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Am I to Blame for the Toxic Relationship with My Mother?

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From roughly the age of 9 I have had an extremely volatile relationship with my mother. From the outside looking in, she is a very law-abiding pilar of the community. Very pleasant to speak to within certain audiences, her family, our friends etc but when we are alone she is almost like a completely different person. As though her problems manifest into those few moments (I limit time alone with her now) and she lets it all out. How terrible her life and usually how myself and my father are to blame. I used to feel sorry for my father but now as an adult with my own children, I feel a sense of anger as to why he has allowed this to go on or was it that he doesn’t see the full extent of the emotional abuse. One time I remember as a child she was in one of her moods so I put my headphones in as a coping mechanism. We were in town and she grabs them out of my ears and told me to get lost (in polite terms) and I walked to my grandmother’s house which was around 4 miles away alone. My father came to collect me and I got told off as he did not believe it was my mother who told me to do this and I suppose that had a lasting impact as since then I don’t believe he trusts me as an innocent party.

Skip to today and many horrific arguments since my latest issue have been through childcare. I recently had another child who is 9 months old and planned to return to work part-time this month however I was poached for a job offer which I could not turn down however it was full time. Of course, I have tremendous guilt about this for my own kids but my husband and I felt it would benefit the family financially so much it was worth a shot. My mother then said she would alternate childcare 3 days one week and 2 the other with my mother in law but there would need to be flexible as she has things on. My husband and I decided that we would have a childminder for 2 days and let the grandparents alternate for the other 3 so it’s less of a tie to them and allows more structure. I turned up to discuss this and she was alone so I knew immediately it would result in an awful encounter. On mentioning the childcare she said she would not have my children at all then as it wasn’t on her terms and that she will never forget the time I said I hated her in a past argument of which she was pushing me by saying I did over and over. Trust me she has said so much worse quite frankly yet she looks back and cannot register her behavior. She says I am mentally unwell and that I have episode’s and make up these scenarios of abuse. That she is an innocent person. This really really gets to me as I ponder do I have psychological problems,? Should I seek help?? My husband reassures me otherwise and can see my mother in the way I do. After 5 years together I want to believe him. The problem is everyone sees my mother as this law lovely woman which makes me feel firstly very lonely as I can’t talk to anyone about it and also terrified that everyone thinks I am this awful person who denies my mother her grandchildren. Could it be me with an undiagnosed disorder? How can I move on from this? (From the UK)

Am I to Blame for the Toxic Relationship with My Mother?

Answered by on -


It is time to make the break from your mother. She isn’t as interested in your well-being as she is in control. Taking the job, finding good childcare, and getting out from under her control should be your priority. Where your children get childcare is for you and your husband to decide. If she won’t see your children at all if you don’t do it her way, then this will be her loss.

If you are worried about the degree to which you may be struggling emotionally it would always be acceptable to go for a psychological evaluation by a psychiatrist or clinical psychologist. But the situation you are describing here is a matter of of your mother believing she can threaten you by not caring for her grandchildren. You and your husband need to do what is best for you and you family — not what will appease your mother.

Wishing you patience and peace,
Dr. Dan
Proof Positive Blog @ PsychCentral

Am I to Blame for the Toxic Relationship with My Mother?

Therapists live, online right now, from BetterHelp:

Daniel J. Tomasulo, PhD, TEP, MFA, MAPP

Dan Tomasulo Ph.D., TEP, MFA, MAPP teaches Positive Psychology in the graduate program of Counseling and Clinical Psychology at Columbia University, Teachers College and works with Martin Seligman, the Father of Positive Psychology in the Masters of Applied Positive Psychology (MAPP) program at the University of Pennsylvania. He is Director of the New York Certification in Positive Psychology for the Open Center in New York City and on faculty at New Jersey City University. Sharecare has honored him as one of the top 10 online influencers on the topic of depression. For more information go to: He also writes for Psych Central's Ask the Therapist column and the Proof Positive blog.

APA Reference
Tomasulo, D. (2019). Am I to Blame for the Toxic Relationship with My Mother?. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 26, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Apr 2019 (Originally: 8 Apr 2019)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Apr 2019
Published on Psych All rights reserved.