I feel like my Mother's jailer.

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My mother and I could not be more Unalike. I am outgoing and make friends easily. She stays home in her little cocoon and will never pick up the phone. That is our background and past.
Now, she at 91 and me at 66 and newly widowed (hate that word) live together. She moved in before my husband passed. She has been here 2 years.
When she lived on her own, I would visit weekly and take her to lunch and/or shopping, having tea and go home. I always felt we were like friends.
Now, she lives in a 600 sf guest suite in my home. I try to get her to go out with others, but she will only go if THEY invite her. I have given up...I tell her she is old enough to know what she wants and do what she wants, even if it is watching TV and staring out the window all day.
She just set me off again on a tangent (by myself-not in front of her or she would freak out). She is asking me one item at a time for gift wrapping. I finally said that it is all on the kitchen island and she can choose what she needs. I then said I would be gone most of tomorrow. She said "oh, good. Then I will go in the kitchen and do my wrapping." I asked why she couldn't get her items now. "Oh, I will be in the way." She always makes me feel that I am some sort of mean nasty daughter who is keeping her jailed up! I take that back...I make me feel that way...like a daughter guilt that I am not doing enough.
I know that I am ranting, but I am so tired of being the responsible one...and have never had time alone in my own home since my husband passed last year.
She just won't go anywhere! I have to leave my home to be alone...
No, I am not an only child. I have a brother who lives out of state and visits her once or twice a year (In my home).
Please tell me that I am not a bad person. Please tell me that there are others out there feeling the same way.

7 Comments

BTW...at 91 she still goes for morning walks and makes her own breakfast and lunch. I just don't let her near the stove and make her dinner for her. She is healthy as a horse.
Oh my! Of course you're not a bad person! You're a generous and good daughter, doing the best you can.

So, does your mom have dementia, or has this been her personality MO forever, or both? If she's still "with it" you need to have a conversation where you negotiate what the "house rules" are.

But if she has dementia , she may not be able to do that. You may need to do a lot of reading here, watch some Teepa Snow videos, and learn the applicable techniques.

It sounds as though you are still grieving/adjusting to widowhood? Have you sought counseling, a grief support group or seen your doctor about this? Sometimes the support of medication and talk therapy can make a world of difference.

You are so NOT a bad person!
You are an extrovert and she is an introvert, there nothing wrong with either. She truly is content to stay "home in her little cocoon", it isn't something that needs fixing, indeed you already knew this about her. If you wish to be more social feel free to go out without her. If she needs someone to be there then hire a caregiver (she pays). I would go back to having that weekly day out together if possible, it would give each of you something to look forward to and help to pry her out of her isolation. As an introvert myself I know that too much alone time can lead to hermit like behaviour and depression.

As for the gift wrap example; it sounds as though she feels she isn't in her own home and doesn't want to intrude upon yours, so in her own way she is trying to give you your space. It's not easy for two independent individuals to coexist together, she is feeling like a burden, which probably makes her hide away all the more, and you are feeling like a mean spirited daughter because you resent never having time to just think of you.

Maybe you could both use a little vacation from each other. Could she try a month respite stay at assistive living, or she could travel to brother's for her next time with him?
My brother has no place for her to stay. However, I bought a little condo down in the DC area to be closer to my only grandchildren (without ME getting in their way! Hah!) and that is my respite a few days each month. I have a son nearby and great neighbors that check in on her while I am gone. It is my getaway!
My cousin told me that the same scenario happened a few years ago with my mother's sister before she died. All in the family! I just hate feeling like I am a villain
There's nothing wrong with your feelings. Many on this site share your frustrations. As long as there are people in this world, there will be personality clashes. And being family does not mitigate that. (Quite the opposite, in fact. I, for one, could never live with my mom. Could. Never.) Since your mother is healthy enough to take a daily walk and assemble simple meals, I get the impression she could live alone. Is that an option? Perhaps an Independent Living unit in a graduated-care setting, if finances allow? Perhaps income-scaled senior housing, if money is tight? In either setting, your mother could be as much of a hermit as she wants to be. You could visit -- in the role of a daughter. And shed the roles of life-facilitator, whim-indulger and punching bag. Your sanity is important. You have every right to live your life without the oppression of your mother's shadow. If there are any viable options, now is the time to initiate the change. If she's driving you bananas when she's healthy and of fairly sound mind, imagine the quagmire when her health and mobility start to fail. In your home. (Lemme guess: You're not an RN, you're not a physical therapist, you can't lift 100+ pounds and you can't get by on 2 hours of sleep per night. Hey, me too! And there's nothing wrong with that. But if mother insists on aging to the max in your guest suite, she will need all those services. And more.) It's hard to establish boundaries. Super-hard. But worth a shot. The stress of your current environment is bound to negatively affect your health. You need to stay ahead of that.
At atge 91, I would just let her do whatever she wants as long as it's not dangerous. I wouldn't have any expectations. You know what she's like. I would work on accepting it. People generally don't change.

I would imagine she's tired and worn out. If she's able to prepare her meals safely, then great. Some people might be spry at that age, but many aren't. If she has dementia, that makes it even more understandable. Whether it's age related decline or dementia. Just accept her, don't take things personally and accept that your house is not your home right now. Try to see things through her eyes. If she stays in her section of the house, you should still have some privacy.
Thank you, all! I guess I just need to get it off my chest once in a while. A friend said a while back "it's not you. It's not her. It's the situation."

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