Follow
Share

I don't have a question. I'm just dumfounded by my mother again. My husbands 54 year old sister died of a heart attack on Saturday and 4 days later my mother who lives with us scott free, still has not looked at my husband ( nor her daughter who just lost a friend and sister for 30 years ) and said Im sorry for your loss, or Im sorry about your sister. NOTHING except about HER heart attack and how hard it is to lose a son ( my brother died almost 30 years ago ) and how hard it is to put her short hair into a ponytail. My heart is CRUSHED and I need a mother and shes NOT there yet she lives under our roof .Im beyond disgusted that she hasn't looked at the man who has taken care of her for almost 2 years ( been in her life for 30 years ) and said Im so sorry about your sister or SOMETHING. But shes now number 5 on that waiting list for her apartment and this kind of stuff is why Im not looking back when we drop her at her new place. A person can only take so much and Im way past that point. I just don't understand how a mother of 6 ends up without a drop of compassion in her body. what in the world causes some people to not be capable of caring about anyone but themselves not even their own children ?????

This discussion has been closed for comment. Start a New Discussion.
Find Care & Housing
"I just don't understand how a mother of 6 ends up without a drop of compassion in her body. what in the world causes some people to not be capable of caring about anyone but themselves not even their own children"

1golf,
I've wondered about this subject many times. My MIL has 2 sons and the oldest is her favorite and never made any bones about it, she has treated my husband (her youngest son) very badly his whole life. She dotes on her favorite son's children & grandkids, cold as ice to my husbands kids. The whole time my husband was growing up she embarrassed their family with her many extramarital affairs in the small town they lived in, always & only thought of herself in every avenue of her life. Now at the end of her life, she can't understand why my husband doesn't visit her now that she is lonely in the NH. He is kind to her, just not interested in her any more, he finally just had enough of her selfish, self centered, thoughtless attitude toward him.

My mother had some concern (not compassion) for my sister & myself when we were younger, but her favorite subject has always been herself. As she has aged and developed dementia type symptoms, she has become very uncaring about any family member. She treated my dad terribly their whole married life. I was very sad when my dad passed away, the only thing that got me through my grief was knowing my dad no longer had to put up with my harpy mother. My husband was in the hospital 3 years ago close to death and my mother never even asked me about him or said anything to him once he was out of hospital. My husband has always been very kind & generous to mom, we provide a beautiful home for her to live in (not with us) and it never crosses her mind to thank either of us. It's as if we owe it to her.

Five years ago my father was in the hospital for 5 days, I slept in the chair next to his bed, my husband took breakfast and dinner to my mother on his way to work. Mom never called me to see how dad was. When I took him home from hospital, she was mad about something and was nasty to my dad & me. Never concerned about his health but she did announce happily that she had lost 7 pounds while my dad was in the hospital. I think she's always been a narcissist, it's just come to the forefront as she has gotten older. My mom wonders why she has no friends, but she's never been a friend. She's never seen her own short comings, only those around her. It's sad really.
Anyone can give birth to a child but it doesn't make them a mother, I guess that's why some people celebrate their step mothers on Mothers Day.
(2)
Report

CarlaCB: "Way back in 1985, a gerontologist published an article entitled: "Caregiving within Kinship Systems: Is Affection Really Necessary?" His premise was that many family caregivers were finding caregiving difficult and unpleasant because they lacked affection for the care recipient, and his solution was to convince those caregivers to redefine or "relabel" their situations so they viewed caregiving as simply a family obligation, for which affection is not necessary.

I'm not crazy about his solution because I don't really buy into the "family obligation" idea,"

Unless he also acknowledged that the "family" consists of more than one other person usually, and that ALL of the children have that obligation, then his ideas are useless. So often we see on this forum where ONE child has all the responsibility for this supposed "family obligation."
(1)
Report

I'm sorry for your loss. Its ok why are you thinking so much. You should not care about someone who don't have compassion for anyone not even their own children.
(0)
Report

Dear NYDaughterinlaw,

I'm so sorry, I know its hard to care for an elder. I feel as women we give and give and give till we are so resentful. I think its hard to have empathy for a man even if he is your FIL unless he gives some validation and acknowledgment for your efforts, your care, your love, the sacrifice of time.

In the day to day moments, that are bleeding into months and years, it does get extremely frustrating to be dealing with someone that shows no consideration for the people around them. I helped my parents for a long time even before their health crisis. My father was not the type to give his sensitive daughter (me) any validation. I was trying to read his mind half the time, doing things that I thought would make him happy.

For myself, I desperately wish I could go back in time and just say to myself, yes, this is the way dad is. Step back. Go to counselling. Go to a support group. Consider a nursing home. Do something except feel angry and resentful about my all my efforts without any acknowledgement.

He passed almost 11 months ago and I am still wracked with guilt and regrets. It is tough. Maybe a break is what it takes to rebuild that empathy.
(3)
Report

NYDIL - I don't think it's likely that your FIL will snap out of it, either. My question to you is, why do you feel you need to have empathy towards him? Why do you feel bad that you don't? If you're thinking that feeling empathy would make it easier or more palatable to take care of him, you're probably right. Maybe other people can give you advice about how to increase or regain your empathy, but I tend to simply accept my feelings (or lack of them) once I understand what their basis is. I don't try to make myself feel something that isn't there, especially if there's good reason why it isn't there.

This problem is not unique, nor is it new. Way back in 1985, a gerontologist published an article entitled: "Caregiving within Kinship Systems: Is Affection Really Necessary?" His premise was that many family caregivers were finding caregiving difficult and unpleasant because they lacked affection for the care recipient, and his solution was to convince those caregivers to redefine or "relabel" their situations so they viewed caregiving as simply a family obligation, for which affection is not necessary.

I'm not crazy about his solution because I don't really buy into the "family obligation" idea, but I have essentially adopted it for purposes of dealing with my mother. I have pulled back from caregiving as much as I can, and when I have to do something for her, I get it over with as quickly as possible and get on with the rest of my life.

I'm not sure what you have to do for your father in law since he's not living with you and, more important, he's not your parent. Do you help him essentially to help your husband? If so, can that be enough to make you feel okay about it? If that's not enough to make you feel okay, can you pull back? Even if your husband doesn't understand your feelings, can he respect them? Your husband plainly has enormous empathy for his father, but there's no reason you have to share that. I don't know if this helps you at all but you seem so troubled and I hope someone says something that can ease your mind.
(3)
Report

Moving this up.
(0)
Report

H*ll. This sounds exactly like my mother, and she hasn't changed a bit for as long as I've been alive. The only difference is that mine suffers from no ailments, rather than narcissism. She and my father still live on their own, Thank GOD.
(1)
Report

Felt the need to search for "empathy" on our forum and found this thread. I feel that I am losing empathy toward my FIL. My husband keeps telling me that, since his mother died, he feels worse for his father than he does for himself. And this is bringing up so much of our shared past regarding caregiving for my in-laws.

The following words on this thread resonated deeply with me:

Garden Artist “…compassion is one of the characteristics that makes us more sensitive in our interactions with others…” FIL seems to lack compassion. Since my MIL died, FIL hasn't asked anyone how we feel.

CarlaCB “It's really hard to take care of that kind of person, though, because you're always thinking "Why am I showing you all this care when you have so little care for anybody else?" At least, I'm always thinking that!” I have started thinking exactly that.

Anonymous “…everything was about her, her looks, possessions, wants and demands…” My FIL made his wife's illness about him. He also is a vain man, who cares about his possessions and how things look.

JessieBelle “…I believe that when many people get old their world becomes smaller and smaller, until soon they see only themselves.” Well said.

My FIL made his wife's illness all about him, complained constantly about how miserable caregiving made him, and now that she's gone, has made her death all about him too. How do I deal with these feelings? How do I regain empathy for my FIL? And will it even work? I think the chances that FIL snaps out of this are small.
(1)
Report

I try to find the good in my quagmire of elder care. It's hard. Mom is a control freak who fixates on joyless tasks. She wipes the kitchen counter better than everyone else; documents her expenses better than everyone else; stocks up on Kleenex better than everyone else. Ad nauseum. From sunrise to sunset. Back when mom had more spark, she'd twist any casual conversation into an opportunity to declare that she "has to do everything." Then she'd use that same mouth to reject every offer of help -- because so-and-so might not do it her way. The brag-plaining became mom's identity. She lacked the perspective to consider how this comes across to others. It never crossed mom's mind that my stepfather wanted a companion, not a scold. The disconnect wore him down and strained their marriage. My point (and I do have one) is that I can lean that way, too -- if I let myself. So I make a concerted effort not to. I KNOW that the "me, myself & I" schtick is alienating and unproductive.....yet I occasionally slip into the soundtrack of my childhood. Since I've had ringside seats to the unraveling of my mother's life (and been told stories that people wouldn't share when my stepfather was still alive), I am a 1000% more committed to not being a pointless know-it-all. My sig other is a great guy with a big heart. So what if he puts too much onion in the scrambled eggs and loses his reading glasses once a week? I'm not perfect, either. Let's just enjoy each other while we have each other.
(3)
Report

My mother will do the same thing. It's not that she is a mean person, but the older she becomes, the more she focuses on herself. She can say insensitive things without any awareness. I believe that when many people get old their world becomes smaller and smaller, until soon they see only themselves. It happens a lot. So if they hear of someone having trouble, they relate it to the same trouble they've had.

If someone has been self-centered their entire life, they will most likely not become generous of spirit when they are older. I agree with what Carla said about it being hard to care for a self-centered person. No matter how kind we try to be, there is always the thought about why should we do something for someone who never did anything for others. Maybe we do it so we don't become that person?? I don't know the answer to this one.
(3)
Report

Golflady if she's always been that way she will never change. My mother was the same way all her life, not giving a damn about anyone else, everything was about her, her looks, possessions, wants and demands, along with being mean, manipulative and spiteful, trampling anyone who dared cross her path. At the end of her life she had no friends and I'm the only family.

Her treatment of me and my poor father was deplorable. His heart gave out 16 years ago and I swear she put him in an early grave. I've been afraid of her all my life.

She passed away in a NH a few weeks ago and I felt nothing but relief. I've come to the conclusion that she was mentally ill her whole life and I can close the door and move on. Sadly these toxic people will never change and all you can do is distance yourself from them as much as possible.
(5)
Report

I understand completely, golflady. My mother's only reaction to the news that my sister (her daughter) had been diagnosed with colon cancer was to announce that she (my mother) needed to have a colonoscopy since it is something that runs in families. Not a word of compassion or support for my sister, who was terrified and forced to go through a long series of difficult, invasion tests and surgeries.

Some people are just like that. It's really hard to take care of that kind of person, though, because you're always thinking "Why am I showing you all this care when you have so little care for anybody else?" At least, I'm always thinking that!
(6)
Report

Sometimes the hardest part about caregiving is accepting what the norm has become, and the fact that it's not particularly a considerate attitude.

I'm not being callous, but if your mother has been this way for years, she's not going to change now. So the best thing to do is acknowledge it, and resolve that it's not going to hurt you. Don't expect the compassion that won't be there.

If she's unable to be sympathetic, that might hurt her in the long run, as compassion is one of the characteristics that makes us more sensitive in our interactions with others, as well as to help in understanding human nature.

Perhaps you could shift your concept of her to feel sorry for her in that she lacks this basic human element, which could enhance her own life by helping her to bond with others.
(4)
Report

This link contains the symptoms I described above. Lack of empathy is a major symptom.

webmd/brain/autism/tc/aspergers-syndrome-symptoms
(0)
Report

If she has always been this way AND she's losing executive function (which this sounds like), you are in for a double whammy. The old saw about "as people age, they become more themselves" is quite true. But there's also a tipping point, where the "same old sh*t on steroids" is actually a symptom of a new issue. Those of us who are the closest are sometimes poor judges of what is "just her" and what is a whole new defect in the wiring. Speaking from experience here. Good luck and godspeed.
(3)
Report

You say she's always been this way, I'm glad you are finally realizing there is nothing you have done to make her this way, so logically there is nothing you can do to change her. Some part of her is broken, has always been. I think possibly her telling about her own heart attack and her own grief is probably her way of acknowledging your SIL's death and sharing that she understands pain and loss, albeit a very convoluted, self focused way.
(6)
Report

No this is how she has always been. I spent 49 years making excuses for her behavior. Its taken all these years to admit to myself that its not right and that I really don't have a real mother. I don't know why I let the things she does ( or doesn't do ) get to me. I don't know why I thought she might be different this time. Its just sad.
(2)
Report

You say your mom suffers from age related decline. Is that all that is going on with her? The reason I ask is that often dementia can cause people to behave in odd ways. To rule this out, I might have her checked by her doctor to see if she has some illness, infection or medication interaction.

Even before memory is lost, odd behaviors are common with dementia. So, I might wonder if that is it in the beginning. My loved one was much that way, though she has always been rather selfish. She had no concern for anyone else. All she thought about was herself and how she was feeling and what she wanted. She was even rude about it. But, it was dementia on top of her Aspeger's, as it turns out. More dementia though. Before that she showed some level of concern.

Has your mom always been uncaring? Maybe that is part of her personality. Some people who seem to be uncaring have reasons behind it. Sometimes Asperger's can cause a person to seem aloof or uninvolved. It's a form of autism. They struggle to relate with others and emotions. I'd read about it and see if that could be the cause. Autism was not easily diagnosed many years ago. I think that Aspergers was even more difficult to diagnose, because the person was able to function. They just had some odd quirks. Read descriptions and see if the signs jump out at you. My cousin has every single symptom of Aspergers, yet she was never diagnosed to my knowledge.

There are also personality disorders that can cause uncaring. Narcissism, sociopathy, and other things could be causing it .

There could be some other kind of disability that is undiagnosed. And I also think that how a child is raised can influence how they care about others. Some parents are so overindulgent with their child that they create a monster. They give all the to the child and require NOTHING from the child. It often results in a selfish person who has no empathy and no desire to comfort others. I don't know of anything that can done about that once a person reaches adulthood.

There are just some of my theories. I'd be interested to see others.
(0)
Report

This discussion has been closed for comment. Start a New Discussion.