Mortified. My mother's meddling has to STOP.

Started by

I'm the proud "owner" of a very difficult, very needy, very unhappy and jealous 80-year old mother. I'm an only child in my mid-30s with a young family (toddlers), a full time career and a husband who also works full time. My dad's deceased. I live on the other side of the state, about 2 hours away, from my mother and hometown. I moved out here about a decade ago for preservation's sake. My mother has always had some serious personality issues and as an adult it became suffocating enough that I need to create physical space between us. Yet, as will be apparant by my story, she still continues to meddle. Lately she's been in an absolute snit because I wasn't invited to my 3rd cousin's bridal shower like the rest of the family (and by family, I mean, like the rest of my 1st cousins were). Daily she would ask..."have you gotten the invite in the mail? Did the invite arrive yet? Are you SURE you didn't get anything about the shower????" I kept telling her NO, I wasn't been invited - probably because I don't live local - and that the lack of invitation was a-OK with me. Truth of the matter, I keep in touch with my 2nd cousin (the bride's mother) on Facebook, but I'm by no means exceptionally close with this side of the family - particularly the bride whom I don't recall ever meeting. So to be saved a trip to the other side of the state - especially when I have a business trip the week immediately proceeding the event - is a welcome relief. Well, as "luck" would have it, yesterday I get home from work and find an invitation for this very event sitting in my mailbox. I'm immediately suspicious. Why did my invite just arrive when everyone else had received theirs a good two weeks ago? Two weeks is a significant lag in timeline, dontcha think? Seems suspicious, doesn't it? Like maybe I wasn't on the original invitee list but then something happened to cause the host to send me an invite? Something like maybe my MOTHER making a big enough stink that I was ultimately invited. Awesome. Turns out, the shower is less than 3 weeks from now. And on that very same day (I did not know the date before receiving the invite), we've got an appointment 30 minutes away to close on our mortgage refinance. I've already rescheduled that appointment twice due to work conflicts and the rate we're locked into expires 3 days after the closing. Basically, we NEED to be at this appointment. So, there you go. The shower host sent the invite all for naught. And now, for having been invited, I'm obligated to send a gift. In short, EVERYBODY loses. THANKS, MOM.


All I can say is the only way to stop a meddling mother is to keep the conversation short on the phone; and even if you visit her; and she starts on something - just say you have to go. As for the obligation for a gift for the shower - I don't think they will expect that of you. And the invitation after all was 2 weeks later. Sounds like you think your mother got involved and put them up to it. Good luck.
I'd send her a token gift, (you've never met her?!) and a short but nice note saying you have prior committments for that date but you wish her happiness at the shower and joy in her marriage.

Meddling is one word for your mother's behavior. Controlling also comes to mind. Obsessive might fit in there somewhere, too.

You, my dear, were very smart to put 2 hours between you and Mom, and I am very glad that you don't feel obligated to show up at the shower. You don't need our advice. You could be a role model for many who need advice about meddling moms. I hope you stick around the forum and share your wisdom.
I wholeheartedly second Jeanne's comment. You are a wise woman. Cattails
Get an alarm that you can set and as soon as your mother calls, set it. When it rings, announce that you have to go! Also, you can always be "on the way out the door" whenever she calls. When she goes off on one of her tirades, excuse yourself and say you have to go. You can also ask her questions along the line of "what do you think might be going on?" or "how do you feel about that" or change the subject to something totally unreleated...gardening, sewing, politics, pets, anything you can think of that she might become sidetracked on. Save magazine articles that are in her former areas of interest or that you can ask her opinion about. You can always do the "oh I read something the other day I wanted to ask you about"; read her a few paragraphs and ask her opinion. Spend 10 minutes on the phone with her and "have to go". You can also save articles you think might grab her interests or opinion and mail them to her. It really takes only a few minutes to drop something in the mail once a week with a "I saw this and wondered what you think about it" note. It can be anything from an article on the latest colors to paint the living room to an article on terrariums or a park for pets to run free. It really does not matter so long as you can come up with something that will make her feel important and needed. It could be an article on school lunches or a recipe you "want to try". That way she gets the attention she needs and you don't get sucked into her family dramas. I used to take a couple of hours every few months while watching TV to go through magazines etc and clip things to send to my mother. Put each article in a separate envelope, add a comment or two, request her opinion and address them. Mail one each week so that she gets a letter about every 7-10 days. You can stick in drawing the kids did "for her", a printout of a family picture, pet picture, your garden or the new dress you bought. It doesn't really take much effort. You can also send her questions abouut family history or the times she has lived through. "What was it like before automatic washing machines?" "How did your mother do the laundry?" "What did you do during the summer as a little girl?" Simple things that will give her the feeling that she is still a vital, important human being with something to offer. It can even become fun, and as she feels rewarded for what she offers, conversations with her will become more pleasant...and so will she!
Maybe your mother is expecting you to get HER to the shower! If that's all it is, help her set up arrangements for her to get there.
Smart stuff there, Judy! We're on site (nearly 24-7) with my mother in law, so the distraction tactics need to work a little differently, but the advice you offer is excellent.
LSS (long story short) -- you're NOT going to stop her meddling!! Don't even get me started on the trouble my mother has caused with her meddling. These people thrive on being the center of attention, especially anything drama-related, because it gives them importance and lets them keep in the "loop" for they are insecure people who can't stand to be left out or be the last ones to be advised of something they think they are entitled to know!
If you read some of the earlier postings I have put on here under different subjects you will get a handle on how my mother operates - she will bait me and then lower the hammer, i.e. "what are you going to do this morning?" "I'm going out to shovel the snow (I used to love doing it! now I'm in a condo and I miss it) "Well I'm going to have a talk with your husband then! You shouldn't be doing that - you'll hurt your back" (as if she cares!) She's just resenting the time I spend doing something I enjoy, for it is time not spent on HER!!
Others who comment on here will know that she remarks that I shouldn't be babysitting my granddaughter, I don't need to do laundry so often, she comments on how many times I use the washroom, and if I (in her opinion ) am too long in the shower, I get "did you fall in in there?"
All of the things that she meddles with/in are none of her concern, and I have pointed that out many times - she will tell family members the complete opposite of what I have told her just to start something, then when called on it, denies and lies about it "Oh, that's not what you told me!" REALLY?!
I am so sorry that you have this in your life and I'm sure many on here have to deal with the same kind of difficult personality - the key is: we're not going to change them - but we can change our strategy in dealing with them and that's what I'm working on.
Good luck to you - get caller ID and the less you tell her about your own life the better - that will give her less ammunition. Yesterday I was asked why I didn't tell her that I had a bank account.......HUH?
Judy gave EXCELLENT suggestions! Love that envelopes one per week with some little tidbit in each!
Tha helps her feel more attended much as anyone could make her--since she is pathologically bent on controlling others--know that it is out of fear of abandonment and whatever other old issues stimulated her behaviors.
You were SMART to move so far away!
AVOID allowing guilt trips from her!
Those guilts are her own, not yours.
If you do not have caller ID on your phone yet, get it!
Allow the answering machine to record her messages--on an actual taped message recorder....that constitutes a record of her verbiage towards you.
Save those in case you need them later.
Judy's suggestions are excellent--try those!
And by Heaven, go to your mortgage appointment--NOT to that wedding.
Token gift, polite appologies for not being there--perfect according to etiquette rules!
Set healthy boundaries/limits on other's use of your time, energies and sympathies--including family members--it can save your life!
I agree with Chimonger. Buy a gift card for dinner for two at a local restaurant for the cousin or whoever is getting married with a nice card that wishes them well and comments that while you don't know their tastes, you thought they might enjoy a nice evening together after all the wedding excitement is over. Keep your appointment and get on with your life. You can also get a subscription to a magazine your mother might enjoy getting and talk to her about articles in it. Anything to steer the conversation away from the drama she enjoys stirring up for attention. Is there anything she was once interested in that she could develop an interest in again? Anything she once wanted to do that she never got around to? Would she do scrapbooking "for you" if you took her some scrapbooking magazines, supplies and photos? It would be a great way to get her old boxes of photos in an album and learn who the people only she remembers are. Tell her it is what you want for Christmas...or the kids need to know about their family history. She needs a purpose to keep living without driving you crazy.
Hi Wubba1108 - hope you've had a good day.
My granddaughter came over today.....of course that was my mother's target for this afternoon - here's a sampling of the missives I received on that (she hopes I will get exasperated enough with the comments and take the action she wants done - control and manipulation) --
"You better put a sweater on that baby - it's cold in here, you must have turned the heat down"
"Has the baby had her lunch? What are you going to give her?"
"I don't see why your daughter feels the need to have a nap with the baby" (she's pregnant, and running after a toddler, DUH!!)
"You're giving that baby far too much milk"
"Shouldn't you be changing her diaper about now? You waited long enough"
"What will she be having for supper? She can't live on snacks, you know"
"Why do you let her run around all dressed up? She'll ruin that dress"
"Oh you're changing her clothes now? I suppose you're going to put a sleeper on her, she seems to live in those" Last time I checked, I was NOT her mother!!
The meddling goes on and on, day and night, without end. Anything is fair game but mostly it's about food, tv, the cats, what I'm wearing, who I should or shouldn't be talking to on the phone, what I should be doing instead of watching tv (until she wants something else), the decisions I've made about my home and family, what I should or shouldn't be doing with my own children, etc. etc. etc. After the last comment I said to her "Aren't you watching your movie?" Her answer was "Yes, I've got it on right now, why would you ask that?" I told her that her time would be better spent watching that than trying to run everything and get involved in things that aren't her issues, and, of course, I was accused of "acting smart".......... It's endless so please heed my warning from before: they're never going to change and it's ourselves who have to NOT engage, don't argue, just change the subject, avoid them, try to arrange outings for them so you can get some peace for yourself. They thrive on the drama, arguing and confrontation and even the negative attention, for them, is better than no attention. I have nobody who will take her out to lunch or dinner, for the day, or overnight.......because no one else wants to put up with her, including my brother, whose house is "too small" to have her (she's on her best behaviour when she's over there though because she knows if she pries or meddles, he will cut her off like he did once before for 12 years!!

Keep the conversation going (or start a new one)

Please enter your Comment

Ask a Question

Reach thousands of elder care experts and family caregivers
Get answers in 10 minutes or less
Receive personalized caregiving advice and support