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I am in the low 30s and my mother used to be very kind and caring but in the last decade she turned out almost the total opposite. She has a much better wealth then she used to but her attitude changed so much that I almost want to avoid her as much as I can.

For example, she accused me and my girlfriend of having stolen 150$. It is not so much the amount but just the fact that she accused us meaning her confidence in us is totally null. This would have NEVER happened in the good old days. I am trying to figure if we have done something that might have changed that and cannot come up with anything. This accusation was made because we took care of her house while they were on vacation, which leads to we will never do it again.

She also writes some weird things now like "Thanks for your love for me" (maybe bad translation but you get the point I'm sure) and every sentences she writes to us seems like we are indebted to her. She also is unable to spend one dinner without talking about money or how good she is or what exploit she has done.

Also my girlfriend is pregnant and my mother offered to help us (money wise) and we both agreed that we would not accept anything from her.

Now I will soon sit down with her and explain how we feel but when I will do that our relation will take a huge setback for many months. I really want to do that before new baby is born (few more months to go) to take some pressure of my girlfriends shoulders because she finds this situation much more difficult than I do.

So my questions are:

  • How would you handle this kind of situation if it happened to you?
  • How can I make her realized she has changed that much?

I thought about writing a small book about this story and give her by the intermediary of someone else but I do not think I do have the patience to finish it.

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I suspect Karl is right about empty nest syndrome, but depending on what age your mother is, and if there has been a really dramatic personality change, it could be (though I sincerely hope not) some form of early onset dementia. –  Benjol Feb 17 '12 at 6:34
    
:) you could have began everything with the "my girlfriend is pregnant"... not only a empty nest it happening, but there is a serious "risk" that you'll love a lot your child, and she's afraid of it –  woliveirajr May 13 '13 at 21:27

4 Answers 4

up vote 10 down vote accepted

Your mother is experiencing empty nest syndrome. Over the course of twenty years or so, parents' identity and self worth becomes very wrapped up in their children. Sometimes they have trouble adjusting to their new role in your life. She prided herself in being helpful to you and now she doesn't know how anymore, which makes her feel bad about herself. She may also be experiencing hormonal changes, which can take a toll on her ability to regulate her emotions. She talks about herself because she doesn't have anything else to talk about. The guilt trips are because she doesn't know any other way to persuade you to spend time with her.

A lot of what she's dealing with she just plain has to figure out on her own. You can't change her mindset or her behavior, only your own. She will figure it out eventually. What she needs from you is validation about her role in your life.

Young couples often have trouble accepting help because they believe there's a quid pro quo attached, or they believe it somehow means they have failed at being independent. Neither is the case. Right now all your spare money is going toward preparing for your new baby. Ask yourself why, and then consider that your mother has been spending her money on you for the same reasons for over 30 years. She's not trying to get you to owe her something. She's doesn't think you can't make it on her own. She just honestly can't think of anything else she would rather spend that money on.

So be gracious about accepting help. Invite her to throw a baby shower. Make visits and phone calls. Tell her when she's overstepping her bounds, but be nice about it. She needs time to learn the new "rules" for your relationship. Your baby will be a year or two old before everything gets sorted out, because there are new situations to work out, like what the new holiday traditions are now that there are grandchildren. Until then, try not to do anything that will permanently damage your relationship.

You know what helped my mom the most? Introducing her to facebook. It sounds strange, but it let her keep in touch without any additional effort on her children's part.

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Very useful information but I am not sure about the empty nest syndrome as I left home 13 years ago. The next years (probably 3-5) were very similar from what I remember but I will surely weight your point of view in before making a move. I appreciate your help. –  mateoc Feb 17 '12 at 13:13
    
Empty nest doesn't necessarily happen as soon as your child leaves home. It's when you start noticing your influence wane. A lot of kids are still highly dependent on their parents for their first few years after leaving home, and it can take a while for the realization to sink in. –  Karl Bielefeldt Feb 17 '12 at 17:06

I agree that you need to take care of this prior to your child being born. However, I am not confident that confronting her is the way to go. People change, and your perception of people change. You are now thinking about being a parent yourself and so you may be seeing your mother in a different light. It is hard when you don't get along with a close family relative, or when it is difficult to be around them, however my advice is to work on yourself and how you deal with her behavior. You do not have enough power to change her behavior, new or otherwise, so you need to figure out how you can live with it and still maintain a relationship with her.

You are right to not take money from her, and not stay in her house. I am sure you will find other things to avoid as life moves along. But you also need to simply let her talk, or write, weird things without letting them get to you. This is easier said then done, but an important part of keeping the relationship going.

Good luck!

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I agree with Morah that people change, and there's only so much you can do about it. You are free to choose your friends, but your family is given to you.

It seems to me that you have decided that living your life according your values is more important to you than pleasing your mother. That is an important decision because as a soon-to-be parent you will need to be a leader, not a follower. If this decision means that you cannot borrow money from your mother, or look after her house, then that is the price you might accept to pay for your independence.

It's understandable that you want to reconnect with your mother. If it means confrontation on any level, I would recommend some book on conflict management; Amazon.com has lots to choose from and this one seems very popular.

The basic idea behind conflict management is to avoid accusations and to present your feelings in the personal form: "I feel that ..." It's often preferable if you can say how you experience the relationship and without directly pointing at your mother, and describe how it affects you and your life. You could also try to add what a better situation or solution or goal would be, but again without telling her specifically "I want you to stop doing this and that."

The bottom line is that you could choose to try and please her and try to get along, even if it means biting your tongue; or you could address the matter, willing to accept any negative outcome there might follow.

Allow her some room to act out her (new?) personality. This is especially "easy" in areas that affect you little, so think of this if it comes down to negotiations. By accepting and granting your mother the right to be herself, you can expect something in return: adherence to your own (also new?) limits.

Set some firm limits where you are now establishing your own family with your rules. Rules can be respected as long as they make sense, and if they can be respected then they can also be enforced (hard approach) or at least reminded (soft approach).

Summary:

  • How can you make her realize that she has changed?

Perhaps you can't, because her perception might be that she has stayed the same but the world around her has changed. This is why conflict management doesn't point fingers at anyone but yourself.

  • How would I handle the situation?

I am setting limits and telling my parents the rules of my home. I respect them but I also ask that they follow my rules as long as they're my guests. Some rules may be bent or even broken, but other rules allow no exceptions. This works only as far as the meaningfulness of the rules, because I can't expect others to play along on silly rules. So it's a careful act of diplomacy - be soft-spoken but remain firm on your values.

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Thanks, I will definitely have a look at these books you suggested me. –  mateoc Feb 16 '12 at 19:42

First of all, you should get past the idea that you are going to get her to change. It is possible, but unlikely, and it certainly won't happen if that is the focus. You need to focus on dealing with her as she is in the most constructive manner possible.

You haven't mentioned the relationship that you and the child's mother have. If it is contentious, rocky, or difficult, your mother might be picking up on that. If she thinks the child's mother is mistreating you, she might not be interested in being kind to her. If she sees you treat the child's mother poorly, she might think that is how you want the child's mother treated.

Also possible is that the baby is triggering feelings in your mother that you are going to abandon her for the child's mother and the child. If you think that is possible, you should talk with your mother about how things will change after the baby arrives, and you should make a point of calling her often through the whole process.

Some concrete thoughts:

  • The "used to be" doesn't matter much ... the "is" matters.

  • Tell your mother directly that she must treat the child's mother with courtesy and respect if she wishes to be included in the life of the child. Do so now, and repeat it frequently.

  • Read the book "Boundaries". It is about setting proper boundaries in close relationships. I expect you will have problems with your mother that will require you to do this.

  • You haven't mentioned your father, who is likely a key factor in the dynamic.

  • You also haven't mentioned your "in-laws", who may also be important.

Additional thought ... because you have not married the child's mother, you have left ambiguous the relationship between you, this woman, and your mother. Are you committed to this woman? Are you committed to the child? Is this woman more important to you than your mother? You may well need to make the situation crystal clear to your mother.

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