My widowed Mom just wants attention, ALL the attention.


My mother is a still very beautiful 82 yr old woman who was widowed 2 and 1/2 yrs ago. My dad totally adored and babied her. She babied me (an only child), but didn't like his attention on me at all. He babied her up until his dying day. Now she's turned her guns on me, expecting me and my husband to be at her beck and call. She can 'act' better than anyone I've ever seen-- especially act sick. Her physical last month showed she's perfectly healthy, her blood pressure, cholesterol, urine, etc were all wonderful, the dr was amazed! But in her mind, she is an invalid and she calls people on the phone and puts on this sick act like she's at deaths door so well that almost everyone thinks she's honestly sickly. She stops eating and makes herself weak and feels sick. She's lost about 25 lbs the past yr and is always exclaiming,'' Oh look how thin and poor I look! I've just got to have something wrong! That dr must be overlooking something!"

She's run off all her friends and expects me to call every night to listen to her moan and groan about everything under the sun. I have a newly retired husband who wants to live a little before we run out of time. He wants to take a cruise, go camping, something! I have rheumatoid arthritis and am not able to do much myself but could do that. I am just so upset I can hardly type this-- I know I'm probably not making much sense! People in the family have told me to just tell my mom that I'm busy, or I cant deal with her right now, but she always gets sick by not eating and then I have to take her to the dr and get xrays or mri's or whatever tests she can convince the doctors to run on her....

I'm so fed up I don't feel like I can make it! I love her and feel so guilty about even writing this, but I don't know what to do. Unless I sit with her and spoon feed her I honestly think she will starve herself to death. We recently moved her from her large home in the country to a two bedroom apartment closer to her doctors and shops. She desperately wanted to move from her country home because she was afraid of the isolation, but now that shes in her nice apartment she's decided she HATES it! Nothing but complaints about it from her. My husband and I have just about killed ourselves trying to make her apartment look as much like her house as we can, hung pictures and copper kitchen things on the walls, etc, and it's very pretty. She is just so unhappy.... She wants daddy back and things to be like they were before, where she is queen of the castle and calling all the shots. I just wish I could convince her to EAT and to get involved with senior activities. She wont even give anything a try. (she has used not eating to get attention from my dad back when I was a young girl in the 60's so I know she will continue to use this method to control me) I talked to her dr about how she wont eat and he just got in her face and said,'' EAT. You're HEALTHY." She remembers this, but still wont eat. She can't afford to live in an assisted living facility and doesnt want to. Does anyone have any advice for me? I just want her to live her life and let me have the rest of mine before it's too late. My husband is 64 and I'm 61.....

Thank you in advance.

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Don't feel foolish - it took many of us a lot of years to really see the dynamics of our dysfunctional relationships. Then we are taken aback that we didn't see it sooner. But when this is all you know, it takes time and often a crisis to pull off the blinders. When I slip and think about not getting a handle on it sooner, I tell myself what's important is that I finally DID, and started making the needed changes.

Hang in there.

Yes! I love blanie's idea! Read and read again Nana's story! Read it maybe once a week or once every two weeks to build you up.

Read Toxic Parents and I would add to that Emotional Blackmail.

Find a therapist for support because you are going to need some face to face support in setting these new boundaries, and making it through the aftermath of standing by those boundaries with your mother.

Give your husband a big hug, focus on being fully present in the present with him and ya'll go somewhere and have fun as you move forward with YOUR LIVES as a couple once again!!!!!!!! Like the song says, "Love the one you're with"

Good luck and keep in touch!

I feel for you - read a book called :"Toxic Parents" - it was recommended to me by my therapist. Your mom will not change. Ever. You can only change your response. She is manipulating you and you are letting her because you haven't set boundaries. She likely will make herself sick when you do. IT IS HER CHOICE. You can't control what she does or persuade her to change. GET THE BOOK, GET THERAPY, SET BOUNDARIES. Only you can change this dynamic - she has no reason to. She won't like it - once i set and stuck to boundaries, my mom didn't speak to me for two years. But now we have a more equal relationship. Good luck.

StCroix - HUGS, hugs, & more hugs. You can do this. It won't be easy, fun, or comfortable, but we are standing on the other side of the dark valley to encourage you. You can cross through too.

Durable Power of Attorney is imperative at this point if you don't already have it.
Make sure do to several originals. Most places will accept a copy, but I've run into one bank (Wells Fargo...looking at you) who insists on an original. Like I'm going to turn my one original over to them to lose.

Stcroix, one fluffy comforting thought to hold on to as well is that it will in the long run be better for *your mother too* if she is not totally dependent on you for all of her social and emotional needs. Tough love is love! - you'll be doing the right thing for all of you. Encouraging her to develop her own life isn't exactly cruel and unusual punishment, after all, is it? :)

I'm so happy to read our posts have helped you! Go get 'em tiger!!

And if you need a boost, read through this thread about a family where the mother-in-law was wreaking havoc on the family dynamic. Nana posted for advice and over the course of a year turned her life around and got her MIL out of the house and got her own family back. You can do the same thing!

Good luck and please, like Nana did, keep us posted!!

I appreciate all the feedback I've received! It has made me stop, take a breath and evaluate what is happening and how I'm reacting to it. One thing I realized: NO ONE is telling me,"Oh your poor Mom, you should be taking care of her since she's feeling sick, whether she is or not!" Instead it's been across the board postings in agreement of how to stand up for myself and how she is never going to change... and how I need to make my husband my first priority now. I sincerely thank you. It felt like an e-slap back into reality!

We spent 8 hours yesterday with my mom, getting her banking and bills taken care of so she doesn't have to deal with them anymore. Took all day long on the phone trying to speak with a human and giving the phone over to her so she could give me permission to speak for her, etc. But everything I do like this sets me up for freedom from her along the road and she cant call me asking about this bill or that bill. I was sick with rheumatoid arthritis flare ups from the stress and yet all I heard all day long was how sick she is. I realized she never asked how I was feeling, or anything about my life. When we got home last night my husband had a bad tension headache, took some medicine and went to bed. I sat in the living room reading and rereading your comments to me and thinking everything out. Then a favorite elderly aunt called me and we had a 2 and 1/2 hours long talk about what you've all said and how she's been trying to tell me that, etc. She was wonderful. And thought you all were amazing! It was exactly what I've been needing to make me come to the realization of how I'm being manipulated and what I now have to do to get past this part of my life.

This is going to be one of the very toughest things I've ever had to do, but I'm going to have to cut Mama out of my life while making sure she is taken care of in a safe environment. Her new apartment is gated, with a whole building of elderly people who can be her friends (if she doesn't run them off!), and she has a medical alert necklace and AT&T supported hand device alert if she leaves her apartment.

We are still looking into taking a vacation for a month :) We are going back to St Croix where we like to veg out and relax-- I just have to find a condo we can afford now that has no stairs whatsoever. I know Mama will put up fight after fight and hissy fit after hissy fit, but I'm going to stay firm and let her know that I know the dr told her she is healthy, so I don't feel guilty about leaving her and THAT'S THAT. (the trained wimp in me is all shaky about what's coming, but I can see that it's just my life and I have to get through it) Thank you again! For the first time in my life I feel like I have a group of tough angels standing right behind me egging me on to stand up for myself (and my husband) and get a life :)

Well StCroix1970, welcome to the Children of Narcissists Club. You've been in it your entire life.

The sense of responsibility and need to please is our hallmark. It takes awareness, time, and purposfull work to reclaim your own life and emotional health. But it can be done.

KNOW THIS: a narcissist will throw fits and play out dramatic scenes specifically to manipulate you, but they will never cut you off regardless of how displeased they seem in the moment. They count on you reacting with concern and ownership of the problem. They need for you to feel responsible.

YOU ARE NOT RESPONSIBLE for mom's happiness or entertainment.
Repeat this to yourself in front of the mirror 10 times a day until it sinks in.

I also have this mother. I put her in care in 2013 when it was not safe for her to live alone anymore. Once she got into a facility, they did cognitive evals and a psychiatrist visited her. Her shift down into memory care was decided and done by the professionals, not me. My one and only concern was her safety and medical well being.

I can never be responsible for my mom's emotional well being. That is a sunk ship.

My mother deserves a gold statue for the theatrics she's pulled my entire life. It only got worse with dementia. This is narcissism. It's a mental disorder. Sometimes doctors will classify it as bi-polar so they can administer strong anti-depressants and anti-psychotics. My mom also had paranoid delusions.

So your mom is over 80 and probably never going to change. Narcissists don't change. Stop expecting it. The only thing you can change here is what you do and don't respond to.

Prioritize your health and relationship with your spouse as THE ONLY #1 thing in your life for 6 weeks and see what happens.

Mom will throw hissy fits and all manner of dramatic stunts. Do not respond. Don't do it! It's bait - don't take it. If you do, you are undermining everything.

Instead, unplug the phone, go do FUN THINGS and just let mom be. In 6 weeks you are going to feel like a new person, your marriage will be stronger, and you may just see some things come into focus that had been lost in the FOG.

An awful lot of us here have been through therapy in our lives because of this and have gone no to low-contact with our mentally ill parent. It's a matter of our life or theirs. It sounds callous, but it's all about survival. The narcissists will always be fine no matter what.

My father spoiled/babied my mother until he passed 15 years ago, yet she treated him like dirt. Unfortunately she didn't spoil/baby me "I didn't want kids hanging on my skirts, I just wanted to go have a good time" and go have a good time she did, nothing but the best and even that wasn't good enough.. I gave up my home and career and cared for her in her home for four hellish years until she went into a nursing home and she couldn't bear anyone else getting my attention. The next door neighbour was a lovely woman, newly retired school teacher. who my mother hated "because I'm old and she's never offered to help me" ... umm she never spoke to this lady in 12 years who always saw her dressed to the nines, walking her dog and going out in her car. I heard through another neighbour that this lady had developed breast cancer so out walking my dog one day I popped a note in her mail box offering help. We eventually talked and I drove her to chemo treatments a few times which infuriated my mother.

The first time I drove her I used mother's car as my van was a bit dog hairy and got "She's got a damned nerve using my car!" Ok, so after that we used my van and I got "She's got a damned cheek calling you and telling you when she wants you" ... umm, I had my own phone line in the basement so she never knew if this lady called or what was said. It was pure jealousy because she wasn;t the centre of attention. The lady eventually passed away and I went to the funeral, taking a neighbour with me. Mother refused o go "Just tell them I'm not feeling well" and was nasty when I got back.

BTW she's hated the neighbours wherever she's lived ... one time her house got egged and it wasn't even Halloween!

She went into a nursing home over 2 years ago, lays in her bed dreaming up all sorts of things and refuses to associate with anyone, even though both I and the NH admin have put a rocket up her backside more than once. She has no friends though she wants to start calling people she knew long ago for them to come see her so she can lay in bed and hold court, seeing as she's so special and all {again, rolling eyes}. Of course that won't work as she can barely speak now and even I have hard time understanding her one on one.

She will eat breakfast, refuses to go to lunch "because I'm not pretty enough" {rolling eyes} and picks at supper. I don't think she weighs as much as my Ashy Girl, a black lab, but eats the chocolates and cookies I take her. I spoke with the NH doc who said that's fine if it's the only way to get some calories into her.

When she went into the NH I bought a wee house on a country back road. A year ago her relentless shenanigans and daily screaming tantrums drove me to the edge of a nervous breakdown and I blacked out doing 85 in my truck. No harm done but it was a wakeup call so I changed my phone number and made it unlisted. I've never given her my address either or she'd likely send the cops around "because I was worried about you" ... she's done that before. I was ill all last winter. I'll never totally regain my health but I'm getting a lot better and starting to rebuild my life.

If your mother won't eat, so be it, it's her choice and you have nothing to feel bad about. Scoop up hubby and go on vacation where there's no cell phone service {wink} or on a cruise where you can't get off. Your mother has an alarm system ... my mother had one but it was always hanging on a door knob "somewhere" ... and is capable of calling 911. Sorry if it sounds harsh but if she chooses to make herself sick it's her problem not yours. Studies show that a percentage of caregivers die from stress related illness before those they care for. Think about it! Though I will never fully regain my health, the choices I made probably saved my life..

Our input was not meant to beat you up or to make you feel foolish. We understand about growing in ways that felt normal at the time, but then found out later that they were not. Both my wife and I grew up thinking several things about our early lives were normal, but they were not.

No, you are not a total wimp as you have listed evidence for, However, it is time to stop wishing she will act right in order for you to have her permission (which you don't need as a grown woman) to go on with your life. I am glad to hear that you are wiling to implement the needing changes. No, she want change for she sees no need to change and never has ever seen a need to change. No, your life will not be any worse if she ends up hating you.

Nope, no need to drag your children into this anymore than you already have by telling them all about it. If they are like my boys, they will be glad when you stop dancing this dance with your mother, mine sure were. The best thing I think you can do at this point is set them a good example of dealing with this by setting good boundaries and just give them an occasional update now and then without loading them up with a whole lot of details. Sounds like your daughter is definitely backing you up and your husband is ready for this change as well.

As a husband who was overly patient with his MIL for too long after fighting her at first, I can totally understand your husband being fed up after going with the flow for basically 42 years! Wow!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I thought maybe he had been through this enough. I'm not surprised that you are worried about your marriage and that's quite a wake up call that probably does feel like being sent to the principal's office. I say that from the perspective of a husband who has been there.

It is time for you two to be a couple once again and enjoy your empty nest years with each other without the emotional baggage of mom. You two have so many more years ahead of you!

From my experience with my MIL and my wife's continued emotional enmeshment and codependent relationship, it felt like emotionally that I was married to more than one person. However, it was sure nice to get her back after several years in therapy in her getting her freedom. From that experience, I can guarantee that your sense of intimacy with your husband will increase when you stop dancing with your mom.

It sounds like you are determined to stop dancing emotionally with mom, start living your own life and to literally go dancing with your husband! So, go dance the night away and enjoy being a couple again!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

If you need professional face to face support along the way, don't feel bad about the idea of going to see a therapist because that is what it often takes to stop the dance, get past the parent's reaction to no longer having an emotional dancing partner and to keep those boundaries in place. It does not sound like that is what you need right now, but if you do, get it. Therapists have a lot of experience helping adult children get away from the dance of their manipulative parents who all use F.O.G. (fear, obligation and guilt) to accomplish your goal. That's why I've coined the phrase F.O.G.y parents.

At the same time, I respect your choice in this matter, realizing it is a very hard and scary move to make and if you choose to not make it right now, you will still have my support and love.

Good luck and keep in touch.

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