My Mother has no compassion for anyone but herself.

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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 ?????

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"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.
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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."
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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.
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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.
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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.
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Moving this up.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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