21 answers

Mom Makes Everything About Her

I'm 36 years old and find it almost funny that I'm struggling with the issue of my mom interfering in my life. My mom is a very sensitive person who doesn't have a very sensitive husband. I spent most of my life trying to make her happy because no one else would do it. I eventually realized that I'm not responsible for her happiness - she is.

Every Christmas since I've had children, my mom has spent the night on Christmas eve with us. Never asked us, just brings her bag. She has created her own Christmas traditions over the years, which somehow became MY traditions without me knowing it. Christmas eve we go to dinner, then go back to her house for gift exchange with my brothers and sisters. Then to my house to spend the night. In the morning my dad, brothers and sisters come over Christmas morning for breakfast. Then we all head over to my mom's for Christmas dinner. It's just exhausting.

So this year, my husband and I decided we were going to create our own traditions. I told my mom that we were doing something different this year and would not be joining them. I said they were welcome to come have breakfast with us Christmas morning after we've had a chance to have our Santa time, but we were not participating in Christmas eve festivities or Christmas day dinner. She cried. Then she called my sister and cried. Then my sister called me and blah, blah, blah.
I sat her down and explained that it wasn't anything personal, that we just wanted to create our own family traditions now that we have kids of our own. I said that we wanted Christmas eve to be more about family and less about opening gifts. (Her response was, 'I thought I was your family too.') Anyway, I stuck to my guns and told her that she wasn't going to guilt me into changing our minds. It was our family and we needed time to bond on special moments. (Her response to that was, 'You get to bond every single night.') Everything, I mean, everything is about HER.
So Christmas eve, my kids and husband and I played board games, drank hot chocolate, etc - the exact vision I had in my head of the perfect Christmas eve. At 10:30 pm my mom calls and asks if the kids were still up. I told her yes and she said, "Okay, well I'm coming over to spend the night.' I know that I should have just told her not to come, but I really HATE being the bad guy. Why does she force me to be mean to her? Why can't she just get the hint? It's not even a hint - I flat out told her what we were doing and that they were welcome to come over for breakfast.

And then for New Years day my mom told me that she wanted us over for dinner because she 'wanted to make the turkey that she didn't get to make for Christmas'. Maybe I'm reading to much into it, but it feels like she's trying to make me feel guilty. No one stopped her from making Christmas dinner - she could've had dinner without us, but she chose not to. I ruined her Christmas.

This is just one example, but every aspect of my life is like this. Another example, my mom and dad have a swimming pool at their house. My husband and I decided to put a pool in this summer at our own house. When my mom found out she says, "Well, I guess no one will be coming to our house to swim anymore." Why can't she be happy for us to be getting a pool? Why do I have to feel guilty for getting a pool for my family?

I've rambled on now, but I am just so frustrated with this issue. When she is at my house, she just takes over. it's like it's just her and my kids together - she completely pushes my husband and I out. I've got to stop this cycle now before all the memories of 'when my kids were young' are tainted with resentment towards my mom for intruding on them.

1 mom found this helpful

What can I do next?

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Boundaries are awesome and it looks like you've started to try to set some. Good for you. Now read the book Boundaries (knowing when to say no and when to say yes) by Townsend and Cloud...I just started reading this and it is an eye opener and it will help you set the right boundaries, how to set them, and why. Good Luck

3 moms found this helpful

This is exactly like my in-laws! They like staying with us and when they do, they are staying with us for months and they just take over the entire house and my kid. Me and my husband are treated like kids again and I cannot do a single thing about it although I hate it. I like them but I don't like the way they overpower us in everything. Unfortunately my husband doesn't find anything wrong with this!
I totally understand how you must be feeling but I am sorry i do not have a solution. You have got great answers though and I am hoping they might help me too. I am definitely going to read that book "Boundaries". Thanks for asking the question and thanks for all the answers!

More Answers

Boundaries are awesome and it looks like you've started to try to set some. Good for you. Now read the book Boundaries (knowing when to say no and when to say yes) by Townsend and Cloud...I just started reading this and it is an eye opener and it will help you set the right boundaries, how to set them, and why. Good Luck

3 moms found this helpful

Aw, sweetheart, so many of us have moms who are needy. They have never figured out that life changes and they would be happier if they could change with it. Your mom is trying desperately to create and control the one version of life that she thinks will keep her happiest and most comfortable.

That's not your fault, and you DO have a right to set your own course through life. It's so hard to remember that when we're getting anger, or tears, or guilt from our parent, who was under our skin and in our brains from such an early age we had no knowledge of it.

My mom's a lot like yours, but if tears don't work, she'll try anger. It used to work on me, over and over, until I just GOT it that I'm a grownup now, and I get to make my own decisions. My mom fought this for a few years, and it's been especially tricky because she lives next door. But she gradually stopped expecting to be included in those events that I wanted for myself, and things have settled into a new "normal."

One approach that has helped me tremendously in this process of change is called Non-Violent Communication (or NVC). You can google this for descriptions and examples, books and local classes if you're interested. Good stuff.

I'd just like to add, when my grandson was little, there were a couple of occasions that my daughter became upset about how I handled something that she wanted done differently. I'm a very sensitive person, and in spite of trying my best not to, I ended up crying. This upset my tender daughter – she later said that she didn't feel there was any way to offer me a critique that wouldn't upset me. I had to reassure her that I DID receive her critiques, and simply couldn't help the tears – I was genuinely sad that I had disappointed her. So keep in mind, sometime tears are just tears.

3 moms found this helpful

She might be narcissistic (www.daughtersofnarcissisticmothers.com) or she might just REALLY want to be involved in your lives. Either way, you're going to have to set up some healthy boundaries. Have you considered talking to a counselor/therapist about it? A professional can give you good guidance and ideas.
MY mom can be like that to a degree. We decided to host my in laws on Christmas Eve since my mom was hosting Christmas Day. 50/50, right? Nope. She STILL tried to guilt me a little bit even though there was NO way we were getting to her house Christmas Eve and Christmas Day--she lives about an hour away! This year, I just let her comments roll off of my back. She even offered that she remembered how hard it was splitting time between her family and her in-laws, so I know she logically "gets it" but then the GRANDMA THING kicks in!

3 moms found this helpful

I'm sorry, I dont have much advice but I wanted to tell you that you're not alone. Luckily my mom lives accross the country but she is the same way. At least you have siblings - I'm my mom's only child, lol. My kids are her only grand kids and always will be. She wants to move to TX and makes comments all the time about the things she will do, how different it will be when she lives here. Before Christmas I was telling her our plans for the holidays with DH's family and how we do everything on Christmas Eve and then spend a quiet day alone at home on Christmas. We don't go anywhere and no one comes over and we love it! She says to me (in a pitiful voice) "when we live there could WE come over on Christmas??" sure mom. Whatever.

All I can tell you is to decide what is important to you and what is not. Then, for those things that are important, stick to what you want. Be gentle but firm. Point out the things you do for and with her. But tell her that these are the things that are important to you and and your husband for your kids.

Maybe pick a phrase to use with her? "I'm sorry you feel this way mom, but it's not about you." or something similar. Good luck!! I may be on here asking similar questions when my mom moves here sometime in the future!!

2 moms found this helpful

I feel your pain, my mom is so much like that, so dependent on other people making her happy and I'm an ONLY child and her guilt trips rest on me for the most part. It's a long journey but you have to stick to your guns and not let the whining about "but I'm your mother" get to you. Mine has learned that I cant and wont always be there to make her day or her holiday anymore. She wants us to come watch the superbowl at her house even though she has an old, lame television and we have a giant flatscreen. My husband will definitely not be watching the superbowl at his MIL's house. So, I'm dealing with that right now.

2 moms found this helpful

She is a narcissist and there is no known cure. You must set boundaries and live your life without worrying about her crying to others. It gets easier for you every time you stand your ground. Believe me, the people she fools or manipulate will always see through her in time, especially after she turns her focus onto them.

2 moms found this helpful

I agree with Sara B. Just keep putting your foot down, don't let her play the game, if you don't need her pool anymore, OH WELL! You didn't ruin her Christmas, she did with her stinky attitude. You can love her and accept her and honor her but you don't have to let her manipulate and control you and your family. She thinks that her comments and pouting is controlling you. If she doesn't have control, then it will eventually stop... or not. ;) Hang in there!!! I think you did exactly the right thing and you stuck with your guns. You're on the right track. Hang in there!! Blessings!

2 moms found this helpful

Wow, I didn't know my husband had a sister.

I am going to tell you what I tell him, "Her behavior is HER choice. You have a right to your own life and your OWN choices. She doesn't OWN you - you are a person too."

2 moms found this helpful

GREAT responses so far.

Why are there so many mothers like this? It sounds like you're learning how to set boundaries -- good for you. You learned that lesson a lot earlier than I did. You're right, you are not responsible for her happiness, and some people will just never be happy.

I'm sorry you got stuck with one of those moms, it's so unnecessary, and it's really a bummer. There's really no cure for it, except to stick to your guns. Keep up the good work.

1 mom found this helpful

My in-laws have put this pressure on our marriage to the point that it had become stressor #1 between my husband and I. Our holidays were miserable. It is a bigger issue of them not knowing how to let go gracefully and parent their son like the adult that he is, rather than like a child or a teenager. They are heavy handed with the unnecessary guilt and manipulation. It makes me so mad, because he loves them and has always done a lot to communicate with them and spend time with them. But it's never enough, they are like small children. They seem to have the attitude that now they are the grandparents and they have it "coming to them", that we exist to please them and perpetuate all their traditions, give them all of our time, etc. So, all this to say that I know how hard it is, and I am sorry. You are not alone. Initially, my husband didn't know how to establish healthy boundaries with them. It's still hard for him, but he has come so far, and I am really proud of him. Early on, before he got there, I took it upon myself to stick up for myself and for our marriage. (Bad move, that made things worse. It should have been him doing that work.) I think, with my in-laws, no matter what we tell them about what we need as a family, the only thing they hear is that we don't want to have a relationship with them, that they are not a priority. That is so not the case, we just need it to be healthy and functional and not feel like they are drowning or suffocating us! I think you've gotten some good advice. Try to show her in what ways you can that she still is a priority to you. But do what you need to do to create special memories with your own family. Funny that she said "you can bond any night of the week!" Sure, you spend most nights with your family, but when, other than the holidays, do we typically have time to step outside the norm of the day-to-day responsibilities, slow down and create special memories with our spouse and children? This is precious, and you have every right to ask for the time and space to create a few of your own traditions. Good luck to you, and be confident about it.

1 mom found this helpful

Stick to what is best for your family and take time to make OTHER things about your Mom. A weekend vacation or dinner at her house ever month so that she still feels important and relevant in your life...but don't back down about what is important to you.

Come up with new traditions.

1 mom found this helpful

Lol.. i only laugh b/c I feel your pain, except it isn't at my mom it's with my grdma (who practically raised me)! She is under the mentality of what her mom told her "you'll have your holidays, when I'm dead" talk about laying on the guilt!! It took awhile for my husband and I, but we finally broke out of the chains..lol My DH is from Mexico so he only has 1 brother here and that's in SC..so being the black sheep of the family that we are, we decided that from now on we go to SC for thxgiving!! That simple. She get's upset every year, she asks us every year about. But it's so much healthier for my husband, me and the kids. Just stick to your guns, eventually she'll get the hint! Good Luck and God Bless :)

1 mom found this helpful

One way you might break the cycle is to take the kids on a trip next Christmas. I am a grandmother who grew tired of my kids always coming to MY house! They are tradition-phobics!! Several years ago I rebelled and told my husband I was NOT having that crowd at our house! We planned a road trip to New Mexico and spent Christmas Day at Angel Fire. We had a ball!!! That was 5 years ago. Since then our daughter has had us at her house twice, and another daughter has also. I've never lived my life through my girls, so I'm not like your mother. But it can go both ways!!! Good luck. Sometimes breaking the hold of a controlling family member can really be a tough row to hoe!!!

1 mom found this helpful

It sounds to me like your mom has made her kids the focus of her entire life, which must be incredibly hard to let go of when the kids become adults. The guilt she is creating for you is unfair and you absolutely should live your life and raise your kids how you want to! However, maybe she feels lonely at home and after all these years doesn't know how to fill the void?

I agree with Sara C. Creating new traditions that are about your mom, like a girl's day, once a month might change everything as she still feels involved and special. I think taking up a new craft or getting involved with a group of women in her area is a great way to stay busy and happy as well.

I completely understand what you're going through and I wish you all the best of luck.

1 mom found this helpful

As hard as it is, you just have to say 'no' -- and you know it. When she called Christmas eve, you should have said, "No, mom, I'm sorry but we already discussed this and we'll see you in the morning." Period. She is forcing herself on you and it is damaging your relationship. It does sound like she is very unhappy and lonely in the relationship w/ your dad. What does your dad say about all of this? He's ok w/ her up and leaving him on Christmas eve to spend the night w/ you? I think that is odd in itself. You are right: you have to put your foot down and stop the cycle! Good luck to you; this is a very tough situation that she's put you in.

1 mom found this helpful

She does seem overly needy and I know it is difficult to draw boundaries. You should definitely read the Boundaries book; it's really good.

BUT, do you think you need to completely replace her traditions with new ones? Could you compromise? Say no to the Christmas eve overnights and keep Christmas morning just for your nuclear family, but then join her and your extended family for Christmas dinner? That was the tradition in my family, and I cherish the memory of ALL of it, including those dinners at Grandma's house. My concern is that you want your children to stay close to ALL their family, and traditional holiday get-togethers are a big part of that. A big get-together on Christmas day every year makes wonderful memories and keeps the family close.

My BIL and his family stopped getting together with his siblings on holidays after his parents died, and the result is that they hardly ever see each other and aren't at all close any more.

Make your own traditions (and be firm with your mom about it) but keep a get-together with your mom and siblings and their kids as part of it. Strike a balance. I don't think you will be sorry.

1 mom found this helpful

Having a mother a lot like this only worse I just have to say STICK TO YOUR GUNS! If you don't she will walk all over you forever. there is nothing wrong with having time for your family. It's your family. My mother always said when you have your own kids you'll raise them your own way. I do exactly that. Trust me when you follow through with your ground rules/limits you will have a better relationship with your mother. 9ok i don't but there is a lot more to the story). It will also empower you. Yes it's hard to do, but it's ok to do it. They do actually learn to live with it.

Wow! I feel like you just described my mom to the T!!!
Something that I have had to do in relation to my mother is just stick to my guns. I have also really had to be honest with her on how I feel, even if it hurts her feelings. I always tell her how much I love her, but that we are going to do things our way.
Something that I always try and remember is that it is so hard as a mother to give up your children and let them have their own lives and traditions. Be sympathetic, if you can, to that. I always try to include my mom in our family things as much as I can, and if it is something that we would prefer to do on our own, I make it known from the get-go.
She is not always happy about this, but over the years she has really come around. Just stick by what you say and don't let her have her way!

I think you did good with setting the Christmas bounderies. I think her coming over to spend the night should have been expected and I would have been ok with it. Your point was to have an opportunity to create your own traditions and you did that. Coming from someone who's mother lives in another state, I have the opposite worry, and that is that my kids won't get a chance to really get to know my mom the way I got a chance to know my Grandmother and her traditions. I still wish I would have asked her to teach me to make her famous pickels! Perhaps you specifically tell your mother of two three traditions she started that you love and cherish and how you hope you can do as good of a job with your kids in carrying that out. She will feel appreciated and more open to the changes you want to make. Find a way for her to participate in your new traditions and routines.

This is exactly like my in-laws! They like staying with us and when they do, they are staying with us for months and they just take over the entire house and my kid. Me and my husband are treated like kids again and I cannot do a single thing about it although I hate it. I like them but I don't like the way they overpower us in everything. Unfortunately my husband doesn't find anything wrong with this!
I totally understand how you must be feeling but I am sorry i do not have a solution. You have got great answers though and I am hoping they might help me too. I am definitely going to read that book "Boundaries". Thanks for asking the question and thanks for all the answers!

Seriously. Do not fail to read up on narcicism. If not that, then she might be overly controlling. She got you! She called and you caved just like that. Read up. Role play saying no. Perhaps you can offer something up. Get caller ID and don't answer the phone during "family time." Geesh. What a pain you guys all have. I'm a loving mom and grandmother. I would never ever do that crazy stuff. Makes me shudder to think you guys are "enabling" her. (The first time I heard that word, I was shocked. Then I read about it and absorbed it and understood it.)

Good l uck on your education. Include your husband. Don't make him or your kids or yourself the continued victim. If needed, get some counseling or a life coach for a bit to help you transition.

I read an article on a counselor that was an admitted narcicist. Even though he knew he was, he couldn't control it. He rather pities anyone that wants to remain close to a narcicist because they are so one sided and can't help themselves. So others have to be strong. You've been raised by her so you have little knowledge of how to turn this around. Best wishes. STay strong and educate yourself. You'll be so happy this doesn't follow you and your kids til the end of time.

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