Supporting an Unappreciative Mom

By Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

From the U.S.: My mother and I have been coming to heads more and more often and I don’t feel like I have anyone I can turn to for help. Our latest fight was last night.

Perhaps it’s best I give you some back-story first. I don’t have a lot of family. By that, I mean, I have people who are physically related to be but have chosen, from when I was a small child, not to be a part of my life. So, since I was young it’s always be my mother and I. My mom and I have always had fights and disagreements, like any normal people would. But I feel in the last few years it has gotten worse. I believe a lot of it stems from her preserved lack of control that she no longer has, as I’m no longer a child but an adult. My mother is also disabled and receives disability so; now being an adult in a fairly well-paying job I am the bigger of the breadwinners. I feel like she resents me for it.

I try to defuse situations and arguments and it just seems to make it worse. If I try to walk away, she yells at me and/or cries. If I show any disagreement toward her opinions, she yells at me and/or cries. If I try to talk rationally and calmly, she tells me I’m being condescending, or somehow invalidating her feelings, even though I’ve been very careful to modulate my voice and remain calm and try to diffuse. It ends in her yelling at me and/or crying. And in EVERY situation, she always turns it around on me, I somehow all to blame, I don’t understand her. I don’t do anything. I don’t see all the things she dose. I’m not the one who should be upset. It doesn’t matter who starts it, she has to finish it.

Perhaps a lot of this is my fault. I usually end up agreeing with my mom and making concessions just because I’m a very non-confrontational person. I don’t agree with her, but I’ll end up doing what she wants just to stop the 3, 4, 5 hour yelling/lecture. Most of these “discussions” are her yelling on top of whatever I’ve said. If I get upset somehow I don’t have a right to. The other portions are her “threatening” to leave and go live in her car. If she feels I’m not responding correctly she’ll go around the house talking loudly to herself about how everyone is against her, she doesn’t even know why she bothers, maybe she should just die, on and on. She’ll start yelling “to herself”, things like “that’s fine, you don’t have to do anything for me anymore, I’ll just go without.

What brought on the latest argument, the one the prompted me to write, was finances. Last year, I gave up most of my income tax check to my mother so that she could get her teeth fixed. Plus another 160/mo. for other dental stuff she needed done. This year I used my taxes to pay off the last of my moms credit card bills, get her a Kitchen Aid Pro stand mixer that she’s been wanting, a few of her other requests, some clothes for both of us, some household stuff we’ve needed, etc. I was so very happy to do it all. And she “seemed” happy too. Until last night when we were talking about savings.

She “told” me, not asked, that I was to put what I had been spending, monthly, on her credit card bills in her savings account. Now that I have the extra that I don’t have to put out, I plan on saving, but I wanted to keep it in my savings. She then asked me, well what am I supposed to do for saving then. At this point, I reminded her that, when she asked me to update our budget, I’d made sure that, (because she had complained that she had little to nothing left after her share of the bills was take care of, to do what she liked with) I had further updated the budget to insure more of the bills (%) was on my side. Currently, I pay about 66% of the bills and she is responsible for the 34%. That leaves her with over a $140 of disposable income every month. All I asked was would it be possible to save from that? She then proceeded to blow up at me, yell at me for paying her bill of as it “apparently hadn’t helped”.

She called me lazy, unmotivated, told me I need to do more around the house. And berated me in any way she could. Even though I don’t believe I did anything wrong, I tried to apologize for making her feel that way and let her know that that wasn’t my intention. She told me I was being condescending “like everybody else” proceeded to compare me to other people and reiterate that I just didn’t see what “she” does. She say’s it like her work (homemaker, and veneering part-time) is so much harder then mine.

She frequently notes that I have nice office job, like I don’t “really” work or something. I’m up every morning at about 4:30 – 5am so I can take a bus and get to work by 8am. I work all day, leave at 4:30pm and don’t get home until around 6:30pm. So, by the time I get home, I’m tired. Reasonably so. I then am usually responsible for preparing a meal and cleaning the dishes afterwards. This takes us to about 9pm (with cooking, eating, cleanup). She yells at me for not helping out around the house more, but when do I have the time? After all of that I have to get ready for the next day (showers, exc.) and do it all again! My only free day is Sunday. That’s when I typically do any house work I have and my laundry. I also get very little sleep due to insomnia and sleep apnea so on the weekend I’m playing catch-up.

The last thing to note is that I feel we are both, for the most part, trapped in our current living situation. We both have bad credit because I was not working for almost two years during the downturn and so my credit suffered, and so did my moms. I’ve finally finished paying off her bills. And now I’m working on trying to help improve both of our credit profiles. The biggest issue now is that we can’t even leave the apartment in the expensive area we live in because we can’t rent anywhere else until our credit improves.

The other issue I am having is her paranoia. If she were to find out I’d written this, she’d most like yell, cry, break things, yell some more, and I don’t know what else. I’ve never spoken to anyone we know outside of a therapist (which I haven’t’ seen for many, many years now). Yet she is always accusing me of telling people the stuff that goes on at home. “I bet you tell everyone at work/church/exc. about ____.” When I was an adolescent and seeing a therapist on a regular basis I learned not to share then too. On one memorable visit. The therapist forgot to turn that noise-dampening machine on and my mom heard everything. As soon as we left the room we saw my mother crying and the therapist and I immediately knew what happed she tried to calm my mom down but my mom just yelled at her, grabbed me, and left. I had to deal with hours of her dissecting everything I’d said (stuff she wasn’t meant to hear!) and being yelled at about how my feelings and perceptions were incorrect and again, everything was turned on me. I just accepted it and agreed with her that day too. The fights last longer if I don’t (the shortest, if I keep my mouth shut, go on for about three hours).

As far as physical violence, she has only hit me a few times in anger that I can remember, but I do not rightly remember the reasons behind it. She usually throws/breaks things, usually mine. Or stuff that belongs to “us” (ie stuff I’ve bought for the house.)

I’ve often thought about getting separate housing but I don’t think as things stand, we could financially afford it or even be able to get in (with each of our poor credit). So, I’m at a loss. What can I do to defuse these fights? I just don’t have the energy or the will to deal with this anymore .this letter could go on and on. I’m just not sure where to go from here. Any advice would be most appreciated. I spent hours last night silently crying in my bed unable to sleep and now I’m exhausted at work and unable to concentrate.

A: You are living in a situation of domestic violence. Your mother has brainwashed you to the point that you can’t think straight any more. She’s not going to change so it’s up to you. You don’t have to listen to her tirades for a minute, never mind hours. You have nothing to feel guilty about. You shouldn’t have to be constantly walking on egg shells just to have some peace in your own home — a home that you are supporting.

Somehow your mother feels entitled to all the help and support you’ve been providing. The financial situation may not be her fault, but she isn’t pulling her share of the family load at all. In my opinion, you should come home to a sparkling house, your laundry done, a nice meal and a lot of gratitude for all you do for her. She may not be able to manage a paying job, but she could be making life easier for you. You don’t owe her extra money for “savings.” You need to be saving money so you can get a place of your own. Even a single room with a hot plate would be better than this.

If you feel guilty about leaving your mom to fend for herself, you might look into whether there is housing available in your area at reduced cost for people who are disabled. There often is. Rent is often determined as a percentage of her income.

I urge you to go back to a therapist and keep your appointments confidential. Maybe you can go on your lunch hour so your mom doesn’t have to know you are getting some help. You deserve and need help if you are going to break through this pattern of abuse and have anything like a civil, respectful relationship with your mother. You need the perspective and support a therapist can offer you. A therapist can coach you in how to deal with your mother’s displays of temper and her accusations.

Please stop caving to your mother’s insistence that you give her still more money. Instead, put your money into getting the help you need so you can free yourself of this highly toxic arrangement. At only 28, you should be having some fun and looking for love in order to make a family of your own — not taking care of a spoiled brat mom.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 28 Mar 2014

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2014). Supporting an Unappreciative Mom. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 26, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2014/03/28/shes-supporting-an-unappreciative-mom/