# Why does my mother expect me to behave like others and herself?

I am 30 years old married.

My mother (50 years old) keeps on telling me that *"Your cousin didn’t have problems with that then why are you having problems with the same thing/situation!"*
*"I (Referring to herself) didn't have any problems with that, then why do you have the problems with the same thing/situation!"*

When your cousins don't have a problem going to their house to meet their parents, why do you have a problem to coming to your house to meet your parents!

No, she is not illiterate or step mother. She has two graduate degrees and one master's degree. She is a teacher too.

Example cases:

• During my honeymoon my parents kept on ringing me many times per day to ask whether I had eaten lunch, what I was doing, why didn't or did I go there etc. When I returned back I told her that she didn't need to keep on constantly ringing me since I was on my honeymoon and wanted some peace alone.
She replied, "I had called your cousin too many times when she was on her honeymoon, she didn't any problems, then why are you having problems?

• Now, I have told her that I'll be having a Ceserian delivery and therefore won't be comfortable much and in a presentable situation at that moment so I won't like other relatives to come to the hospital the very same day for seeing me. I requested her to tell them to come some other day. To which she again replied that "I and your cousin didn't have any problems with relatives visiting in the hospital then why are you having problem?"

Does she actually need to be told that I am NOT a clone of anyone in this world? Is her behavior normal? HUH! And after all this she keeps on wondering why I don't love her and welcome her in my house!

• There are no end of useful answers here, so I won't add one, but a comment: Now my kids are big and leaving the nest, I keep in mind all these things I didn't like my parents doing, and try not to do them myself. – RedSonja Apr 14 '15 at 8:32
• Now two years later - how did this turn out? – Thorbjørn Ravn Andersen Jul 1 '15 at 10:44
• @ThorbjørnRavnAndersen I have learnt that one way to win a battle is simply not to appear for the battle. I have stopped telling her most of the happenings of my life so that she gets least chance to interfere. – Aquarius_Girl Jul 1 '15 at 11:36
• I understand you fully. Have you informed your mother why things are as they are, and that unless something change very drastically she will not be seeing her grandkid(s) as much as she could? – Thorbjørn Ravn Andersen Jul 1 '15 at 12:20
• @ThorbjørnRavnAndersen I am from India. so, -- and that unless something change very drastically she will not be seeing her grandkid(s) as much as she could?-- talking like this is NOT normal here. It is simply not permitted. Saying something like this will be burning the bridges permanently. Have you informed your mother why things are as they are, Yes, but talking to her is like talking to walls. She wants to take me to a mental doctor so that I can start behaving like "other normal people" do. – Aquarius_Girl Jul 2 '15 at 3:48

It sounds like your mother may be having difficulty letting go of her control over your life. The constant comparisons are her way of attempting to guide your behavior to match her expectations.

Unfortunately, this type of behavior doesn't seem that uncommon. For some parents, the transition from having a child or children who are constantly around, and completely dependent, to adults who now (seemingly suddenly, even though that's not always the case) have their own lives and priorities that seemingly don't include the parent, can be exceptionally difficult.

And after all this she keeps on wondering why I don't love her and welcome her in my house!

I can sympathize with your feelings on this, but this may be contributing to her behavior.

If it is an issue of her having problems coping with your independence, then you may be able to help the situation by making sure that you make time for her, and keep in regular contact. However, that contact will only be productive if it is relatively peaceful and friendly. If she is constantly needling you, you will become frustrated, and it may wind up creating a strained and tense situation whenever you talk.

I suggest sitting down with her and telling her how frustrated these comments make you feel. Keep your comments focused on how you feel, and try to avoid mentioning her role (my wife recommends avoiding using "you" as much as possible in the discussion; say "It bothers me when I hear myself being compared to other people like that; it makes me feel like I'm not good enough" rather than "it bothers me when you compare me to other people like that; it feels like you think I'm not good enough"). This will hopefully make it seem less confrontational and accusatory, and with luck, she'll agree to make an effort to cut back on that, particularly if you are also making it clear that you're trying to spend more time with her.

There are several ways you can handle the situation if that doesn't work, but my suggestion is to identify your comfort zone, and set boundaries. If you're comfortable simply rebutting comments like the ones you describe with a set "well, I'm not so-and-so, and everyone's different", then that may be the least confrontational.

However, if you will find yourself becoming frustrated if she continues to make those comparisons (remember, it is very difficult to change behaviors like that, and it takes time, especially if she doesn't acknowledge any need to do so), you may want to try and restrict your interactions to venues where you have some ability to distance yourself once she gets into these types of responses. Text messages or email may be an option; simply stop responding once she makes such a comment. Phone calls may work as well; you can simply say "I have to go now" and end the call if you become frustrated.

It sounds like your mom has some boundary issues. I don't know that I would call her behavior normal, but I think many mothers and daughters have boundary issues to some extent (I know my mother and I do).

Beofett's advice is excellent, and much kinder than mine is. I have reached the point with my mother where I simply do not tolerate her crossing boundaries. My mother, unfortunately, is not capable of sitting down and having an adult conversation about stuff like this. Only you know your mother well enough to know how capable she is of having that kind of conversation.

If you can have a conversation with your mother, you should absolutely try. That is the ideal and best way to handle the situation. With my mother, I've had to basically set explicit boundaries for her. If something is important to me, I cannot leave any room for negotiation and I've stopped explaining myself--especially when it comes to my family and what is best for them.

Surprisingly, this has actually helped my relationship with my mom. I cannot guarantee similar results with yours. I also pick my battles carefully because I don't want to be constantly arguing with or alienating my mom. Despite her boundary issues, my mom really is a wonderful person who loves me and my children dearly. When her boundary-crossing becomes harmful or undermines my authority as a parent, I have to step in. This has caused arguments (remember I mentioned that my mom is unable to have an adult conversation about stuff like this?) and we have gone periods of not speaking. But my boundaries are very clear and we move on.

When it comes to who visits you in the hospital while you are delivering your child, what you are asking is not unreasonable. I think your mother's desire to be present at the birth of your child comes from a place of concern and love (at least, I hope it does), but it doesn't matter what she would do or what your cousin would do. It's your birth and yours and your spouse's decision.

• +1 for not leaving room for negotiation. It's vital to stand firm on important matters. – Torben Gundtofte-Bruun Mar 26 '13 at 14:34
• +1. It may very well come to strict boundaries, as you describe. I've wound up in the same situation with both of my parents, as well. For one (they're long divorced), the boundaries required a long period of enforced separation, but resulted in much-improved relations. For the other, unfortunately, there is absolutely no acknowledgement that I have any rights to set borders, and therefore contact between us is sparse, and as brief as I can make it. – user420 Mar 26 '13 at 17:00

It's never pleasant to get advice you don't want. It's even more unpleasant to be quizzed and questioned, and then have your answers rejected as invalid. Assuming you want a nice relationship with your mother, I recommend two approaches.

First, and most important, remind yourself that she doesn't get a vote. You will take the actions you've decided on whether she approves or not, whether your cousins did or not, whether anyone else she's ever met did or not. It is ok for her to think you're unusual or even wrong - in fact, if you try to convince her that what you're doing is ok, you may just make her dig in her heels even further. You're 30 years old, you don't need her approval, so don't get into an argument whose aim is to change her opinion.

Second, have some phrases that you can use to acknowledge what she's saying without changing what you're doing. It can be as simple as "Interesting." or "I've heard that." or "That was lucky for you/her/them I suppose." If you feel she is urging you to change your plans, it can be "This is what I've decided to do." or "This is what [husband] and I have decided to do." or "This is what my doctors have recommended, and I've decided to follow their recommendation." Not getting caught up in what your cousins did or didn't do, which other cousins were the same as you, why you're different from your cousins, or any of that. Just calmly having your own position. Let her disagree. It's not up to her any more what you do. If she demands to know why you can't do what a cousin did, you can say simply that you don't know, and repeat that this is what you're doing.

Also, emphasize the positive. Using the C section as an example: "My doctors have advised me to have no visitors at all for the first 12 hours, and not before dawn if the baby is born during the day, and I'm looking forward to seeing you as soon as they say it's ok!" "But your cousin [totally different thing.]" "Yes, I remember [or remember hearing that]. Won't it be great when you come to see us at 12 hours and get to see the baby!" No argument, contradiction, explanation - but you also don't change your position. Or if she can come right away but you don't want a parade of the neighbourhood: "My doctors have advised me to have almost no visitors, only the most important people, for the first 12 hours. I want you to come right away, of course, but don't bring anybody else. Tell the others they must wait until the next day." This emphasizes that she's special, while also emphasizing that you are not a treat for her to show off to others.

Finally, some advice that will help you as a parent as well as in your relationship with your mother: pick your battles. If she wants to say that her way of doing things is the best ever, and she isn't asking you to do it, just telling you that some problem you have couldn't possibly be related to anything she did, let it go by. She can be wrong. You can do what you choose going forward. You don't need her to always agree with you any more than you always need to agree with her: that's what having an adult relationship is all about.

We had similar problems with my mother-in-law, although not to such a degree. What helped for us was when someone described the reason behind her behavior as being due to her "love language." There's a book about it if you're interested in learning more.

Essentially, the "language" your mother uses to express her love is performing acts of service, and dispensing advice. This fits very well with people who feel loved by being more dependent on someone, like your cousins. It doesn't fit well with people who are highly independent and have a different kind of love language. To you, it feels like she is trying to control you. To her, it feels like you are denying her the opportunity to express her love for you.

So, having that understanding, what can be done to help? First of all, just understanding it helps you talk to her without getting angry, but that's not quite enough. One thing we did was if we didn't want the family's input, we would just make our deliberations in private, then announce our decision as final, rather than saying, "We're thinking about..." This is somewhat frustrating to them, but helps in setting the boundaries, as other answers have described.

The other thing we did, that actually helped a lot more, was make an effort to look for situations where her intrusion was okay, and preemptively ask for it. This way she knows you value her wisdom and service, and that you want to let her express your love in her own way.

For your honeymoon example, the way to preempt that would have been to tell her something like, "I'd really love to have lunch with you the Tuesday after I get back, so we can catch up and you can tell me everything you want to say, but this week I want to spend with my husband uninterrupted." This tells her you're not rejecting her intentions, just her timing.

For your cesarean example, the way to preempt that would have been to offer her a special assignment before dropping the bad news about the 12 hour delay. "I would really like it if you would be able to watch our other children while I'm unable to receive visitors." or "I would like you to be one of our first visitors. Will you be able to come first thing the next morning?"

Yes, she will still complain. She will still compare you to your cousins, but it will get less, and you will eventually find a balance you can both agree on. Interestingly, in our situation, the people we were being compared to started acting more like us, more independently. Keep that in mind if most of the people you're being compared to are younger than you, or have not lived away from home as long.

I agree with Beofett -- your mother is caring too much, and she must learn to let you go and let you live your own life. Because she's obviously not able to, it's up to you to make her understand.

You want to change from being treated like a child to being treated like an equal adult. This is a huge step, a huge change in how your mother should treat you and think about you, and I'm certain you can't achieve that step in one go. But you have to start somewhere, and I suspect you've been telling her small hints already but she is too stubborn or blind to grasp it.

She must be made to understand that if she really wants the best for you then she must stop managing and let you take control. You need to tell her, directly and clearly, that you're a grown and married woman, and that her responsibility to take care of you has ended (depending on local cultures, I could be totally mistaken). Tell her that of course you still love her and of course you're still grateful for all that she has done - but she can stop doing these things now. You can take care of yourself.

A person close to me also has a mother that is too involved, but she managed (as Beofett also mentioned) to set clear boundaries and did not tolerate breaking them. At first the boundaries allowed her mother a large amount of control but over the course of two years she narrowed the mother's control to a much smaller level.

It was small steps, like building a puzzle: Each piece is not very big and is therefore easily "defended" against the mother. As more and more pieces were put into place, she gained more leverage because she had already proven that she was handling all her puzzle pieces very well. It then became easier to attack the bigger and more important topics, and it was surprising to see that the mother did not resist as much as expected; the proof so far must have been convincing.

To give you one specific example, there was a situation where the mother was sitting in the back of the car and was asked to not interact with the infant, but she couldn't stop herself from playing and making noises and talking to the baby. The parents first asked kindly but finally escalated it to the point of "be quiet or walk home from here." That was unusually rough talk toward the mother, and probably hurt her some, but it also established who was in charge.

• thanks, but that example was an extreme case IMHO. Quite rude. :) But, only the wearer knows where the shoe pinches!! – Aquarius_Girl Mar 29 '13 at 9:25