Holidays - surviving my mother

My grandfather (my father’s father) recently passed away. In light of this, I’ve decided to go down and see my family for Christmas. My grandmother and my father could really use the support right now.

The trouble is my mother. Long story short, she doesn’t want to respect my independence or any boundaries I set. She’s all over me normally trying to “fix” things and gets extremely upset if I challenge her in any way. I feel like she sees me only as a rebellious, disrespectful teenager. So, say, she still insists that my black hair and long black skirts are a form of “rebellion” because I don’t wear blue jeans like a normal girl (I don’t even own any). She can be very manipulative when she’s upset or wants something done, and she refuses to let a subject drop.

No one else in the family is going to back me up - if anything my father takes her side. Her words really do hurt deeply - to the point of sometimes coming home after family visits and crying for a day or two. I’ve heard over and over to “not let it get to me” but it never works. She sometimes hits on some points that sting deeply for me. For example, she’ll go after me for taking time off work recently, which stings because I still feel guilty about that even though I know it was necessary (health related).

I want to support my father and grandmother, but I don’t want to come back from the visit a wreck. Are there any good concrete things I can do to lessen the impact of dealing with her?

Hi, I’m Kendra and I have black hair. Now, you can let your mother know that you have met an extremely preppy girl with black hair and ivory skin. Totally natural, but black hair no less. :slight_smile:
Does your mom know that you go home a cry for a couple of days after your visits? Hopefully she isn’t intentionally doing it. If she is just a mean person, can you try to avoid her and only visit those you want to see?

I’m sorry about the loss of your Grandfather…prayers for you.

This would be a situation where I wouldn’t hesitate to drop money on a hotel room and avoid staying with anyone that bugs to the point where I’m upset for days.

It would be a good way to set up some boundaries for myself and not be constantly surrounded by upsetting people.

Anyway there may be a friend that could go with you? Someone who could be on your side during this? Or, are there any friends or cousins back at home you can get in touch with and spend some time with? Even if it’s just to have a breather from your family?

Bring things to keep you occupied and your mind off your mother…books, music, laptop…whatever.
If I had a rough day dealing with people, I loved to unwind with a glass or two of wine, a bath and my music.

Plus…there is nothing wrong with crying a little. Another bonus reason for the hotel room…you can have total privacy to do whatever and if you need to cry after a rough day…it might help to get it out of your system before you go home and have a meltdown.

Sorry to hear about your grandfather. Dealing with loss seems like it should be enough without having to deal with a lot of family drama. Unfortunately, for most families stress has a way of stirring up all sorts of craziness. I would agree with one of the other posters, get a motel room if you can afford it. That way you have a place to run to, or cry, pray, or punch pillows, or get drunk- whatever you have to do to cope with your tyrannical mother. I know, I have one like that as well. Just be glad you no longer live with her and it sounds like you’re not even in the same town, so you just have to put up with her for a little while. I like black hair and long skirts, don’t see what the big deal is. Are you trying to be goth?:cool:

  1. Bless you for your desire to help those you love.
  2. There is really no way to prevent yourself from coming home from this “a wreck”. Even factoring in a motel room, a good idea that others have suggested - this would likely be something else for you mother to harp on…:shrug:
  3. You have an advantage here in that this is a planned trip and you have time to mentally prepare (emotions are another thing - can’t really prepare them).

I can’t really offer you a lot of advice except to say that - since you can pretty well predict what your mom is going to say and do and react - you can think it through and decide how you want to handle it. That way you will be able to separate yourself somewhat from the situation.
Perhaps you can devise some responses deigned to deflect her barbs, to laugh them off and to change the subject. The main thing (IMHO) is to not allow yourself to be drawn in to her pathology. You keep control of yourself regardless of what she does.

I went through this myself when my first marriage was ending. Like your mom, my ex knew all of my “buttons” and would try to push them. I had to go into what I called, “emotional shutdown mode”. Nothing she could say would get a rise out of me.
It wasn’t easy, but it did get me through the process.

Not much more I can offer since I don’t know you or your mom personally.
Pray to God for strength to be able to love your mom in spite of her problems.
Pray for the wisdom to know how to handle the situations as they arise - in a manner befitting a daughter of the most High God.
Pray for the grace and the peace to not let these things enter you and harm you emotionally or spiritually.

May God grant you all of these things -
In Christ’s mane I pray…


Yes. Stay in a hotel. Set up times to visit with your grandmother and father without your mother.

You may have to cut all contact with your mother until she can respect your boundaries and keep her mouth shut. That may be forever.

If father and grandmother cannot respect and support your boundaries with Mom, then don’t go. Tell them you love them, would love to be there to support them, but will not visit without reciprocal support from them regarding your boundaries with your mother.

Few points

  • My grandmother is not involved. She doesn’t live near enough to know what’s going on, nor does she need to.

  • We’d be staying at her place. It’s very rural and I don’t own a car, nor would I feel safe driving over country roads. A hotel just isn’t practicable. I’m not even able to pay for plane tickets without dad’s help.

  • My parents are still married and together. So visiting dad without seeing mom wouldn’t work well anyway.

Basically, I’ve decided it’s worth it to attend the family gatherings this year. There just isn’t any good way to see everyone except my mother. I will make a firmer stand soonish, but I know it’s going to cause a manor disruption. I don’t want to involve my grandmother, and I don’t think this year is the right time to do so, when emotions are running high. It would lead to even more hurt than is necessary.

I’ll be praying for you. WHile you are there you can at least keep to some sort of schedule. Take regular breaks to be away from your mom and relax. Go up to your room, shut the door, pray, read, listen to music, come out again in an hour or so when you are feeling composed.

If extended family are around, use them as buffers also. If mom starts in on you, change the subject to someone else. “Oh that’s old news mom, let’s hear about cousin Suzy’s new job/baby/house.”

If the group is travelling to another person’s house or an event, try not to ride in the same car as your mom. “I’ll ride with Uncle Frank, I haven’t had very much time to catch up with him.”

You are going to see you dad, grandma, and extended family. You don’t want to get in a knock down fight with your mom, so try to spend as little time as possible with her - even in the same house.

If the visit will just be mom, dad, and grandma, with very few other people or activities, make it as short as is reasonably possible. I think you are flying across country, but you can still only stay a few days, if that’s all that you can handle.

I am flying out across the country, yes. I should note that my mother is typically well-behaved in front of extended family. It’s just if she can get me alone, or just me and my father, that we have problems.

Have you ever tried praying for someone WHILE they are speaking to you? Really, while they are talking just look at them and perhaps close your eyes for a few seconds and say “Jesus please be with me, Jesus please help me” do this as often as you need to. Also please pray for that person. Ask Jesus to help your mother, Jesus loves your mother very much which is hard to see when we are frustrated with someone.

Try and ask the Holy Spirit for help to see your mother through His eyes. Your mother is His little girl! God loves your mother so much, He loves her down to each tiny little hair on her head! He has planned for her to be on this earth since the beginning of time, He knows her, He knows her personality, He knows her weaknesses, He knows her sins, He knows her strengths. He can help you, turn to Him.

I also would not hesitate to turn to the Sacramentals. Bring some blessed salt, holy water or a rosary with you and keep it in your pocket, close to you. Whenever you feel stress hold it close! These are not magic items or good luck charms, so do not think of them that way. They are merely a tangible way to connect with our Lord, use them, they can sometimes help a lot. I will pray for you, hope this helps a little. Take care and I am so sorry for your loss.

DarkLight have you read up on Personality Disorders? All the signs seem to be there with your mom, also people with PDs produce FOG - Fear, Obligation and Guilt in non-PD family members and spouses. Crying for a day or more after seeing a parent because of their cruelty is NOT a normal, functional relationship. Another place on the Internet to try is Daughters of Narcissistic Mothers.

I would second staying in a motel/hotel - then you have somewhere to escape to if necessary. God bless you xxxxxxx

You can’t teach a pig to sing; you just frustrate yourself and annoy the pig.

There is a limit to how much you’re going to change your mother, obviously. I know how it is to be in these situations, too: that is, that the anticipation that puts you on pins and needles before the erstwhile tormentor has done a thing to you is almost worse than the new instances of torment, which on some occasions don’t even happen.

Since you don’t have a good place to get away physically, see if you can line up a trusted friend to field some texts and phone calls. That way you can debrief and vent and even strategize while you are still in “Alice’s Rabbit Hole”. That one person with their feet out of the quagmire you’re in can be a big help in staying sane and keeping the perspective that this too shall pass.

Line up a treat for yourself, for when you get back. Maybe just lunch out with your Lifeline Person. That way you’ll have something to earn by this run through the Mom Gauntlet. Why not?

Speaking of Lifeline Person, put a little cross in your pocket, or a rosary, like a worry stone. Our Lord spent his life surrounded by people looking for a chance to trip him up. He’s the one who observed that nowhere is a prophet without honor, except among his own people. Whatever you’re going through, he’ll be able to relate. He’ll help you to walk through the crowd that would have stoned you.

I have, yes. Part of the oddity is that, to her mind, any hurt I experience from her behavior is clearly my fault. I’m too sensitive, I can’t take a joke, whatever. I’ve even shared that I was being hurt by her words and had her reply, in all genuine concern, that I should really talk to my therapist about why I found her criticism hurtful. It makes it even more of a catch-22 - any time I show that I’m hurt, or try to express boundaries, it’s further proof that I’m too immature or too damaged to do things on my own.

But in general, I’ve realized that my mother is at this point impenetrable to anything I say. The most I can do is say “no” and do my best to ignore (or absent myself from) anything after that. Hence the question is not so much about changing here and more about ensuring my own emotional survival. I’ll definitely see about having some friends accessible, at least over the internet/phone. It’s hard to even hang onto what I know to be true around her sometimes, because of the way everything seems flipped with her.

Frankly, I would not go.

1ke said:

“Frankly, I would not go.”

That sounds very tempting. I think there is a need to put in an appearance, given the death in the family, but I don’t think the OP should expect that there’s anything she can do for her mother emotionally, as they’re not really on the same wave-length. It may be possible to be of some practical assistance (if there’s some sorting or hauling or whatever to do), but I don’t think the OP is going to be able to say anything that her mom can understand as supportive.

Definitely. In point of fact - my mother is not why I was going. If it were only her the decision would be a firm no. But I can offer support to my grandmother, and to my father. My mother just has to be part of the package.

I will take a firmer stand soon enough, but with the recent death I think for other people’s sake it is not the time. Plus, honestly, I would like to impress enough on the rest of the family my own competence before tangling with her, for whatever good it may do.

Dark light, I apologize that I missed the fact that you have to stay there and have no transport. Is there anyway you can take a good friend to who you can explain and tell all of what you’ve said to us here? It sounds very like a Narcissistic mom because of the classic way she is married to an enabling husband who does not protect or defend you from her behavior. You are delivering yourself as a lamb to the slaughter. You will be trapped with no escape. I think you would be wiser to offer support by phone and letter, you have to protect yourself, because no one else will do it. Unless you are able to bring a very close friend who understands the dynamic and you both make an attempt not to leave you alone with her.

How old are you and how old is your mother?

I am 25. My mother is in her 50’s. It’s not like I’m not used to this. I’ve already talked to them, and I don’t want this to be the year when I pull the rug out from everyone else’s feet by not going down. I’ve been visiting around Christmastime every year until now, so there’s just no way to gracefully back out without causing a general stir.

I can survive her, certainly. I’m in academics, so I don’t have to be back to work until the 6th of January. I’m going to be back by the 28th. The impact is not pleasant, but between limiting the days I’m down there and having extra time off afterwards, it’s manageable. And I have drugs this time around! :smiley:

You’re sorted then :wink:

I’ll pray for you. Gosh, I know exactly what this is like. Be strong and pray a lot.

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