that she wants to die because there is nothing left and her life did not turn out how she wanted. I have considered going to my local law school, but I will be sacrificing a lot and I know I will be miserable. In addition, she says even if i did so it would not count because I am doing it out of guilt, not because I wanted to stay with my family. I am at a loss and everyday has become a huge emotional struggle. One of us will end up hurt. What do I do?

A: First, congratulations on all your considerable achievements. You have every right to be proud of yourself.

You are suffering because you are caught in a generational divide. Your mother wants you to repeat the life she led, staying near her parents. You are in America where there is more emphasis on individualism. You are not going to change her. She is not going to change you. Your mother has made it clear that you can’t win so stop trying to. Although your suffering shows how much you do care about your mother’s feelings, it isn’t getting you – or her – anywhere.

There is no need for screaming and crying. Screaming and crying tells your mother that you might be coerced into doing as she wishes. Clear decisions are stated with calm certainty. Make a promise to yourself that you will stop your end of the fight. If your mother makes accusations or statements meant to provoke guilt, you can tell her you love her very much but that it’s time for you to grow up and move on. Reassure her that you will certainly want her to be part of your life in some way, especially when you marry and have children. Let her know that her blessing and her pride in you mean a great deal but that you need to look to your future, not her past. You gave her what she wanted in your choice of undergrad school. Now it’s her turn to support you in doing what you want to do for graduate work.

Your best ally in this situation should be your dad. When adult children leave home, there is often opportunity for the parents to rekindle their relationship. Your mother’s focus is still on being a mother of a young person, not on being a partner for her husband.Your dad could help a great deal if he would court her a little and tell her how much he is looking forward to having her all to himself again. Perhaps that will help her shift her attention back to where it belongs — with her husband. I suggest you talk to him adult to adult and ask for his assistance in helping your mother through this difficult transition.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 7 Jun 2011

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2011). My mother says she wants to die because I want to go away for graduate school. Psych Central. Retrieved on July 11, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2011/06/07/my-mother-says-she-wants-to-die-because-i-want-to-go-away-for-graduate-school/

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