How to cope with a parent who lays a guilt trip on you if you don’t give her your total time and attention?

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Six years ago my dad passed leaving my mom alone in a city over 1000 miles from where I currently live with my husband and special needs adult son. I am an only child. I offered to put a house for my mom on our land and move her here so she could be right next door. I thought I could interest her in joining the senior center so she could make friends but she would have none of it. She told me she moved here to be near me, not near the senior center. Over the years that she has been here she has expected me to call her every day at lunch and to come over and visit her every day after dinner. Did I mention that I also work full time? Anyway, being the “good daughter” I called and visited every day even though most of our conversations are me listening to my mom complain about how terrible it is here and it was so much better where she used to live with my dad or she complains about how “sick” she is, even though she’s not. Recently my special needs son had pneumonia and was hospitalized for 6 weeks. During this time I limited my “daily” visits to my mom and came to realize how nice it is to be able to stay home after work and have a nice relaxed dinner with my husband and son (now that he is home and well). I told my mom that I will call every day but only visit Wednesday evening and on the weekend. She went ballistic and wants to sell the house and take the money and move somewhere where people will “care about her”. My husband and I own the house, by the way. Any words of encouragement out there. She puts a guilt trip on me every time I want to do something with my family. All she wants me to do is be at her house listening to her laments. I need a break.

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My Mom is a big complainer. She always says "You know me, I never complain but..." and then launches into the latest ailment. I know she only complains to certain ears (mine...) because most others aren't willing to listen. So here's what I've been doing... when she complains, I listen, and then say "Wow, that sounds painful/unpleasant/upsetting. What would you like to do about it?" I got fed up with being unloaded on so tried to shift the weight back in her direction. I think it's working.
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Reply to AnybodyOutThere
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Desert, you are a true blessing for your mother and I hope she is aware what all you have done for her. I don’t know all the background and dynamics here but to share my experience I came to the realization in my adult life that my family was narcissistic. Mostly my mother and little baby sister and brother and they use the enablers to the full extent. I hope this isn’t the case with your family but wanted to give you a heads up. narcissistic. This has opened my eyes as to how most of my life has been dealing with them. A book that I often recommend is “Will I Ever Be Good Enough” by Dr. Karyl McBride. Best wishes (((hugs))) to you and your family.
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Reply to SpiritDancer
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Here on island, we have a very strong senior citizen group. They are so rowdy and ... tend to do a lot of sexual innuendos talking/jokes. {rolling eyes} However, this seems to give them incentive to dress up when they meet. We have senior citizen centers in the villages. They do all kinds of stuff - arts/craft, dancing (they love the cha-cha.. they sure have some very fancy moves!!! Beats the younger generations, too.) They also congregate for morning breakfast at MacDonald's. Just maybe a hash brown and hot coffee... Once she finds a group like this, she might be able to find a niche among some of them. By the way, they all love Bingo Night!
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Reply to bookluvr
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MMMmmm.

DesertRose if you don't mind I'm going to hold on to your situation as a kind of heads-up. My future Son-In-Law's father died just six months ago, terrible shock and heart-breaking for him and his family; and his mother, completely understandably, has no idea where to go now. Her retirement plans and her entire way of life have just been blown to pieces, it's no wonder. But the moral of your story, it seems to me, is to do nothing in too much of a hurry.

And perhaps then to start again as you mean to go on. Unfortunately, returning to the subject in hand, your mother has been going on with you front and centre of her life for six years. Altering her course at this stage will be tricky work.

Have you had a look locally at what kind of social groups and volunteer organisations might offer useful resources? Beyond the obvious, I mean - what about readers' circles or gardening clubs or, crumbs, whatever might tickle your mother's fancy - choirs, swimming aerobics, haute cuisine..?
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Reply to Countrymouse
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The problem with loneliness and boredom is mom's not yours. If she wants a social life she will simply have to make the effort to have one - to have a friend, be a friend. Hard to do when the years passed and husband was there and now you're a widow. But if she is reasonably healthy, she needs to help herself. She will feel much better about her life if she can reach out and do this. Is it possible to tell her this and let her think it through?
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Reply to rovana
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My mom wanted to sell her house and move as soon as possible after my dads passing. She has been living here next door to us for the past 6 years. She wanted no part of living in her old house without my dad. She has a pretty good relationship with my younger son. At least she did when we all lived in the city before my dad passed. She used to babysit him but now she says she can’t watch him because he is too big and she can’t handle him, which I’m sure is true.
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Reply to DesertRose7
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Sorry, forgot - on a scale of 1-10 where 1 is abysmal and 10 is outstanding, how do you rate your mother's relationship with her younger grandson?
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Reply to Countrymouse
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N'mm.

Keywords jumping out at me - city, 1000 miles away, I thought...

She did move to your lovely rural location to be near you not near the senior center, no?

And one person's Arcadia is another person's middle-of-nowhere.

How soon after your father's passing did your mother make the move? I.e. a) how long have you been dealing with this; and b) how long did she give it to adjust to widowhood?
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Reply to Countrymouse
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rose, I don’t know if your mom’s always been more or less like this, but mine has and so have many others. I’m an only, too. You may like to browse this site for threads on narcissistic parent (sorry, not trying to offend or diagnose) and see what you think. Definitely, if you can find a visitor - it’s not an easy sell - but it really helps take the edge off their social needs. My mother and many others will spurn other company then expect you to provide all of it. We’re easy, they’re ‘in control’ with us. Oh well; that’s not how it works!

I’m glad you’re focusing more on balance and your own family and sanity. You inadvertently set up some rules that you can’t sustain, and now you can and will successfully set up new ones! Good luck.
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Reply to Zdarov
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Then don’t go see her tomorrow. When she calls to find out why you aren’t there tell her because she called and hung up.
Tell her to be ready for the weekend. That you are taking her to look at some places where there are people to take care of her.
Now that you have her attention perhaps she’ll be more reasonable.

But really what you need is to find someone that she would like to come visit her and take her out.

Maybe to get an ice cream or a movie or to Target or the grocery store. Maybe to get her hair done or her nails.
Someone to spend an afternoon once a week even if it is just watching Judge Judy.

It might take awhile to find the right person. A friends aunt, Ida, had such a person. Her name was Dee. Dee would spend one or two afternoons with Ida each week. As Ida’s needs increased, Dee came more often. When Ida had to go to a NH, Dee continued to come see her. Would go pick up outfits, do her laundry. Play games.
When Ida died, Dee was there. She became a vital part of Ida’s life.
But what you can’t do is let your mom bully you.

Be sure to get her a geriatric primary dr if you have one in your area. Remember when she really acts ugly she might have a UTI.

Also pick up a copy of Being Mortal by Atul Gawande.
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Reply to 97yroldmom
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