What do you do about a mom who constantly oversteps personal boundaries?

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My mom is 86 and lives near me. She doesn't drive, and therefore I do a lot of things for and with her. The trouble is, she often crosses personal boundaries. For example, she'll say I need to lose weight (for my own good); I should have been a teacher; I have horrible friends; teachers at a school where I volunteer take advantage of me; I owe it to her to help her because she raised me, etc. It's coming to the point where I really dread being with her unless other people are around. She has no friends, refuses to go places to meet people her own age, and watches tv all day. That is all well and good, sad though it seems to me, but I don't like the way she treats me, as if I were 12 years old. What can I say that is not defensive to indicate that this is unacceptable to me. I have told her it is my business, for example, when I see my doctor, and she becomes angry. It's as though she has a right to own or run my life. I am very intelligent, capable, and well educated. I am also a widow, as is she, but she really doesn't like me spending time with friends. It's all very sad, but I need to create some better boundaries and would love some suggestions!

Answers 1 to 6 of 6
Avidreader, my mother used to behave that way towards me and towards my brother and sister. Like your mom, she would watch tv all day and knew what was going on in the lives of nearly every celebrity in the day's news. One theory I have is that she handled her family the way someone might do on a talk show. Any event is fair game and all advice and opinions are allowed, no matter how harsh.

I know she still see's me as 12 years old (I'm 63), and last time her hospice physician came by I heard her telling him all about something I did when I was in the second grade!

I've found I've just had to let it go at this point. She isn't going to suddenly become aware of who's who and what's what at this late date. Sometimes you just have to accept what is and roll with it. If it gets to be too much, I'd just leave the room (and often have). Taking a breather helps, as does trying to think how I'd react if I was the 86 years-old and it was one of my children trying to set me straight. That usually makes me rethink my words. :)
Paula, I love your theory of the influence of talk shows!

avidreader, I think you are either going to have to develop thicker skin, or stronger boundaries, or maybe some of each. Either that or reduce the amount of exposure you have to your mother.

She may try to treat you as if you are 12 years old, but she has no power over you. What is she going to do if you keep hanging around with your "unsuitable" friends -- ground you? You can do now what you looked forward to being able to do when you were 12 -- live your life the way you want to, and just brush off her advice and suggestions if they don't suit you.

People where you volunteer are taking advantage of you? "You may be right Mother, but I really like being there, and I'm going to keep it up. Let's talk about something else now." "Mother, I agree that losing some weight might be good for me, but it isn't something I'm going to work on now. Let's change the subject, please." Etc.

"Mom I'd like to have lunch with you after we finish our errands, but let's agree not to talk about what is wrong with my life. I just want to have a pleasant break. Is that OK?"

And if all else fails, minimize the time you spend alone with her.

Thank you both for your responses! I do need much thicker skin. I like the idea of acknowledging (not agreeing with) what Mom says and then say, "Let's move on to something else." Then I have to mentally let it go.
There are generational attitudes that are passed down to others and can only be broken through prayer. When someone is always critical it can be a type of cursing towards you. If you are not a Christian none of this will make since to you. One way you can establish a boundary for yourself is to limit the time you spend with her.
I think a good sit down is in order. Explain to Mom that you love her and don't mind doing for her but he negative comments about her life have to stop.  If she can't do it, you will find someone or a service to take her shopping and doctor appts.  You can't enjoy ur time with her when all she criticizes all the time. I think some people don't realize what they r saying. Good Luck.
Top Answer
I can tell you what a counselor told me to say - "I am doing everything I can to help you and make your life more comfortable, but you do not have the right to speak to me in a disrespectful manner. When you do - I have the perfect right to walk away, and I will."
Then, do it.

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