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Our son goes off to University tomorrow for the first time - my husband and I will have to get used to being “empty-nesters” as he is our only child. My mother lives with us and has always tried to get me to be the “parent “ to her, with various demands in order to get me to take the burden of anything she doesn’t want to do for herself. From my various posts over this year regular forum readers will know that my mother is a very selfish person. For many years I’ve been working on dealing with this and have got to the stage where we’ve been able to set a number of boundaries to ensure she doesn’t overwhelm me, and that she takes responsibility for her own personal needs and wants. I think I’m content that we have a situation that works for us reasonably well. I’m now concerned though that with our son gone, she will assume that the time I spent caring for our son will be time freed up that can now be spent on looking after her, rather than me and my husband having some time to ourselves to adjust to and enjoy this next phase in our lives, whilst still supporting our son from a distance. I would be grateful for any advice that my dear forum friends could offer me so that I can set out the way things are going to be, rather than get sucked into unnecessary additional care giving.

Learn to say NO. When she says “Why Not?” Answer her back by saying” Because I said so!”

Thats what my mother would tell me as a child. Since you are in a role reversal with your mom and she is acting like a child and YOU acting like her parent, just say NO. Loud and clear.
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NeedHelpWithMom Oct 3, 2020
You said that so well, Elaine! I love your spunk! 💕
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Chris, your time is your own, to spend the way you see fit.

It is not your mother's commodity to direct.

Just because you will now have more "free time" does not make your mother's demands valid.

I would start by taking my own sweet time getting back from drop son off at Uni. Get someone to look in on mom once a day if that's the level of care she needs. Or hire someone (on her dime) to stay with her while you are gone.

Practise saying "no, mother, I can't possibly do that". And you DON'T need to have "reason" for that. You simply can't do it. If she asks, you say, "because I don't WANT to and you can do it for yourself".

You are not a slave, nor a lowly Victorian housemaid with no other hopes and aspirations in life.
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Chriscat83 Oct 2, 2020
Thank you Barb for your great insight, as always! My husband and I had great plans of what we wanted to do as empty nesters. Whilst some of these are not currently possible or easy due to Covid restrictions, we have a healthy and interesting mix of other projects and activities we are looking forward to starting instead. You are very right in stating that my time is my own, but sometimes it needs to be pointed out to you, to be reminded of this when the demands start rolling in. I don't know how we shall feel tomorrow after dropping our son off, but it is our time then to do what we need to do, for ourselves, to deal with this transition in our lives.
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Things haven't changed for Mom. They have changed for you. You now have more time to do what you and DH would like to do. Don't feel that Mom has to go with you everywhere. You are entitled to us/me time. If she can be left alone for a time, then do something for yourself and husband. Have a date night. Out to lunch/dinner with friends.

There was a thread were a member wondered if she was enabling her Mom by doing for her. A member came back and said no you are disabling her. If she can do it herself, then Mom should do it. Our responsibility to our parents is not to be at their beck and call but to make sure they are safe and cared for. You have given Mom a nice home to live in. You make sure she is fed well. She is safe, clean and warm in the winter and cool in the Summer. There is no reason she can't do for herself. So, keep those boundries and do for yourself. I may even go on vacation and find someone to check on Mom or stay with her.

And I believe with certain personalities you have to put a little threat in things and some reminders. Seems Mom maybe living with you because she could not afford to live on her own. When she starts I'm for telling her "Mom, where do u think you would be if I hadn't allowed you to live with us?" And "If you don't like living with us anymore, we can make other arrangements".
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Chriscat83 Oct 2, 2020
Thank you JoAnn. I do agree with you that I've provided for my mother such that she is safe in all aspects in our home, and I have always said this to myself when evaluating how much more care to give. Also, that in not agreeing to all of her demands I'm trying to help her keep her independence for longer, with a little easy cooking, washing, cleaning herself etc. I am certain that if she wasn't living with us and had been in her own home, she would have been at the stage of needing to go into residential care before now. She would never see this, but I would point this out to her if she gets to the stage where residential care is needed. The trick with my mother is working out what is a real "need" and what is just a "want". I'm getting better at this!
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tell her upfront that things fir her will be exactly as they were or maybe even less since your son is no longer there to help with whatever chores he had to do before he left for College.
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Chriscat83 Oct 2, 2020
Thank you Bev. I hadn't thought of the fact that my son won't be running around for her, good point!
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First of all your mother is fortunate to be living in your home and should absolutely respect your wishes and privacy. Set limits and boundaries with your mom. You and your husband should have some quality time alone together now son is off to college. Plan to have alone time with your husband such as a trip somewhere and hire someone to stay with her. Have an honest to goodness talk with your mother and explain your concerns and desires. It is very important early on to have some privacy, and take care of yourself and set limits, otherwise health could become an issue. I at the very beginning of my caregiving journey with my mom explained to her I would be available in the morning at 9am, my mother was an early riser around 6am, I myself not a morning person at all. It worked out very well for both of us and she stuck to the plan for almost twenty years. Of course things have changed over the years and we needed to adjust our way of doing things to fit the changes that have taken place especially the caregiving duties. I hired a cleaning lady to do the housework. Hired a lawn company and a plow guy. Once I got used to all the responsibility of house, caregiving, bills, shopping and much more, hired help, the expense, I adjusted better. I had a plan in place and I stick to it. I stopped inviting relatives over for tea, lunch, parties, it made my life better and less hectic. I did that for my mother for almost 15 years. It just became more stressful as my mothers health started to decline. I now do what I need to do and set limits with my entire family, I love them, but they depended on me a little too much and now they all know my priorities and they respect them and think twice now before asking me to do something. It took me years to say no to people, but boy does it feel good to say no and not feel a bit guilty. I hope your son enjoys his college years, it is difficult at first, but you will get used to it and adjust. We visited my niece frequently when she went off to college. We brought her up after losing her mother to cancer. There are other options in the future if it gets too stressful for you. For example, hiring a home health aide, adult day care if open and safe and Assisted Living. You need to find the best fit for both you and your mother for everyone to be happy and content. It is a long journey and some resentment early on is a red flag to me. No need to feel guilty, caregiving is not for everyone. My dear mother will be the last person I care for. I told everyone in my family to plan for their own future. Wishing the best to you and your family.
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Chriscat83 Oct 2, 2020
Thanks EarlyBird. I agree boundaries, personal space and also time together as a couple are so important, so I'm working on how these are changing as our son leaves home. I already have a well organised schedule of taking care of the home, the finances, the housekeeping, garden etc and everything else home related, and as you've illustrated in your response it all takes up time. I'm going to be clear about getting the balance right between all of these obligations whilst still factoring in me-time, for my own health and sanity. My mother's basic needs are taken care of, and I have recently told her that I cannot provide any more personal care than I already give, in response to a needy episode a few weeks ago.
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Get a part time job. Or, better yet, tell your mother you've gotten a part time job working from home that will take up the following hours every day: 10 am - 2 pm (or whatever suits you) and that you will be unavailable to her entirely during those hours. Sometimes your job will require you to leave the house to have 'meetings', too, so she will have to acclimate herself to that fact as well.

Oftentimes, actions speak MUCH louder than words. I can talk until I'm blue in the face with my own mother, but it's only my actions she understands. For instance; she 'needs' so so so many things from the store, but refuses to make me a list (she lives in a Memory Care ALF). So, until and unless I get a list, she doesn't get anything. She knows that, yet still refuses to sit down with pen and paper or an aide to write a list FOR her. That's one small example of actions speaking louder than words.

Good luck!
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NeedHelpWithMom Oct 4, 2020
Wonderful idea!

Lea, You are very creative! Imaginary part time job is brilliant! I don’t guess that she could stretch that by saying the job asked her to work extra hours too! Hahaha 😆
That might be pushing in a little.

I like the way you think. It shows you’ve been dealing with stuff a long time! So many of us have mom’s in our 90’s that have outlived our dads by many years.
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"No" is a complete sentence. "I am sorry, I can't do that" is another one. If you need professional help to say those things, start finding one now. You can only be a doormat if you lay down.
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Are you comfortable smiling and saying, “No Mom, I can’t do that”?

Variations - “No Mom, I don’t have time right now”. “No Mom, I’m doing (.............) right now”. “Your (comb, soap, glasses, newspaper, can opener, etc etc etc) is right here Mom. You can do (whatever) while I (do whatever)”.

Practice leaving the area so you’re not giving her an audience when she starts to complain.

Your life needs a balance that works for you, and you will hopefully have a comfort level for seizing what you need for yourself and your husband.
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Chriscat83 Oct 2, 2020
Ann, thank you. I agree it's very helpful to practice some stock phrases to use in response to demands. I feel these can help you to respond in a non emotional way, and so avoid any feelings of guilt or other unease. I will add your suggested phrases to my own repertoire!
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Continue to keep your safe boundaries. Remind yourself - and mom when need be - that your relationship and time commitments may have changed with your son but that does not mean that your time and relationship changes with your mother. Make sure your mother's needs are being met - preferably through self-care. Hire extra help or provide extra help when it is definitely needed (so she is not at health risk or physical risk). Encourage her to continue working on her fulfilling her own needs, just as you are doing in this new phase of life.

Congratulations on your son's entry into college. Enjoy time as a couple.
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Reply to Taarna
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Keep boundaries and stay busy. If she sees you at home relaxing she will think you "need something to do" (as my father would say-and he seriously thought he was doing me a favor by creating work for me to do).

It may come to a point where you will just have to bluntly tell her the time you spent on son is not transferring to her, it is transferring to you.
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