I have to be honest, I have it pretty good if we examine this picture as a whole. My dad passed away last year, my mother is financially stable, generally physically healthy with all of her faculties, and doesn't need much assistance.

I'm 40+, single, no kids, and live about 45 minutes away. My siblings all live out of state. As a result, I was tasked with the more physical aspects of caring for mom. I've helped with routine things my dad would have done: changing lightbulbs, moving boxes, flipping mattresses. Since I returned to my home, I now spend every Saturday afternoon with her. I offered, as she mentioned that she would miss cooking dinner for my dad. Except...

She doesn't really acknowledge that I'm doing this for her. I work a 40+ hour job during the week. I spend Saturdays with her, which means that anything that I want to do, for me personally, has to be done on Sunday. Grocery shopping, Sunday. Get the plumber to fix my routinely clogged sink, Sunday. Take my old dog to the vet for his 3 month check up due to kidney disease, Sunday. Some Sundays I barely want to leave the house. Every Friday Night I cringe at the thought of having to drive to my mothers.

Our relationship is ... superficial. She is prone to anxiety, though refuses to acknowledge it. She is judgmental and opinionated. She believes she's always right. She's defensive when you try to establish boundaries or express emotions she feels are unwarranted. She is not interested in my job, my dog, or anything that I enjoy doing. So, if I do talk to her about these things, I usually do it with the knowledge that she's just placating me until she can talk about what she wants to talk about.

She has a favorite. All of my siblings are aware of it. And I truly believe that I may be my mother's least favorite child. I don't think she dislikes me per se. But, I have no doubt that she would rather another child be the one she sees every week.

Anyway, all this is to say - that as the year has gone on, I've found myself managing expectations. I don't think my mother views my visits as something I'm doing for her. I think she assumes that I want to be there, that it is not a hardship or a challenge. Lately, as the world opens up, she has also assumed I can drive her to things (she won't drive anywhere over 45 minutes away). That I will take days off to take her to visit family. She doesn't ask if I can do it, she just states that she wants to do it. In some cases she could take a train or a car service, but she doesn't want to. Leaving me feeling selfish and anxious that I don't want to.

My emotional stamina is starting to crack. I feel very alone in managing not only these weekly visits that usually leave me feeling picked apart or frustrated, but these new responsibilities that bring up my own anxieties (I hate leaving my dog and cannot take him on road trips, I'm also a homebody and an introvert, so I prefer to keep get togethers short and sweet, rather days-long stuck alongside my mom the whole time)

I've read about people caring for their elderly parents for years (and with more significant issues) and the thought TERRIFIES me. I had a difficult time with depression and repression before my dad died and I know that if I continue down the road I'm on, I will lose myself.

I'm sorry, this feels like a petulant child yelling that no one understands them. Shouting that the sky is blue, when they want it to be turquoise. But, I had to get this off my chest and I can only share so much with my siblings, as it just makes them feel bad that they can't do much to help me.

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First off, welcome! You are very wise to start setting some boundaries now, because there is mission creep! I can feel it coming.

Read the "narcissistc mother" thread; you may find some good company there.

I never " visited" with my mom for an entire day. And yes, I lived 45 minutes away. Visits were 2 hours tops and that included a shopping trip to BBB or a haircut.

What is it your mom needs? Does she have a lawn service and snow removal set up? Handyman? House cleaner?

Has she considered downsizing to a different living situation like an Independent Living facility? Less cooking, no upkeep?

Don't announce boundaries. Just tell her that you're not coming this week. Or make an upcoming visit a shorter one (tell her in advance that you aren't coming or not staying to dinner--"I have other plans" is all you need to say).
Helpful Answer (16)
disgustedtoo May 2021
"Visits were 2 hours tops..."

Before buying this place I'm in now, I was about that far away. The route I used to get to work would take me near, so there were times I could swing by to "help" with something quick on my in to work or on my way home. Moving here made it about 1.5 hours. There was no intent to get farther away, it just was.

Anyway, I can't tell you how many times I've told people the MAX times I could spend with my mother was 4 hours, and that generally involved other people being there. Once it was less than 10 minutes! She wasn't too bad, at least for me, about "needing" something done. When we had to take the car away, it meant having to make more trips, to bring supplies and/or take her shopping for food. Although by this time I knew dementia was in play, it was very early stages and she lived alone, so there was a lot still "hidden." Having to do the grocery runs clued me in about the cooking, or lack thereof. Shriveled up veggies in the fridge, overabundance of chicken in the freezer, etc. Sometimes she would say she was out of something, like TP or paper towels, when in reality she stashed them away in the usual spot (spare BR closet) and then forgot they were there! Plastic wrap? I think I now have a lifetime supply! Aluminum foil? Yep, that too.

Never would have been able to stay for an entire day. The long drive sucked, but between limits in how long I could tolerate some of the nonsense AND having cats who need regular meals (no dry food for any cats here!), I couldn't stay all day. That made it hard to clear, clean and get repairs done when we moved her to MC too! Almost 2 years of my existence gone to that and selling it. By the time of closing, I said I NEVER want to see that place again! (it was not the "family home" for us, so there were no attachments to it, but spending so much time there, UGH!)
Gotta stand up to her. Cut those Saturdays down to once a month, at best. She can hire a handyman to do things in the meantime if they can't wait for your monthly visit. Set boundaries with her NOW, or it will only get worse and worse as she ages.

You sound resigned to becoming a caregiver. You don't. Just because you live the closest doesn't mean you have to, or should, provide hands on care.

Don't feel like you have to apologize for your feelings, they are normal, natural, and to be expected.

Stay Strong :)
Helpful Answer (15)

Time to tell your Mom that "I have enjoyed our Saturday afternoons, and have been so happy to have helped, to have made this time to get you past that time that is difficult for you, but I cannot manage it anymore. " Mention a few of the things you just told us. Then ask about finding a handy person for Mom who can do the lightbulbs, perhaps some cleaning projects she cannot do anymore. Tell Mom you cannot make the long trip as often anymore, but that you will call her once daily to check in (give a convenient time).
Let other siblings know you aren't going to be doing this anymore. They may need to step in.
As to whether she thought you were doing this as a sacrifice or you just loved spending the Saturday afternoon with her, that really doesn't matter. You wanted to try to do it for the reason you gave. You cannot fit everything in anymore. You are a human being with limitations. You have just bumped up against the wall of them. Not everything can be made perfect. Wishing you good luck.
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Let me point out my late mom as an example of how to do widowhood sucessfully.

One brother and I lived 45 minutes away; another brother was 4 hours away.

Dad died from Leukemia when mom was 74.

Mom had gone back to school for her BA when she was 62, taking one course a semester due to her caregiving. When dad died, she started taking more classs.

She was active in her church. She exercised and swam every week.

She hired a lawn service, a snow removal service and a housekeeping service that came 4 times a year to do a deep clean.

She organized her closets.

She kept a list on her kitchen table, one for each of us, with little things she needed done or wanted to discuss with us when we were there.

There was NO expectation that we would visit on any kind of regular basis.

(Mom got her BS in Behavioral Science when she was 82. Summa cum Laude).

Mom's needs did not increase until she was 88. At that time, when the job of managing her anxieties became too much for us (we all worked) we told her straight out that this arrangement no longer worked for us and that she would have to relocate someplace where there was more care built into the situation. We found her a lovely Independent Living Facility where she thrived until she had a stroke at 90. She lived contentedly in NH for another 4 1/2 years.

Your mother has no right whatsoever to have these "expectations" of you.
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FarFarAway May 2021
I want to be just like your mum. What an awesome lady.
Another thought. Your mom needs to adjust to her widowhood. It seems to me that she is using you as a crutch.

Cutting back on your visits will likely make her upset/angry. Good. Use the opportunity to tell her to seek guidance in the form of grief couseling or therapy to work out her unrealistic expectations that you will step into your father's role.

Be prepared for her to call up all your siblings to complain about how awful you are.
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jacobsonbob May 2021
"I can only share so much with my siblings, as it just makes them feel bad that they can't do much to help me." It appears the siblings at least understand what the OP has been doing, so they are less likely to put stock into complaints from their mother--that is, hopedly they won't believe that the OP is an awful person.
It's time to break the pattern - start making plans for yourself on the weekend, it's going to feel different to not be available than to say you need your own space and don't want to come. (If you can't come up with any legitimate excuses I'll give you permission to make some up 🤣).
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Yes, time to back off. Do not take time off from work to do something for her that there is an option for. Those personal days and vacation days are for you. Not a vacation when you are doing something you don't want to do. Why does it have to be Saturday? Tell Mom that is the only day places are open to get anything done so u are switching to Sunday. Maybe take her out to a nice late lunch. Go back to her house, stay for maybe 2 hours and then leave. If she complains, tell her that its time for her to get a life. Find things to do. Must be widowed friends she can get together with. That you cannot be her whole life. Don't disable her. She needs to do as much as she can for herself. Like changing that light bulb.

I don't consider myself selfish. I gave a lot of time to my parents with no complaint. But when I worked, my job was #1. Once she quit driving my Mom had to work around my work schedule. I worked p/t so was able to take a day week to take her shopping and run her errands. In between I would pick her up something she needed but when I was going out. She lived not far from me. Your Mom needs to realize that ur not Dad. That you are doing her a favor. And taking her to visit family, just tell her thats not going to happen. That you work 40+ hours and when you aren't working you are doing things that need to be done.

She needs to learn to ask not assume. If the train is the option to visit family then she uses the train. You set the boundries and stick by them. Once you relent, she then feels she is in control. If she gets mad, so be it. She needs u more than you need her. Keep telling yourself that. Maybe you can get down to one Sunday a month for an afternoon.😊 And if you have plans with friends, sorry Mom can't make it.
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Many people on this forum are in a similar situation!

I feel your pain. You’re in a tough spot. I’m so sorry.

Be honest with her and tell her that you have sacrificed a great deal for her and some new arrangements are in order.

Groceries and just about everything else can be delivered these days.
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This sounds so much like my relationship with my father. We were not close. Our relationship was superficial. He knew more about the families of the employees at the bank he frequented than his own grandkids. He knew enough to ask me how the kids were but 3 seconds into my reply I could see he was no longer listening and just waiting for his turn to talk again.

When he was in decent shape he'd want to go to lunch every three or four weeks. He just assumed I could take a 2 hour lunch from work. Had no idea I was taking vacation time for those lunches.

Then he gave up his car. He could still walk to stores but I would take him for a big grocery shopping every two weeks. How I dreaded that. He would do everything in his power to drag it out. This outing was a treat for him so he assumed it was a treat for me too. On occasion, I would take him to a doctor's appointment. At first, he respected my time and would ask when I could get off of work to take him. Then it morphed into him expecting me to take him to the same doctor twice in one day without any advanced notice. I fell for that twice then put my foot down. He was shocked but it needed to be done.

Your mom may not like boundaries but who cares? You helped her through a rough patch but now it is time for her to manage more on her own. Back off to twice a month Saturdays. She will be upset then she will either get over it or die mad. That is her choice.

You aren't the favorite...I'm an only child and I wasn't the favorite. My father adored his brother's 3 children. If one of them decided to visit he would cancel whatever lunch date we had in favor of a better offer....then assume I would reschedule right away.

You may not realize this but you are the one with all the power here. She needs you not the other way around. Start setting boundaries. What can she do to you? Stop doing things that she can do but doesn't feel like doing. My father would insist I do something for him because it was EASIER if I did it. Easier for him, not me. But I didn't count.

Elders love routine. So this is why she is so set with every Saturday. If by chance you had to stop by after work on a Tuesday she then expects every Tuesday too....because you did it once. My father was like that too.

Figure out what you are willing to do. Figure out how much time you are willing to give. And that is it. Are you close to siblings? Can you get them to at least call? When my father was driving me extra crazy I would ask a cousin to call him to help get him off of my back for a little bit.

Please nip this in the bud before it gets out of hand like so many on this board are dealing with. You were lucky to come here early before you are in too deep to get back out. I wish you well.
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disgustedtoo May 2021
"I'm an only child and I wasn't the favorite."

I'm one of 3, the only girl, but I've always said I'm not the daughter my mother wanted...

When my daughter was about 12, we were returning from something and going up the stairs. I was last in the line and overheard mom tell her that she's getting older now and she should start acting like a lady... ARRRRGH! After mom left, I told my daughter to just yes her to death and BE YOURSELF! I was more like a tom-boy, not the little "lady" mom wanted... Even to this day, when someone refers to me as "lady", I remind them that it's a 4 letter word...
This is kind of a business world comment. I worked for many years in a job that was enough work for two people, and I was getting very tense about getting everything done. My first husband suggested I make up a list of all my responsibilities, figure out how much of it I could do, and then go to the boss with it. Tell her “Here’s what on my list, and there is no way to get it all done at any level of quality. I’ve ranked them in order of importance as I see it, but I don’t have all the information you have. Which of these projects do you want me to focus on, and which ones should be shelved for now?” It was a miracle. Of course the boss made changes to my list (they have to show their added value) but it also made clear the sheer size of the job. It didn’t reduce my workload, but it reduced my stress.

Can you do something like that for your mom? “Here is the list of things you need done and how long it takes to do each task. I can be here for X hours each week, on this day of the week, so I’m not going to be able to do it all. Let’s sit down and rank these in order of importance, and see what fits into the available time, and what gets left out for now. Or, we can talk about finding some other way to accomplish some curbside pickup or home delivery of groceries you order, using Uber or the train, or getting someone to come in on a regular schedule to help.” This is a great way for the out of town kids to help...they can’t be there in person, but they can contribute money to pay for grocery delivery, lawn care, cleaning service, etc.

After you work through that and get the system going, it will be time to bring up the next list. At some point, mom is going to need more care than you can give. There are many options. Assisted living. Live-in help. In home assistance now and then. As time goes on, more help will be needed and that needs to be planned out, too. You won’t be able to do it. What are her assets, and how much help will she be able to afford? It takes time to find good assisted living places and good help. Let’s figure out the budget so you will feel secure that you will always be safe and protected and cared for. Durable POA, living will, all those things can be tools.

Of course it might not work. My parents always planned to go to a particular place when the time came. But the time never came. They admitted they just wanted to stay where they were. I told them they were in assisted living, it was just the kids doing the assisting. Which my mom started repeating everywhere and saying how lucky they were. I backed off. There were some things I would do, but I wasn’t available to cut the grass, plant the garden, fix the broken concrete. I did do some things but mostly visited. They had some savings and owned their house outright. They can hire someone to cut grass. Which they can’t bear to do because they want to leave money to the kids. I got a lot of flack for not doing my share from the siblings. Sorry, the parents get to make their own life choices and I get to make mine, and none of the choices involved me doing regular work there.

Maybe just having a plan will reduce your mother’s anxiety, knowing that things are taken care of and she doesn’t have to stress about needing to ask for more and more help. I hope you find a way to negotiate a workable solution for everyone involved.
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cweissp May 2021
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