My mom always said to me and still does sometimes: What's wrong with you?

As an almost 40-year-old daughter sans children of a narcissistic mother and dealing with a partner's stubborn mother who was born in the same decade as my mother (1940s), I want to know: What's wrong with mothers?

Why do mothers need so much stuff?

Why do mothers refuse to listen to their adult children about hazards in their homes?

Why do mothers place a higher value on worthless stuff over their safety and comfort in their homes?

Why do mothers cram so much useless stuff in their homes that they can't open doors all the way, or walk down hallways without moving around stuff, or have guests over without moving everything out of the way first?

Why do mothers get away with everything and don't have to change their habits or themselves, while husbands and adult children tolerate the nonsense because speaking your mind to mothers is a godforsaken no-no?

Why do mothers not have energy to take care of their stuff in their homes but they have plenty of energy to shop all day for stuff they don't have room for?

Why do mothers clean up their kids' rooms without question and throw things away without asking, and then get mad when years later the adult children do the same after they find more expired foods in the pantry than non-expired foods -- foods that the mothers want to serve the adult children?!?!?

Why do mothers want everything that says 'free' on it?

Why can't mothers throw disposable stuff away?

Why do mothers keep piles of outdated magazines as decor and claim they will read them when they haven't in 3 years?

Why do mothers have so much stuff they have to use floors as shelves, and why do they think that looks good?

Why do mothers have to keep receipts from 50 years ago?

Honestly: What is wrong with mothers?

Does anyone get it? Is it just me? I see posts on this forum from adults who have to deal with their parents' stuff and their parents' feelings about the stuff, and the wants of the parents seems to come before the adult children's needs when the children are picking up the slack that the parents refuse to do for themselves out of stubbornness.

For example, my dad's a stroke survivor and we learned through observation that he wouldn't walk to get a plate of broccoli, but he had no problem getting to the plate of cookies as often as he wanted when it was left sitting out. Thus proving to me that old people -- even ones with disability challenges -- have the energy, they just don't want to be responsible, the same as children. Old people, in my experience, just want to gripe about how hard it is to do the responsible things, but they have no problem doing the fun things while they pass off chores they've never done to their grown children or hired hands.

I know this isn't all mothers, but for anyone who has a mother that sounds like this I'm struggling with it too and have most of my life. There's nothing I can do about it except accept it and work to not become it.

Sometimes I would rather stay away from the mothers in my life since neither sets a good example, both depress me, and I really don't care for the sarcastic prejudicial negativity both push out in their entitled ways; both also keep expired foods in their homes, so I do not want to eat at their homes any longer; but if I make a stink about not wanting to be around the mothers I'm looked at as the one with the problem.

The only thing that will change it is my mindset and that's what I have to work at. I just needed to gripe to people who may understand since no one around me does; I'm always wrong as I learned from my mother, so I probably am on this too because mothers know everything and that's one thing I'm not.

Thanks for reading.

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Wow, you just described my mother. We moved her into a very nice two room assisted living unit five minutes from my house, and her demand for her cooperation is to move everything she wants from her house into those two rooms. (couch, full size bed, organ, kitchen table, multiple end tables, bookshelves, books, videos, lamps, and I could go on) No matter how much stuff we bring down, it's never enough. On one trip back home, she's already planning the next trip.

Sounds like it's a universal problem, and I sure don't have the answer.

Well, we are presently clearing out my parents’ house. Luckily there are several of us along with in-laws. It has been rough. A lot of emotions. We all stepped back and took a deep breath after my brother and brother-in-law almost got into a fight. Have you ever seen two men in their 60’s bow up at each other? Not a pretty sight. My parents, born in 1930, rarely got rid of anything. We have rented a giant construction dumpster which is parked in the driveway and is almost full. The common comment from all of us is how doing this makes us want to go home and get rid of our junk.
My parents were not hoarders though, so I don’t know why I have a propensity to live very simply. I suppose I am somewhat of a minimalist. I give away, pass on, and donate items to organizations monthly, and it gives me a sense of freedom.  When someone complements my blouse, earrings, scarf, I give it to them!  It isn’t because I am altruistic; it makes me feel good. What possessions I do have are either useful or artistically pleasing. 
    Thirteen years ago, all my possessions were destroyed, along with my house in Hurricane Katrina. I have still not recovered emotionally from that. I collect fine art and pottery, along with my own paintings. All gone. I mourned my children’s baby books, photos, the chair I rocked them in. That experience, and now clearing out my parents’ house, has reminded me over again that “you can’t take it with you”.


Have you been secretly following my mother around??
Your post was way too spot on to be funny to me--although I did smile a bit about the "worthless stuff"---Mother is a BINGO fanatic and almost always wins--and the junk she hauls home...junk, plain and simple. Never anything useful, just horrible scented candles, rancid lotions, yesterday--OMgosh--a PEDOMETER. Mother walks less than 500 steps per day, what the heck use is a PEDOMETER??

She was born in 1930--and I guess she did experience the Depression although her family was always wealthy, by any standards. Her own mother didn't hoard at all, I do not know why mother does.

I used to try to keep her place tidy, but it was as fruitless as throwing sand into the ocean. Last week I managed to clean off a completely covered dresser top so she could actually see the mirror behind it (she ASKED me to, I didn't offer). And yesterday I was there organizing her zillions of old photos of people she doesn't recognize (sigh) and I saw that she had covered the dresser top with a bunch of other crap. (sigh) Well, I did get the crusted dust, but likely won't get the ok to clean that surface again.

Also, she is obsessed with what will happen to all her stuff after she dies. I was honest with her and said "Mom, YOU won't care. We'll deal with it. You've made notes of all the things you want to have go to the family. The rest will probably bless other lives" (Meaning the Salvation Army.) She is angry, thinking we don't care, but we don't! Her "kids" are in their late 50's and 60's. She could easily live 5-10 more years. It's going to be a hot nightmare, cleaning out her place. We already moved her once, from a 5,000 sf home to her apt. Took us 3 years.

Why do mothers do these things?

In my mother's life, "stuff" replaces people and relationships. She'd rather have her 3 TV's on all day, and be crowded out by all the junk in the halls and corners than have a friend over. She lives with my brother. I go up twice a week to help her. My other 3 sibs are MIA. That tells you something.

Yeah....I'm 49 and I can't manage paperwork. I probably still have my taxes from 20 years ago, but I'm not sure exactly where any of my receipts for last year are.  Also I am a piler, not a filer.  This has only gotten worse with the advent of computers.  If it's an e-bill, I can find it in 5 seconds.  If it's a paper bill, I can't even tell you.    

Also maintaining the freshness of the fridge eludes me.

I would definitely get up for a plate of cookies but not for a plate of broccoli.

I'm sure all of this will follow me into my old age.

I didn't have kids, though. On purpose. Some poor aged friend or landlord will have to deal with my stuff one day.

I am a mother and was born in 1939 so I use WWII as my excuse for not throwing stuff out. In our house everything was kept for another use. Buttons were cut off clothes before being cut into dusters. Food was never wasted, it was always repurposed. Stale bread became bread pudding, bread crumbs were cut into cubes and dried in the oven by Gma for her dog. Oven was part of the coal stove that heated the house. This one I really hated was adult clothes cut down for children One school photo has me dressed in one of Mum's dresses with the hem turned up.
Now I am about to experience being taken care of by eldest daughter. She plans to hire a dumpster and get us mostly new furniture. i am fine with the furniture but not my "stuff" Hubby is going to be apoplectic.
I am just looking forward to being looked after.

Narcissism is a personality disorder, but it is not a chemically caused mental illness like bipolar or depression. As my therapist once described it and borderline personality disorder, it is a psycho/social disease which means it is not caused by a chemical imbalance.

Well... it's a disorder. But as with psychopathy the jury seems to be out on whether or not it merits the same consideration as an illness, and whether it's congenital or environmental in origin.

Spoiled vs narcissistic seems to me a bit like copious vs projectile vomiting, headache vs migraine, nasty cold vs 'flu, deep cut vs severed artery - in that once you've witnessed the real thing you get a lot less casual about calling it out.

cmagnum, as I understand it, true narcissism is a mental illness and it is not caused by being spoiled. Being spoiled no doubt has adverse effects, but probably not mental illness.

freqflyer, us mothers who were born in the 40s did not experience the Great Depression. I don't think we can keep using that as an excuse. :-P

evepenman, one thing we need to watch out for is the adult/child dynamic that takes over when we start helping our elders. Once this happens, the Mom or Dad become the "adults" and the adult children resort to be the "child" once again. And us being the "kid", what do we know !!!

As for house filled with stuff, even outdated cans of food, if the parent grew up during the Great Depression, they were taught by their own parents not to waste anything. My Mom was able to keep a jacket that was 40 years old looking brand new.

As for our elders being grumpy, we need to put ourselves into their shoes for a few minutes. They can no longer drive to the mall to meet friends for lunch. Plus those friends probably had either moved away or had died. Elders have a lot of aches and pains. Their hearing is fading and so are their eyes. Their sense of taste is gone except for sweets, the the reason why an elder will make an effort to get up to get those cookies. I probably would, too :)

That sounds like a great book, CM!

Eve, I was born the same decade as your Mom and MIL. I don't do those things. Really. Well, OK I can't bring myself to throw out Smithsonian magazines, and sometimes food expires before I use it (and then I don't use it), and I don't consult my adult children about what my house should look like. We all get along fine.

I'm sorry there is so much wrong with the mothers in your life. Maybe you should just stop tolerating the nonsense, with or without speaking your mind. You can't control which mothers you got, but you an control how much time you spend with them.

Homer, Chaucer, Shakespeare, Austen, Dickens and Taylor Caldwell all pondered these questions, relating as they do - and as you point out - to mothers and fathers alike.

So I think what you're asking, fundamentally, is: "why aren't people more considerate, practical, and rational?"

Umm. Don't think we're going to solve that one today.

Meanwhile, I heartily recommend to you Sarah Knight's excellent "The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a F**k." In particular it contains (on page 39 in my hardback edition) a flow diagram for use in working out whether you or the other person is the one with the problem; as well as several other analytical exercises designed to show you, I quote: "How to stop spending time you don't have doing things you don't want to do with people you don't like."

Which would include worrying about why the mothers (and father) in your life are as they are.

Hugs. People, eh?!

We live in a culture of narcissism that creates narcissists of both genders either out of being spoiled or being deprived.

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