Tell me about it: A fantastic job offer may end up costing my relationship
Kate Holmquist answers your life and relationship problems
They roll their eyes to heaven at the mere suggestion of seeing her.
I understand. I don’t like her either. She is nasty and selfish. She is verbally abusive and I feel exhausted every time I see her.
She calls me in the middle of the night with one “crisis” after the next, even though she knows I have a busy work schedule and a family of my own. She thinks the world revolves around her.
My siblings say they’re preserving their mental health by staying away. They think I’m the strong one and don’t realise that I have to psyche myself up for hours before I see her. It’s not fair that I should be left holding this big baby.
A You’re describing a monster. And from a child’s perspective, she is one.
From an adult perspective, she’s a vulnerable frightened old woman who is lucky to have you to still care about her.
You describe having to “psyche” yourself up before seeing her and feeling exhausted when you do. Could it be that your child self is still looking for the love and approval that will never be forthcoming?
Against the odds, the child you were has grown up to be a responsible adult who is doing the right thing by supporting an elderly parent.
Your siblings have to step up to the plate, but it sounds like they have some issues of their own to deal with first.
The entire family needs to sit down and talk sensibly and dispassionately about what is needed for your mother’s care; a mediator may help.
Little child inside
People with difficult parents often grow to realise that for their own sanity they need to acknowledge the little child inside looking for unconditional love, and realise that the parent figure is never going to answer the need.
In her book, Coping with Un-Cope-Able Parents: Loving Action for Eldercare , Carol-Ann Hamilton says that only other people with difficult parents really understand how bad it can be.
She used to turn into “little Carol-Ann” whenever she visited her difficult elderly father. She had to learn not to leave herself vulnerable and exposed.
“When I approach my father’s neighbourhood these days, though not a Star Trek fan myself, I’ve adopted from Captain Picard: ‘Shields up!’
“Kooky as it might sound, I find the expression serves as a helpful declaration and reminder to maintain my boundaries around him. Otherwise I’m in danger of coming away even more weakened,” she writes.
It’s not about you
Hamilton believes that you can be loving and take action without allowing the difficult parent to upset you. “Try not to take your parents’ bad behaviour personally. It’s not about you. It’s about a tough situation.”
Perhaps, without moaning, you need to tell your siblings how tough it is for you and that your mental health is as important as theirs.
You have a choice not to be your mother’s sole carer and to do this you must get the others on board – no excuses. They have a responsibility to deal with their own emotions around your mother, no matter how exasperating she is.
The alternative is for you to pull away and abandon your mother to social services. Is that what your siblings want?
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