How do I handle my mothers constant complaining when I am on the phone with her?

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I call my Mom every day, I see her every week, and every time my Mom complains to me about not having enough money, not being able to drive, not being able to go shopping, not being able to get her hair done when she wants, not having me come by as often, not being able to go food shopping. I have automated as much as I can for my Mom, food being delivered that I order online, prescriptions being mailed to her on a regular basis, I have set up accounts at a taxi service which she refused to use, I go over and take her out once a week, and no matter what I do, not matter how much I help her, not matter how much I listen and make suggestions like taking the taxi, taking the senior shuttle etc she goes on and on and on, it gives me anxiety and I always wind up feeling guilty that I never do enough for her. My Mom is 82, a widow, lives in her own house still, has a really hard time walking, just recovered from breast cancer and cannot drive. I feel guilty if I do not call her everyday to check on her, how do I personally handle this? I always feel so down after talking to her!

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First, CelinePen, you're a good daughter. Maybe even a great one. ;)

See, your mom doesn't have much to talk about, does she? Her life has become very narrow and focused. Unfortunately, she focuses on the only thing she has left: her little self.

And you, being the wonderful daughter you are, you call mom every day to check in with her AND bear the brunt of her tiny little life. *shrug*

Hopefully, you can find a way not to take it personally. Easier said than done, yes? But if you keep remembering that she doesn't have anything else to talk about....she can't talk about things she's done because she hasn't done anything...she can only talk about the things she CAN'T do...maybe you can excuse her and, when you get off the phone, give yourself a HUGE pat on the back for brightening her day. And, yes, it does brighten it. Believe me, it does.
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Oh I feel for ya. Mom's been complaining constantly and is very negative because of her anxiety. Everything is wrong, or will be. I've tried to cheer her up and she is very invested in 'ain't it awful." And some of the things that are going on with are are awful, and she is justifiably unhappy about them. For those things I've said, 'that's true, it's not fair and I'm so sorry." But I've started saying something about the constant complaining in general. "Good morning" starts with a groan. She complains constantly about how she feels physically and emotionally and spends most of her time in an anxiety spin. It's exhausting to deal with. I finally told her to quit complaining, that she complains 24-7 about feeling this way or that way but gets angry when you suggest a doctor. I've started to stop her ahead of time and ask, 'is this going to be complaining? " Or just answer before she can, 'yeah I know, it's awful. So what else did you do today." Rude maybe but I'm really over it. She is not aware that this is over and over and over all day long, and I think it's just a habit for her. And then anyone she meets, she starts into the sad story and I can see people just wishing they could roll her eyes, and they try to get away. So she works the pity card pretty hard. I'm sick of and have told her so.
What you're saying though, with your mom, sound more like entitlement and guilting than gratitude. She should be grateful you are showing up and doing all those things for her. Don't let guilt you to the point where you're not doing things you need to do!
I say that one knowing I need to hear it as well. Just figuring out this caregiving thing, I'm an only child and quite frankly, I hate this but I am stuck. And that' s the reality of it. It's getting better though.
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My mom is 55 and already complaining as much. She lives in another country and I call her once a week. My strategy is not listening carefully on the phone if she's complaining about trivial things. I usually turn on the caption of a movie and watch while I'm talking to her on the phone. The only thing I need to do is to say a few "yes, you're right", "relax, don't take it seriously", "Everything is gonna be all right" kind of thing.
Most of the time, she just needs to let out negative emotion and I happen to be the only child. So it works out quit well.
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Sometimes people are just bored and need to talk about something. When you're bored most things seem worth complaining about.
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celinepen, your mother sound just like my parents. But it was my parents choice to continue to live in their home by themselves when they could no longer drive. Thus, it is their responsibility to live with that choice. I learned that 5 years too late after I had spoiled them by driving them everywhere they wanted, thus using up vacation days and sick days.

If only they would have planned ahead and moved into a really nice retirement village that offers free transportation.... then I wouldn't hear complaints about groceries, I too hear about the cost of today's groceries, and sorry Mom I am not going across town to use a 35 cent coupon....

then I wouldn't hear complaints about Dad needing to go the barber, I think my Dad wants to go even if he doesn't want a haircut just to get out of the house....

then I would need to hear about Dad wanting to go to the hardware store because he has a long list of things he wants, only to buy a package of light bulbs after spending 2 hours in the store....

I do call my parents every day unless I had dropped off groceries or other important items, but the conversation is mainly how is the weather.... if they had moved to the retirement village they would have made a lot of new friends, thus have something new to talk about.

I don't know what my parents were thinking once they had to stop driving. I asked Dad what would he and Mom do if something happened to me and I couldn't be there to drive.... ah, they never thought about that.... well, Dad, start thinking.
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I know how you are feeling my mom is 67 she just works part time. She complains constantly if her groceries are over 85.00 dollars honestly it's always my fault right. Well it's not she is constantly buying something for my 5 year old spoiled rotten little brat of a great nephew. There is a few times she has offered to pay for my stuff for when I don't have money and after the bills comes to be 85.00 dollars sometimes the moaning about money starts. I've had to now ask my ex husband to help me out and after today's bill she was moaning again. I just finally had to put my foot down I am like that is it. She won't help me around her place the only she can do is maybe wash her clothes and then sit down to watch stupid stuff on tv all night. All I can tell you is hang in there I know its not easy dealin with an aging mother believe me it is not. I am 33 years old and mine treats me as if I am 12 not an adult. I tell you what I have been done now that she complains I've been ignoring her. It does help trust me.
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Hi lesl,
I totally understand how hard and frustrating this is. Someone posted here that all they want is someone to listen and I guess because we are their child and will even though it is awful or abusive we do. So recently I let my Mom go on and on and I held the phone away from my ear so I could hear her but not hear what she was saying, I know that might sound bad, but she was saying things that were hurtful and she did not know that, so I just let her ramble, and no matter what response I would have she would not like it anyway so I just gave a few uh-huhs and then when I felt she was finished I just said, oh, gee. So maybe you can limit your time with your Dad and call him a bit more and just set the phone away and let him ramble. Just a suggestion. I felt guilty about it but I came away not feeling as bad. And yes, do remember none of what he is going through is your fault, so just do what you can and try to remember that a lot of times when they say things to us they have no idea they are being hurtful. Sorry you have to go through this, I do not understand myself why this has to be so hard! hang in there and I wish you the best!
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I understand what you are talking about. My father complains all the time about his health. He is in a lot of discomfort and it is very frustrating to him. He has congestive heart failure and along with that some liver and kidney damage which is probably a result of his long use of self medication, alcohol use. He complains about his legs and feet feeling numb and painful at the same time. He has a hearnia, an enlarged scrotum, and itches all the time. I recently found out that the itching is a result of kidney and liver damage. He runs the bathroom all day to urinate or because he has diarreah. Sorry folks, this sounds pretty bad. He is tired all the time and angry and grouchy all the time. I get the brunt of his anger and impatience. He is very snappy and sensitive to everything I say. It is very annoying and tiresome. He wants to have his opinions and his alone. He is very manipulative and abusive verbally. I have realized that he is not going to change. I have tried to talk to him, but I think that he has some early stages of dimentia and this is causing him to over react to everything. He has to have the last word and the final say so about everything. He tries to boss me around to the point, that he wants me to answer him with answers he feels are appropriate, like yes dad, or alright dad. He does not respect my point a view about anything. I think he has low self esteem and that is why he works so hard now to try to tear my self-esteem down.

sometimes you have to take a break and a stand for yourself. He has lived his life, and I am trying to live mine. Unfortunately, his self-abuse to his body, is the main cause for his liver and kidney damage. I realize that it is not my fault he drank too much and still insisted on doing so up until recently.
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Thank you both. First cgfollansbee - at least I know I am not alone in handling this. Thank you for relating to me, that helps. That is so true how they can act like a two year old, it is so strange, and hard, take a lot of patience just like it would with a child, and I have that thank goodness! I know I have to stop beating myself up, I do that well, so thank you for the reminder! I do not like to talk about it with friends as I am not a complainer and do not want to sound like one, so I think that is what makes it hard. I went to a therapist for a few months earlier this year, but then I realized I am just spending my hard earned money talking about how my Mom complains to me and how I feel guilty a lot, when the therapist told me I should not feel guilty, so I stopped therapy and spent it on a well earned vacation for myself :) That was awesome. We do need to remember to guard our hearts, let things roll and just be there as much as we can and know we do our best.
Thanks to naheaton too for those reminders, I tried not calling her everyday but somehow she worked it in to making me feel guilty for not calling! lol!! Gotta laugh at this stuff. So maybe I will skip a day here and there and just say I was busy, and she can always call me, I think that is funny how parents of that generation will not pick up a phone!
Thanks for listening and letting me vent and for the great advice, I go away feeling better about it all and I am grateful!!!
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Celine, maybe your mom just wants to complain. Maybe she's not expecting you to 'fix' what's wrong. Maybe she just wants to be heard, cause she's losing her independence and it's frustrating and scary. When my mother-in-law started doing this constant complaining thing, I finally just told her I was sorry. I was sorry she couldn't see anymore, I was sorry her husband of 60 years had died. I was sorry she couldn't drive across the U.S. ever again with him in their motor home. I told her I wished I had a time machine to send her back to when she was happy and with her husband and boys and she hadn't lost her memory. But I couldn't. Sometimes you just need to let people vent and complain. What other method does she have except you? Let it roll off your back and maybe not call or see her quite as much. Maybe then, she'll appreciate what she DOES have and stop dwelling on what she DOESN'T have. Who knows?
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