My helpless family holiday situation

My mother has my brother and her 3 grown granddaughters, one with a baby due in January living in her very small house(plus 2 dogs, one a bull terrier the pet of the eldest grand)

My 1st issue is that these grands are not allowed to do anything for themselves. If they do she complains about the quality of their work. She does their laundry, cooking, cleaning etc. If she actually did a great job, I could say she is a perfectionist but the house is a filthy pigsty. They fight constantly. She complains about the dog barking and destroying all her things.

I try to stay out of it but a second problem has cropped up. My mother is beginning to smell of filth and urine. This may be something I need to step in and do something about.

Also, I try give the grands encouragement and good example. During the holidays, I ask that everyone chips in by making a dish or helping in some way.(only at my house) My mother end runs me by insinuating that I am to fussy or bossy and this gives the grands another excuse to not chip in.
Another thing she does is try to make all the food dishes, then complains that no one eats them. I don’t know why no one eats them, perhaps it is hygiene but I know the grands prefer plainer food. She refuses to make them things like grilled chicken (not chicken in mushroom sauce) or steaks(not Swiss steak) and baked potatoes( not potatoes fried in fat and onions) . So they don’t eat her food and she ends up throwing it away.

Lately my mother has been trying to push me out of the picture altogether for the holidays but I still would like to spend Christmas with my family. If I invite them to my house she will make them feel guilty, or start a fight and make everyone feel so badly that they won’t come. She also makes them feel that they are not really wanted by pointing to my request for good manners and cooperation as proof that I am the one who is unreasonable.

Any suggestions about how to help my nieces out of this emotional abusive situation that is teaching them to be helpless and probably future welfare people. What about my mom’s hygiene, should I step in?

I would suggest holding on until after Christmas, as Christmas has a lot more emotional weight to it. The stakes are a lot lower in January or February. Also, see your nieces individually and develop relationships with them outside the family hive.

m crane said:

“If she actually did a great job, I could say she is a perfectionist but the house is a filthy pigsty.”

She is a perfectionist. Watch a few hoarder shows, and you’ll see how incredibly particular hoarders are about the indoor landfills they live in. There’s a book entitled “The Secret Lives of Hoarders” that might be helpful to you.

How old is your mother? Do you think she may be starting to suffer from some cognitive problems?

I think I would probably prioritize working on getting the expectant niece out of the house. No baby ought to be born in this setting, which makes the stable at Bethlehem sound really home-y. Maybe have a few lunches out with her before Christmas (perhaps under the disguise of “Christmas shopping”) to discuss her escape plans? Once her baby starts crawling and is down on the floor amid the dirt and the dogs, this house could be life-threatening.

My suggestion is that you and your brother start a plan about how to deal with her decline. Just because she complains when others bring the home up to minimum standards doesn’t mean the other adults in the house have to comply. They need to counter width Grandma you work too hard, and when she complains affectionately say well you are welcome it was the least I could do.

My mom is 72. She is very clever and manipulative and seems very sharp but I’m no expert.

I have seen the hoarder shows. She shows some similar traits, not hoarding but filth. Mostly she wants to control other people. Is this what they do also? And what is their reason for wanting to control other people to the point of making them helpless?

I appreciate your insight into my pregnant nieces dilemma. She is so helpless she doesn’t work, drive or know how to help herself. She is painting a tiny back room where she and my other two nieces sleep. This is all she wants to do right now. And I don’t know where she can go honestly. I haven’t had a lot of luck with either elderly or child protective services. You would be surprised the level of filth people are allowed to live in, as long as the clean up the pet poop it seems to be ok for them to live in filth.

My mother had dementia; it is vital to learn how to overrule unreasonable defiance without drama. Diffuse drama whenever possible. It may make her mad but it really does take two to have a scene.

mcrane said:

“Is this what they do also? And what is their reason for wanting to control other people to the point of making them helpless?”

I haven’t ever heard of a hoarder managing to live with a large group of adult relatives. It’s almost like people collecting, actually–the human version of what some people do with pets.

animalhoarding.com/

“I appreciate your insight into my pregnant nieces dilemma. She is so helpless she doesn’t work, drive or know how to help herself. She is painting a tiny back room where she and my other two nieces sleep. This is all she wants to do right now.”

It’s good that she’s capable of doing something, even if it’s such a small thing.

Maybe give her driving lessons for Christmas and then follow through and make sure she takes the course? Even the acquisition of seemingly minor skills could give her a boost in self-esteem.

“And I don’t know where she can go honestly. I haven’t had a lot of luck with either elderly or child protective services. You would be surprised the level of filth people are allowed to live in, as long as the clean up the pet poop it seems to be ok for them to live in filth.”

Where is your brother in all of this? Is he as low-functioning as the girls?

He is an even bigger problem. He sits all day in his underwear watching horror movies or playing video games. He used to work sporadically and made very good money as a line man. Now he has become too fat and I don’t think they are willing to take him back. He admits he is depressed and has begun to see a doctor. He has extremely bad verbal fights with my mother and throw things like coffee tables. It got so bad I was forced to call elderly protective. They were unable to do anything for her because they found no signs that she was not able to function on her own and she refused to cooperate with them in getting my brother out of her house.(She needed to file a restraining order or speak to a lawyer) She said she couldn’t do it so the fights continue, almost daily.

I have told him the best thing he can do for himself is get away from her. He says he has to take care of her. I don’t think she needs him and I told him so. I think he is so helpless and dependent on her that he is afraid to leave.

But it is my nieces that I am concerned about not him. They don’t deserve this. I thought that when they got older that they would see how toxic my mother is and get out like I did when I got old enough. They are so poisoned against anyone (me) who has standards and are afraid of hard work, I don’t think they are ever going to be anything but welfare mommas.

Small things like a thank you note that my niece sent me, keep me hoping that somehow they may break this cycle. The pregnant one seems to be crying out for help but I can’t seem to help her with my mother sabotaging our relationship and my brother sabotaging their ability to grow up.

He would have to be pretty low-functioning to not wake up when told that losing the capacity for proper toileting and hygiene betrays a serious problem. His mother has been taking care of him, but she is declining. It is time the rest of the household steps in and cares for her. They need to be as creative as they can in order to protect her dignity and her wishes, but they are duty-bound to step in as health and decency require, even if she protests mightily.

Oh, my. Well, if she is not toileting herself properly and doesn’t realize it, the verdict may change on her competence. The brother does sound as if he has serious issues of his own. This is not how normally-functioning men act when they’ve previously held a job. But, yes, establishing as legal fact what a reasonable person has good cause to suspect is no small task. I would not be surprised if that is where you are headed.

The other issue, of course, is that it is by no means certain that a legal intervention might not make things worse. Once the courts are involved, the familh can lose all control. Diplomacy is a better option, if you can get it to work. The trajectory of the current course is almost certain to end in disaster, though.

Can you perhaps take the pregnant niece to a Dr appt and find out how the grandkids see this situation? They might be more willing to intervene than you fear. With your encouragement, they might be a help in a behind-the-scenes way.

She has always been like this, aging has only made it worse.

If you speak to her affectionately but firmly, she accuses you are patronizing her and files into a rage. When she was younger she used to find a way to get even when she was not happy, now she just flies into a rage
Though, I am no psychologist(not even close), my mom fits the description of a histrionic personality and she also fits the description of a narcissist(a really bad one too). It scares me what she has been able to do to our family.

I hope I’m giving you a clearer picture. So many things are hard to relate in a post.

Thanks for your input.

:eek:Your mother reminds me of a friend.Her mother in law was the same type of personality
except the home situation was different. The mother in law finally passed away, and wound up dying alone because of the terrible treatment she gave to her two sons.

The girls seem like they can be helped ,but it will take work and paitence. Your pregnant niece
sound slike she wants help,but not sure how to go about it. teaching her to drive,amongst other things may make her realize she has to think about that little boy or girl who is coming.
It may serve as some sort of wakeup call in her case.

I think your other nieces want help,but maybe afraid to ask because they are terrified of their grandmother.
As far as your brother goes,does he have any male friends at all? Maybe if he got to spend time away from mom it would help his depression a little bit.Maybe if he has friends and they hear of a job ,perhasp they might suggest he apply for one or whatever.Do you have any other relatives the girls could live with beside your mom? Maybe someone who is not afraid to stand up to her and tell her where to go and knows how to deal with her?
All I can do is pray for your family and that somehow this situation gets better.It’s not good for anyone’s mental health.

mcrane said:

“I don’t think they are ever going to be anything but welfare mommas.”

As bad as it sounds to say this, that sounds like a huge step forward to me.

Try to get your nieces out and about without grandma as much as you can. One or all of them might really enjoy coming home with you to decorate your house for Christmas/bake cookies/etc–namely some sort of productive but pleasant activity. Even a fairly ordinary home probably looks like the Garden of Eden after what they are used to.

The pregnant niece presumably needs to do a hospital tour, possibly a labor and delivery class, a baby care class, maybe a breastfeeding class and to put a lot of thought into appropriate arrangements. She’ll need to choose or find a pediatrician pretty quick. It sounds like she is nesting right now, so I think the iron is red hot–she is presumably thinking a lot about what she needs to do for her baby.

Keep the channels of communication open. I expect that she is going to find her living situation less and less tolerable after the baby is born, so look for openings for having a heart-to-heart about what she wants to be able to give her baby and her dreams for herself and her baby.

I suspect that once one sister leaves the house, there’s going to be a mass exodus.

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