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I am 26 years old and my mom and I live together. She is only 60. I am a masters student, I have a bright legal career ahead of me and a boyfriend who is my only support network right now. But then I have my mom. She has been living with chronic pain for the last 3 years, and she divorced her husband 1.5 years ago. Since then, she has become a shell of her former self. She refuses to do most things herself, complaining about how much pain she is in. I love her to death, and for years have not minded driving her to the doctors office and cleaning the house and running her errands, but it is becoming exhausting. She refuses to give me any time to myself, she is always at home. She doesn't want to go to a senior centre and be social, she doesn't have any friends or family. I appear to be her only social network and it is driving me crazy. Financially, she is set for life with her savings but she refuses to even acknowledge how lucky she is in that regard. She takes everything for granted. She constantly guilt trips me for trying to have a social life. I try and cook nutritious meals for her daily, but nothing is ever good enough. Whenever I try and talk to her, she complains that it isn't her acting up, it is her pain that is causing her to act how she does. I am starting to get anxiety attacks just when I come home from whatever I am doing. Even my boyfriend points out how ridiculous her demands can be sometimes, she will get me to stand up and open a window and 1 minute later stand up and close it again when we are all trying to have breakfast. And when I tell her what would she do if I stopped taking care of her, she says she would survive just fine. This is the woman that hasn't been able to go to the store and by herself a meal, or even take a taxi. She refuses to even check her bank statements online, and has me doing all her online banking. She simply cannot be bothered, yet she fully knows how to use the computer. I feel like I am her slave, but she is my only family. My mental health has gotten so bad because of this, and no matter how many times I bring it up, I am always the one to blame because I cannot understand her pain, according to her. I am a monster according to her for blaming her for her pain. Someone please offer me some advice. I am at my wits end. I told her to try and cut me some slack because I have legal exams coming up this month and she said okay but all she does is complain even more. I am scared I will sabotage my future, and whenever I try and tell her how hard it is for me she just disregards it.

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Since your mother is young and has no impairments beyond chronic pain, it sounds as though you should be making plans to move out, or to move her out.

It sounds like she can take care of herself, just doesn't have to if you're on hand. Am I missing something?
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"And when I tell her what would she do if I stopped taking care of her, she says she would survive just fine."

I should take her word for it. Leave. Let her open her own dam' window.

Don't get me wrong: your mother does have chronic pain, plus she is recently divorced, and she deserves support and help with coming to terms with both of these very hard challenges.

But the support and help you're giving her aren't helping - they're making her passive, which just feeds her depression, and stressing you out. You have to break this horrible co-dependent cycle, and seeing as you've got exams and a career to focus on this is the moment to do it. Get out. Go and stay somewhere else to revise, and then keep going.
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You are young and talented. I am impressed you have a Masters. I want you to have a chance to be a legal eagle! Soar right out of that house every chance you get. You have to make this happen. I don't care if you have to go to the library to study. The more you leave mom on her own, the more she will do for herself. That's what she needs and it is good for her. You tell her those exams are important. This will take time but keep working on backing away. This is your chance and time of life to soar. If you were my child I would say "fly baby, fly!"
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Your mother is a skilled manipulator and guilt-tripper. You have to become equally skilled in holding your boundaries and not getting sucked into her version of reality. You are too young to have your life taken over the needs of a demanding parent. She believes that her condition gives her the right to impose on you without limits. You can't allow yourself to buy into that idea, or you will never have a life of your own.

Can your boyfriend be the white knight here? Can you move in with him, or even pretend to be moving in with him, to get you and your mother out from under the same roof. Don't allow her to think that any partner or future partner of yours will simply move in with the two of you and become an extra person to cater to her demands.

Your mother needs to find other solutions for pain and her loneliness that don't depend on you. You have made yourself too available and she will only want and expect more as her needs increase. It's wonderful that she has funds. Assisted living is a great option for people who need help with meals, cleaning and everyday activities. It will also give her a social life that doesn't depend solely on you. You need and deserve to get your life back.
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I'm going to take a different perspective, but first, a clarification on your student status. Are you working on a JD in law or a masters in some legal field? It's my experience that JDs are the degree that law students need, but perhaps there are other programs available.

If you've been in law school, you probably learned the first year that the law profs are going to put you to the test, on a regular basis. You have to learn how to stand up to them, how to maintain self respect and respond to their demands as they question students (sometimes) mercilessly. From what I understand, law school's first year is really a litmus test. That's what the newly minted attorneys have said.

So use what you learned to stand up to your mother. Distance yourself emotionally to view her as a client and ask how you would handle this client. It's a skill you'll have to learn if you want a legal career anyway.

Your mother is exploiting you. Would you allow a client to do that?

You've gotten good advice, especially from Carla, who is an attorney herself (if I remember correctly). But you're the only one who can take the action.

Give yourself some time to think about this and how to change the situation, because otherwise you can kiss your career goodbye b/c mother's demands will prevent you from devoting the extensive time you need to get started in law. And that might be a lead-in to professional care. You don't mention the specific field of law, but if you go with a major firm, especially in a large city, you can be expected to work a lot of overtime and weekends and won't be able to spend the time your mother wants for her care.

You're not alone though. Many people post here, and regular posters have been through this. It's a difficult situation; emotional heartstrings are pulled and guilting is involved. But try to see it as one of the major challenges you'll face in your career, i.e., a challenge you'll need to meet and conquer in order to pursue a career in law.

(And I'm trying to be tough with you to give you strength to stand up to your mother; my frankness is not a criticism.)
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I am so sorry you are in this situation while you are so young! But I will give you some worthless free advice (free advice + $2 = 1 cup of coffee) from a middle-ager. You should be enjoying your 20's, not taking care of your mom. You should have the freedom to work hard and build a career and life you enjoy. I spent much of my life worrying about my equally selfish mom with different health problems. I do not think the selfishness is intentional or malicious. She just cannot and will never, ever understand that her self-centeredness and seeming helplessness rob her own children of their lives. It took me about 30 years to realize this.

You do not need to be your mom's caregiver and can particularly feel free to stop if she is financially stable. You do not need to be her senior center and therapist. Divorce and chronic pain are horrible, for sure, but the best way for her to adjust and heal is through peer support, therapy and regaining her own independence.

Your school might have free or very low-cost counseling available. Take advantage of it as soon as possible. March in and ask the counselor about boundaries and practice, role-play, them over and over. Knowing how to set and hold boundaries will not only help you with your mom, but in other relationships and work as well. Good luck!
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I'm 61 and having a hard time with this scenario. Your mom is using you--big time. Holy Cow--I would NEVER and I mean NEVER ask one of my kids to do so much for me.

Get away..as fast as you can. If mom says she can handle things, then let her.

You are far too young to be tied to a cranky pants mother---it could last 30 more years, easily. Her problems with not being social are her problems, not yours.

You could still be as involved or not as you choose. Sheesh--most people at 60 are still working, functioning, running homes and dealing with grandkids.

I wonder about her pain. This just sounds like a smokescreen. I too have chronic pain and I'll tell you exactly who is concerned about that: nobody. (well, I am, but it's MINE to worry about!)

Your BF is not going to hang around a lot longer if mom is there being a PITA. It's your time to be a little selfish and get yourself going, career and life-wise.
I wish you the best. She going to guilt trip you--DON'T fall for it!
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You can't count on your mom to change her personality or her ways of doing things or anything really. YOU have to be the one who makes the change. It is your responsibility to get out from under your mom and lead your own life. You have a lot going for you but it can all disappear if you remain a hostage to your mom.
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Thank you everyone for your answers.
I am actually in Canada, I have an MA in law because I want to practice as a notary public, our legal system is a bit different. It is like a JD but a bit more practical.
She and I currently rent a place, we are both 50/50. Share expenses, I make solid income because I also get a veteran pension and she gets alimony. We have always lived together, but she has never exploited me this much.
I think learning how to set boundaries is going to be my first step. Thank you all for the kind words - you give me hope and made me tear up. I do not know any of you, but my sincerest gratitude.
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Stay in a hotel while you are preparing for finals. A stopgap measure.
Solve the overall issues afterwards so that the accompanying emotional upheaval won't interfere with your success.
Tell Mom that even though it is painful, moving more, doing more for herself will keep her from succumbing to the debilitating effects of immobility.

Then, keep coming back, ask anything until you can get this worked out.
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