Any advice for dealing with a narcissistic Mother (89) who is often very mean and has always had ever-changing moods/personalities?

Follow
Share

My mother can be kind, cook for me, and be pleasant but I am always, always "walking on eggshells." She can be so mean, accusatory, jealous, demanding, sarcastic, belittling, spoiled/childlike, but when things are "going her way," at times happy and content. This has been through my entire life -- I am now 63. I am seeing a counselor and this has been helping, but I am hoping some of you can share your stories and ideas. She becomes mean and rejecting when I do something with other members of my family, even though she has been invited, but chooses not to go. She has ruined more holidays than I can count because something didn't go her way. When I go out of town, it is a major production, even if it is just for a two or three night mini-vacation with my husband. I rarely see my children who live in other states because she gets so depressed, upset, etc. over any separation from me. I am an only child and have felt the oppressive weight of her moods and never-know-what's- coming-next demands for my whole life. My father was a loving man, very sweet, but sort of gave in or turned her over to me. My father died 15 years ago and my mother promptly moved near me into a duplex about a mile away. Since that time, I have felt somewhat like a prisoner because I cannot relax and enjoy my life without her constant calling, complaining, etc. I have recently set limits, and I am so much better than before, but it is still so stressful. I am truly so nice to her-- do multiple things for her on an almost daily basis, take her shopping, have lunch with her, clean her house, take her to the doctor, whatever. I realize many of these things are age-related and I accept this and am happy to help. But when she is so mean and rejecting--well, that still gets to me, even though I am slowly improving. Lastly, I want to share a dog saga--my mother has always had dogs. She relates better to animals than people, BUT, like me, the dog has to "behave perfectly" in order to get her kindness and love. SO... She has been bemoaning her loss of her dog who died six months ago and she has tried out four new dogs, and they have all been returned because they peed or pooped in the house, or seemed to be sick in some way. I have been the one to return these sweet dogs to the shelter and it makes me ill. I feel horrible for the animals. The last dog was so sweet but she ate grass and threw up, plus pooped in the house, so there I went, running over to her place to clean up the mess, and the next day driving over two hours to return the sweetest dog in the world. I considered keeping this little dog but my husband and I am just now trying to figure out retirement and hoping for little bits of freedom and do not want a pet now. Lastly, for some background information, my mother had some traumas in her life, but was raised by a loving father and step-mother. I feel for her, and she continually reminds me that her real mother left her when she was two. I listen kindly and as patiently as I can. I feel for her. I am not a saint, but I have been told I am a nice person who has a kind heart, but I can hardly bare this anymore! She is in my head all the time and I am always waiting for the other shoe to drop.

So, like I said, I am getting better, but setting boundaries and sticking to them is the hardest thing I are ever done. My mother is "addicted" to me or something, and being an only child, I have no backup. She has no friends anymore --the few she had have died-- and she has alienated many people throughout her life. I cannot just leave her to her own devices, and she does not want to move into an independent living facility yet. I am not acting to make this sound like a "poor-me" pity party, but that is kind of what this is. Please help by sharing stories, struggles, or advice that has worked for you.

This question has been closed for answers. Ask a New Question.
Find Care & Housing
79

Answers

Show:
You may not want to read this, but............ Your mother can't do anything to you that you don't allow. Screen her calls, limit the outings, NO to a dog, and see about getting someone to clean her house. If you can't get away for a few days without her tantrums (yes that's what they are) you need to get a handle on this mess now! When she starts the "accusatory, jealous, demanding, sarcastic, belittling, spoiled, childlike" simply tell her "Mom, I can't hear this right now. You aren't in a talking mood without demeaning and belittling so I will talk to you later." Then either leave the room or hang up the phone. You have to be the adult because she has become the child.
Helpful Answer (14)
Report

Nynj, having my mom live with me would also be my worst nightmare, and my mom is not narcissistic. She just needs her room to be 85 degress at all times.

There is NO LAW, federal, state or otherwise that says that your mother must live with you. Who is scaring you with that, mom?

It was your mother's job to prepare for her old age, not yours. You have a say in this. You are allowed to move away, go on vacation, ignore her, whatever. You dont have to put up with this sh/t she's dishing out. Stop putting up with it.
Helpful Answer (14)
Report

njny please please please read this. I am 62 almost 63 and my mother does in fact have a dependent personality disorder. While it usually appears as submissive (i.e. the good times when all is going her way) it is highly abusive if Idont do what she wants. I am not exactly an only child but as my brother has an injunction preventing contact i am in effect an only child. The differences between us are that I am not married (any more) and I do Live with Mum but I live in the UK so elderly care is not quite as complicated although is equally as frustrating to access initially.

Under no circumstances should you live with her or invite her to live with you. Your stress levels will skyrocket . You were not are not and will never be responsible for your grandmother leaving your mother and that your mother uses that is just another tool in the arsenal.

You do not have to be your mother's caregiver on a one to one basis. Your limits could be defined by caring sufficiently about your mother to ensure that people come in to care for her if that's what you want. You clearly aren't bothered about an inheritance and that's good to see ....so many people are.

Now you have to focus on you. If you get upset when your mum gets difficult then you have given her the exact reaction she wants because now you are demonstrating guilt and dementia or no there seems to be an inbuilt knowledge that never disappears - or at least hasn't disappeared for me in the last 5 years.

You will never understand your Mum - you can't, you are not her; so what you do have to do is exactly what you do when a child has a tantrum. You say I love you Mum but I will not be spoken to like that, I will come back later THEN WALK OUT OF THE DOOR.

When you come back if she starts again do exactly the same. If it continues then release yourself and get someone else in to clean the house, get meals delivered to her. DO the bare minimum because YOU are key in her care but that does not mean you have to be the key caregiver.

Be forewarned this won't happen overnight and my mother sure as heck knows exactly how to press my buttons but I am learning slowly to take control. I have to say without these peeps on here I would still be banging my head against a wall but in here people don't judge (usually). xxxxx
Helpful Answer (12)
Report

Your mother. Now that you want to make some changes, take the time to explain to your mother what the changes will be. Make sure you can stick to them. Make sure you are clear. Perhaps start with something simple like only one trip out to the grocery per week. Or only on Tuesdays. Something that is a real help to you and reasonable. It won't be as hard for you to make the change. I was so conditioned to do what my mother asked that even when I said no, I would find myself complying. It's not that any one thing is so difficult. It's just that after awhile it feels like being pecked to death by chickens. Congrats on seeking help. I hope you find something to do that nourishes you when you take the break from mom. Don't feel compelled to tell her what you are doing with your free time. You already know she won't approve. No need to spoil it for yourself.
Helpful Answer (12)
Report

njny - it sounds horrible to have her live with you. I am the same. I simply could not possibly do it. You have been given very good advice about setting boundaries in the above posts. I would say let her get angry, sad, mean, accusatory, jealous, demanding, sarcastic, belittling, spoiled/childlike, or whatever - in short let her be a drama queen. That is who she is and a tyrant. That should not stop you from taking holidays or doing what you want to do with your life. I don't think you can blame or excuse her behaviours on her background, or you and I and others here would be pretty miserable people too. She has made her choices along the way, as have we all, and she continues to and gets what she wants from you. You are not going to change her no matter how much you bend over backwards for her. You need to change your response to her.

Yes, she is addicted to you as you are her "narcissistic supply" - she feeds on the attention she gets from you. The more attention she gets from you, the more she craves. You are feeding onto that. You can change that by changing your behaviour and giving her less attention and giving yourself and your hub more attention. Often narcissists redirect their needs to another person who will play their game. I have no doubt she has a personality disorder. A geriatric psych could evaluate her. but even then there is little treatment.

What you have to do for yourself is protect yourself - detach and distance. When you do not do things exactly as she wants she throws a fit, Whatever! Please disengage yourself from those events. She will likely continue to throw fits but if you are not as affected by them you will suffer less. I know that detaching is not easy but living as you are is not easy either. It is what you need to do to get on with your own life and be less affected by her. There are good resources online about detaching, Rather than cleaning dog poop read about detaching.

There is no rule that says you have to look after your mother's dog. You can tell her that you cannot do it any more starting in the new year and if she cannot do it she should hire someone to do it or let the dog go or live in the mess. If she lives in the mess you can let her doctor know and/or call APS. Sometimes things have to get worse before they get better. Don't be an enabler or a codependent.

A good professional is invaluable. Withdraw some of your support - the dog for example - limit calls and trips to help her to the bare minimum, as jude says. Does she have finances to hire help? Let them be her support. If she doesn't like it, let her suffer the consequences.

And for goodness sake, stop feeling sorry for her. She plays that to the hilt - it is part of the game. Start feeling sorry for you and your hub and the effect she has on you. There will always be an alternative to living with you. Stop worrying about that too. Let professionals tell her that she cannot live alone and needs assisted living - that gets you off the hook. Talk to the agency for aging and social services. Get professional advice and keep coming back here for reinforcement and ideas. ((((((((((((hugs)))))))))))))
Helpful Answer (11)
Report

njny, I know it isn't as easy as all that. We want to be generous, loving people, but when we are it can be putting ourselves out there to be used. If you are like me, you don't have the heart to just leave your mother dangling by herself. I think that is a wonderful trait to have, but it doesn't make it easier on us. If we can be their everything, they don't need to find anything else. The bad thing about this is that they will finally get to the point where they aren't able to find other resources. My own mother is at that point now... and it is only me. Everyone else has gone on their way.

I don't blame myself for her isolating herself. She is, and has always been a hermit. I do wish for myself that I had built a better life here. I don't like being isolated with her. The good thing is that she is not as abusive as she once was. The bad thing is that she is not as capable. I worry now that she will fall, so it keeps me closer.

The ideal would be to get our parents involved with friends at church, the senior center, or independent living. Elder folks are strong supports for each other and take much of the burden off the children. I don't know why many older people have the drive to isolate themselves. It would be so much easier if they didn't. It increases the burden so much on the caregiver. A huge question is how adult children encourage their parents to get out? Maybe it takes a little tough love and not being so available. I know that would not have worked with my parents, since my father had Asperger's that go worse when coupled with dementia. He couldn't tolerate people. But maybe for most people making the parents seek other people would work.
Helpful Answer (8)
Report

The reason you fall for her tricks is that she has conditioned you to over the course of your lifetime! She has trained you by withholding love until you comply. Simply put, you can't teach an old dog new tricks - but you can stop feeding him his reward for those old tricks!!

That reward is "narcissistic supply" aka a reaction to her antics. Anything you do - a raised eyebrow to a meltdown - tickles their sour hearts. So you have to stop reacting. What worked well for me was, "I'm sorry you feel that way," and I kept doing what I was doing. She's had her chance to make a great retirement for herself, and she refused. Don't give her the power to ruin your life too!

No more trips to the pound for you. "Sorry mom, I just can't go with you to pick up a dog. Yes, we are in the car, but no, I can't drive it over there. Get someone else to help you with that, I'm not having another of your dogs in my car." You act like a broken record with no. You don't even have to do different versions of no, but my examples are way you can say no 50 different ways. :)

No, you are not taking her in, No, you are not paying for stuff, No, No, No! You can do it. Your husband will be neglected if you do what your nmom wants all the time!
Helpful Answer (8)
Report

Continuing - hit post by accident. When I didn't want to be slashed to ribbons cutting her cats claws, I was being selfish etc. When I wouldn't write checks to several charities for her to mail to the 100+ charity requests she'd get in the mail - she'd respond by writing over 40 a month on her own - then berate me when I wouldn't balance her checkbook. It was my fault her drivers licence was suspended, her sewing machine broke, she couldn't get the VCR to work and on and on. After a few years of this I finally grew a pair and would leave when she'd start in. No "I won't be talked to like that" - I hadn't worked up the courage for that yet - I'd simply say "I've gotta go" even in the middle of something, and left. Eventually she put two and two together and cleaned up her act. Until "the fall". Mom fell in late August - didn't hit her head or anything but the fall set off what had been simmering dementia into full blown dementia. The past few months have been the worst of my life - she's blamed me for everything and anything - said things to me no adult child should ever hear from their parent. By the end of October I was moments away from a complete breakdown. But then while gooogleing "feces incotinence" (nice, huh?) I found this site. Being here probably saved my sanity - seriously! I am learning to distance and detach. It's not the way I want it - I want Mrs Threadgood for a mom (from Fried Green Tomatos) but that's not my reality. I am learning to say "no" to not pick up the phone, to reduce the time I spend visiting, to not ask "how high?" When she screams "jump". I said "no" quite a few times in the past few weeks and it feels really good. I'm getting on with MY life. Sure, she's been mad as hell lately - silent treatment for days but it just doesn't bother me the way it use to - distance and detach! On a side note - please don't get her a dog! Don't do that to a poor defenseless animal that only lives to please but who will surely never measure up and have to bear the brunt of her unrealistic expectations!
Helpful Answer (8)
Report

One thing to note about care facilities: they do not have the history with your LO, and so don't react the way you do. It would be good for some of these folks to have to deal with real people whom they did not spend a lifetime manipulating. I have a few people in my life who are difficult, but fortunately I have been able pretty much to just ignore them when they go off on me. (I once left a niece on the phone laying on my desk ranting insults for an hour while I went on with my own work.) I hope no one is upset by the comparison, but I figured out something with my daughter's dogs (three yippy cockapoo mixes) who bark their heads off whenever some one comes into the house. I decided that I was not going to react to them (daughter yells at them to shut up) and so I ignore them and pet them only when they are quiet. Two of them figured this out in about a day, and whenever they see it's me they stop barking. The third one keeps barking, and keeps getting ignored until she quiets down. It's much harder to do that with people, but all we can do is try to break our conditioning and be clear about what we will cooperate with.
Helpful Answer (8)
Report

Ny, has your mom been to a geriatric psychiatrist?

I'm not a doctor, but judging from your description, it sounds as though she has a personality disorder. At any rate, she is excessively demanding, and you are a ceding to those demands. This allows her to remain " independent".

What would happen if you became ill? Had to tend a seriously I'll spouse? Or God forbid died?

What is the backup plan here? I know that you have cut back some in terms doing and responding to her, but the dog thing? How the h/ll can she expect to own a dog if she can't get it back and forth to the vet on her own?

If you and she decide a dog is feasible, go to an organization that will take o dog and train it for you. Don't accept the dog until it is obedience and house trained.

I think if I were in your shoes, I would move far away from mom and closer to grandkids. She would do much better in Assisted Living.
Helpful Answer (7)
Report

See All Answers
This question has been closed for answers. Ask a New Question.
Related
Questions