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As many know, my dad finally ended his battle with ALZ almost three weeks ago. Sad, and grieving, but making it. The bigger problem is the same as what it was before. My crazy, demanding, unappreciative mom. My dad, other than the normal logistics and sadness that goes along with a situation like that was easy. But my mom was so demanding.


Now, she expects me to be at her house almost every day to help with something. I do not have a job or family of my own so she just assumes I am available 24/7, when in fact I do have things of my own to do, am dealing with grief myself, and frankly, just cannot stand being around her as she is so intense and frantic all the time. If she was more easy going I would perhaps even like spending time with her but she just wears me out with her emotional intensity and frantic behavior. I have told her clearly I am NOT going to be there three or four days a week, or more as she would like. I have said two days, and she can use them as she wishes.


Privately, I do assume for a month or so I will have to spend more time than that there to help her deal with the business issues, loneliness, and get the lawn back to shape after neglect of the last couple of years (I sort of want to do that to honor my dad who took such pride in his lawn). So I guess on one hand I assume I will have to spend more than usual time the next month, but also don't want to set a precedent. Maybe assuming that by the fourth of July, she will have to learn to get by on less.


I asked her what she would do if I was working full time as I very well otherwise might be. Hypothetical I know, but if that were the case, she would somehow have to get by without me and the same would apply now. Furthermore, I AM helping her even when I am not there as I need to take care of certain issues where I have a computer as she does not have wifi. So its not just like I am helping her when there. Next weekend she wants me to take her to the cemataries of my dad, her parents, and my dads parents, and that is not unreasonable, I want to do that myself but that will take a full day.


The following weekend I have to fly with her for FOUR DAYS to North Carolina to attend her granddaughters graduation. Yet the worst is she doesn't acknowledge what I am doing, just being MORE demanding, less appreciative, and failing to realize I am also hurting about my dad. I know the answer is boundaries. Yet she manipulates, lays guilt on me, etc, and I should probably just let her do it, but I still DO Feel guilty when she says these things. Also as said, if she was a more pleasant personality, I would probably like to spend time there, but she is not . Even her own primary physician tells me that after ten minutes with my mom, she is worn out. She doesn't know how I spend the time I do. Friends have told me I should just schedule a two or three week getaway a month down the road, both to refresh myself, but also to get my mom to learn how to get by on her own.

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Karsten, it was good to hear from you again, even if with a post about your mom’s demands. My dad was very much the same as your’s, a gentle, unassuming soul who tolerated being married to a woman who made him feel she was his superior in every way. When Dad passed, she continued her diatribe against him until my own children told me to tell Nana to stop denigrating Poppy in front of them. I am an only child and Mom lived through me. As I’ve said before, my mom was a sniper. She’d make a snarky or hurtful remark, and then move on, leaving wounded feelings in her wake. When she started making plans on how she could live with me and Hubby, I knew I had to do something. Quite simply, I backed off. I was a busy babysitting grandma and animal welfare and rescue volunteer. I gave her ONE day a week, not counting doctor’s appointments. That day was her’s. 

You know what, Karsten, after a while, she learned how to call for and ride the senior bus provided by her city that stopped right outside her door. She didn’t like it and complained about everything about the bus, but she took it. I let it go and didn’t automatically up her to 2 or 3 days of my time a week so that she’d be happier. I tried taking her out to lunch to be nice. The first time, she complained the restaurant was too noisy and active. The second time we went to a different restaurant and she spent the lunch lost in her own thoughts finally telling me she wished she’d married her first love, who was not my father. That was it for the lunches.

I did not try to justify my behavior to myself, my mother, my family or anyone else. I made my decision and stuck to it. I was there for her if she truly needed me but refused to let her use me. I wasn’t nasty, but firm in my resolve. I did not berate myself or vacillate in my decision because my mom would have taken advantage of it.

My mother was not mistreated. I often called and many times told her I loved her. She was close with my children and grandchildren. We never missed a Christmas, birthday or Mother’s Day. But, she made her own bed by her pervasive negativity and dramatics. I did the best I could for her and didn’t allow myself regrets or second thoughts.
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I think the deeper issue that also bugs me is she treats me like her pseudo husband. My mom has always been very needy, both emotionally and practically. She never did learn to drive. When my dad was alive and able, he dutifully drove her around and did whateve3r she wanted him to do whenever she wanted him to do it. Now she is trying to treat me the same way, but I cannot be as compliant as my dad was, and that just makes her all the more frantic.
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Karsten, consider some of the phrases included in your post:

"I will have to spend more time …"

Re the cemetery visits: "I want to do that myself …"

First, cemetery visits don't all have to be done on the same day. One visit is enough, given the emotional trauma accompanying visiting graves.

"I have to fly with her for FOUR DAYS …"

"...I should probably just let her do it..."

Do you see how you're already slipping into justifying adhering and succumbing to her needs and/or demands? I'm not writing this to chide or embarrass you, just to bring attention to your thought process. And I'm speaking from experience. I'm working hard myself to eliminate "I have to" from my vocabulary.

Your mother knows how to manipulate, control, and said less gracefully, jerk you around. And she will as long as she can get away with it.

That's one issue. The other is the high energy, high strung personality. Has she been this way all her life? Did she deal with your father in the same manner as she's treating you now? (Oops, I see you've already addressed that. So, this isn't something new and certainly won't change overnight.) You may have to guide her along a path to more self sufficiency, slowly, with compliments, and one little step at a time.

It's hard to do, but for your own self esteem and health, you need to back away, and set your own terms. E.g., take her to visit your father's grave, but visit the other graves some other time. You can always say it's just too overwhelming (for both of you, but if you say it's too much for you, it creates an opportunity for her to switch the focus to her own trials and tribulations.) Instead, perhaps take her to lunch or dinner (if that's realistic and not keeping you together too much in a more or less static situation).

Start making your own plans, and when she wants something done, just tell her that you've already made commitments and can't change them. When she asks what, just tell her they're tasks you need to do for your self, SO you can continue to be strong and healthy so that you can help her.

Perhaps take some time to list the things she wants you to do, set your own schedule, and figure out ways to encourage her to begin doing them herself, with your guidance, if appropriate. Be prepared for blowback, b/c it'll shock her that she can't continue to manipulate and rely on you as she did with your father. In retrospect, it seems there was a lot of enabling taking place, probably b/c your father was a gentle soul and wanted to care for his wife in the manner which he expected was appropriate, particularly given the social mores decades ago, before women could gain more independence and achievement in business.

Needs of dependent people can be like a whirlpool, around and around in endless circles but always drawing someone in more tightly.

In all fairness, though, I do understand the needs of people who are frightened about their own health, aging, and mortality, and reach out to others. I think sometimes it's a self preservation instinct, but it can also be nurtured and extended well beyond the basic needs.

Ff's insight and observations are kind and compassionate, and an excellent explanation of the issues in play.
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Karsten, you are not going to get your mother to "see" your point of view. If that's what you're waiting for, just stop. Not going to happen.

Your mom suffers from some sort of mental illness. Understand that, be sorry that it's the case, but understand that it's not HER fault, not YOUR fault but also not your job to fix it or make up for it.

Get her to a psychiatrist if she'll got and perhaps meds will help a bit. But above all, talk to her docs about what level of support she needs and help arrange that. You DON'T do that yourself; you arrange help for her.

If YOU want to get a job or volunteer, then do it. You don't meed mom's approval to do that.
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Karsten, you've gotten some good advice and insights here. I'm going to echo some of them, for emphasis.

But first remind me what your mother's infirmities are? Why does she need caregiving? Becoming a widow is sad and scary and lonely. But it isn't usually a cause for needing a caregiver. Does she have some additional handicap that needs your attention? If she were going to hire someone to help her, what kind of worker would that be?

Some observations:

I tend to agree that it sounds like Mom has had some mental health issues for a long time. Or perhaps the behaviors you mention are just part of her unusual personality. But whatever the case, You Cannot Fix It. A therapist might be able to help, but only if Mom accepted that she needs help. I think you can give up on hoping she'll improve.

Paying extra attention to her during the severe mourning period and tapering off to something reasonable sounds very sensible and would work in many situations. I don't think it will work with your mother. I think her approach is "Give me an inch and I will take a mile and work on making you feel guilty for not giving two miles." I think you need to set some boundaries and stick to them right from the beginning. Be real careful about the precedents you set. She is only ever going to expect more, not be willing to taper off.

You deserve to live your own life. You don't need to justify or explain or get permission. Volunteering and/or working is your right. Just do it. And that includes taking the time to find a job. Loving your mother and being willing to spend some time with her does not obligate you to account for all your time to her. You can simply be "busy" when it is not convenient for you to meet her requests immediately. You don't need to be busy doing something she approves of.

You have smart friends. Take a vacation break!
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Edit " Mom, being with you would be a lot easier if you'd take your meds". 

Also, Google Fear, Obligation and Guilt ( FOG). That's what your mom is doing. Stop rsponding to it.

Karsten, think for a minute.

Has your mom ever been the understanding, cheerleading for YOU sort of mom?

Or has she been , lifelong, the narcissistic, self involved "do this for me and now do more" sort of person you've described here in recent months?

So why on earth would you expect her to become understanding of YOUR feelings and needs now? Why are you seeking her understanding and approval?

I'm not saying this to be mean. I'm saying it to get you to see that you are barking up the wrong tree.

You need to learn how to take care of your own emotional needs right now. If you want to be mom's pillar of strength in the short run, that's great. Just don't expect your mom to realize when you're tired and feeling fragile. That's not going to happen.

You need to set some healthy boundaries and limit your exposure. Ask mom to keep a list of tasks that need doing. You can prioritize them and decide which ones you'll do and which ones you'll delegate to others . And which ones you'll say " There is no way I can do that, mom".

I take it your mom is looking to move to Independent Living? Thats great. She'll have staff to handle her tasks.

Start job hunting next week!
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Karsten,
The things I'm going to say seem rude, hurtful and calloused. I mean them all in the most loving way and would never intentionally want to hurt you. Please take these thoughts as "insight". You have been caught in the web of your mother's mental illness all your life.

1. Your mother is narcissistic. She has a personality disorder that makes her incapable of seeing or caring about other people's feelings. (My mom was narcissistic too.) Because she makes you feel inadequate, you believe it and constantly "try" to gain her approval. You will NEVER get it. It is this "tool" that keeps her in power. Once you see this, hopefully, over time, you will stop trying to gain her acceptance.

2. Because of the above situation, you have been (and are) hog-tied by guilt. Her happiness (which is unattainable, so she can control you) will never be fulfilled. Having you in a constant state of guilt strengthens her position.

3. Along with the above, she's made sure that you have a low self esteem. That way you'll doubt yourself and your decisions. When you feel worthless, she feels powerful. You must find a good therapist to help you recover your soul that has been manipulated by your mother.

4. Even with all her power, she keeps letting you know how "needy" she is. How can you POSSIBLY not help your own mother? Another tactic to keep you right where she wants you.

5. You have spent so much time catering to "her highness", you have lost yourself as a person. Who are YOU? What do YOU want to do with your life? You've been made to take a back seat to what 'she' wants.
6. Her "feelings" are NOT your responsibility. Seeing that she has a roof over her head, nutritious food to eat, reasonable medical care and adequate clothing is what you're responsible for. HOW she feels is not your responsibility!! Can't you see that whatever you do won't ever be good enough? Enough is enough.

You are very enmeshed in your mother's personality disorder. It sounds like you'll need help breaking the bonds of guilt, unworthiness and anger. Since you have free time, call your doctor's office for a therapist referral. It will do you a world of good.
You'll learn what "boundaries" really are and how to go about setting them. This is a hard process to do by yourself. You can get a book and start off reading about setting limits with parents or narcissism.

I wish you well and that soon you'll be free from the grip of your mom's mental disease.

You could start by refusing to see her unless she takes her anti anxiety medication. (You'll know if she's taken it or not when she opens the door). On that day, you could say, "Oh, sorry Mom, I see you haven't taken your medication today and that was the deal when we see each other. I'm afraid we'll have to postpone our trip for another day when you remember to take your pill."
Ya know, Karsten, you have a "RIGHT" to do this. You are an ADULT and it's no longer mommy telling kid what to do. You are EQUALS!!!! You have a RIGHT to say what YOU want to do, whether mom gets mad or unhappy or not. Not your problem. Let her pout.

I'm sorry you are suffering. But, when you figure out what's going on here, I think you'll be on the road to recovery.

P.S.
My mom was narcissistic too. I believe it's a disease of the mind/emotions. Therefore I don't believe they WANT to be that way, it's just like any other mental illness.
You must take back control of YOU.

Go do something that you would like to do or is special or means something to you. (Forget fishing.)

All the best in your recovery.

I hope you haven't taken offense-none intended.
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Maybe you can help her for a bit, for a limited amount of time, as you suggested, then tell her you have other things to tend to, that you will no longer be available, but can help her set up some home help if she is interested and can afford it, even if just a day or two a week.

I definitely agree with setting boundaries. I know exactly what you mean about being put in the 'pseudo-husband' role. If this has been a lifelong thing, it's not likely to end unless you draw a line in the sand as to what you will and will not do.

The neediness can definitely be suffocating. She will try to guilt you, but stand firm. I'm learning how to do this with mine as we speak. Some days better than others, but I think I've gotten better at telling her no.
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You wouldn’t be able to relocate. You would be so overcome with guilt about moving away, you’d probably lose the job.

Can I ask why you crammed all that running around into one frantic day? When Mom said she wanted to go out to eat, I’d would have told her you’d pick something up to go. Then, when you brought her back home, the phrase, “Not tonight, Mom. I’m beat. I’m going home.” And don’t let the door hit you on the way out. Call her tomorrow and ask if she is up for getting the rest of the errands done on Wednesday or Thursday. Then next week, spend a day whittling down possibilities for Independent Living.

As long as you let Mom make up the schedule, she will. I understand she’s lonely. So are you. It’s part of the grieving process. Some people can be lonely in Grand Central Station at 8AM. But neither one of you will learn to deal with the lonliness this way. Loneliness is ok, really. It teaches you to be self-sufficient and yes, even creative.

Mom is Mom and you won’t change her now. I can guarantee you will come to appreciate your Dad more after becoming your Mom’s one and only. I sure did. My dad was a saint. Nothing you say will make Mom wear her hearing aids or take her medication, and if you focus on it, she will dig her heels in. You need to take the reigns. As long as you let Mom have control of them and you, things won’t change.
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Wow, mom trained you well... for everything she needed you to be.

Where is your sense of...
self worth?
self respect?
Self preservation?
Boundaries?
Value?
Sense of self maybe?

I'm sorry to say, narcissistic parents do not have the ability to instill healthy life skills in their children, because it's all about them.

Do you really think you are going to be able to ween yourself away from mom? Honestly, if you couldn't stop her from dragging you in more..and more..and more..and still more, after a 7hr. Day of running around, I don't see you having the ability to back off later.

If it's not second nature to calmly say, "no mom, I'm done for today" then there's a void in ones character. Being pulled in further and further until you blow up is a problem. Plus going home and feeling guilty...
the cycle continues.

Let go or be dragged.

The easiest relationships we should have, are those with our parents. But most of us don't have healthy parents. So they screw us up and we are not properly instilled with what it takes to have healthy
relationships.

Break the cycle, don't be a fetch and carry boy for the next woman who comes into your life. Narcissists can smell a sucker a mile away.

Do something for yourself...get some therapy. Learn how to find your own self worth. Then you'll naturally respect, protect and honor yourself. You won't need anyone or anything to validate you. Other people will be an addition to your life, not there to add what your missing on the inside.
Good luck
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