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It sounds like you feel guilty because you have learned to feel that way for so long for taking care of yourself and your needs.

It's how those of us who have moms who lack empathy or who became our moms' emotional caretakers at an early age are 'trained' to react. I still feel guilty sometimes when I tell mine no or that I can't fix her or make her happy. But I have to remind myself that it's not my job to do either of those things.

It's a process, learning not to feel guilty. And hard unlearning those old habits. You might try just turning off the phone and doing something nice for yourself today. No mom calls, no errands on mom's behalf, just something nice for you that you enjoy. You might slowly find you can do that more often, and of course mom will still be mom and probably feel let down anytime you're not rushing to do what she wants, but you will feel much better, and hopefully over time her attempts at guilting you won't get to you as much.
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Yes, I can and need to. But whenever I do, I feel smothered in guilt for feeling I am letting my mom, a new widow, down. Then again, my mom has always treated me this way, the being a widow is just a new tool she has
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Barb’s post made me jump up and down and say “Hallelujah!” (Not really, but close). You are absolutely enabling Mom and then posting to us in disbelief that you let her get away with it. But, it may be what your dad did and the old acorn...well...you know. My dad was the same way. His escape was a room in the basement where 3 of 4 walls were covered with tropical fish tanks. He became so adept at it that he actually raised fish that won prizes in competitions. The same with his rose garden in nice weather. But he left the child-raising to my mom. I guess I came out ok, but did spend the summer I was 12 with my grandmother when my mom had a breakdown after my grandfather’s suicide.

Karsten, dear one, you absolutely MUST take control and learn to say “No.”. We can’t do it for you from here. Step back. Look at the scenes playing out in front of you as a stranger would. What would Mom do if, God forbid, you weren’t so available? You aren’t doing her any favors. I had to show my mom how to be independent as well. And no, it’s not easy with mom’s like ours. You can do it. I know you can.
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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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Thanks Ahmijoy. I suppose cramming things into one day is my idea. I would rather do a lot on one day than go there every day. She only lives fifteen miles away but for the next month I would like to try to keep it to three visits a week max. I feel bad as she told me tonight that she has not been able to watch Wheel Of Fortune since my dad died. They loved watching that together, trying to guess the answers first. I get it, she is sad and I cannot blame her for that. Can blame her for not getting therapy, taking meds, etc and as you say, I am basically enabling it. But she said enough to make me feel guilty for going home, even though I did help her seven hours.

Funny what you mention about appreciating dad. Even when we were growing up, my brothers and I were amazed at my dads ability to tune mom and her craziness out. Yet looking back, he wasn't really doing us a favor. He put up with it to avoid confrontation but he should have put his foot down back then and not let her treat him or us this way. But he was a good man.

There is a memorial service at dads cemetery this Saturday and she wants to go and I do too (its for all vets buried there). Then cemeteries for sets of grandparents. So then she asks me what I am doing Monday, memorial day. I said I am keeping that for myself, I cannot be carting her around every day. She said she would think I would like to go to the cemetery, and I do, but that doesn't mean I want to be with her every day of the weekend. I have to fly with her to North Carolina the weekend after for my nieces graduation. FIVE DAYS IN A ROW WITH HER! Yet when I say I am spening al ot of time with her, she does the guilt thing, and says she didn't know beign with her was so bad. I don't know how I will pull the trip off. But it wouldn't be so bad if she really appreciated it and didn't demand other times. Instead, she forgets about all I do andjust demands MORE.
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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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Venting again. Spent almost seven hours today carting my mom around to banks, independent living places (for her) funeral home, etc. Physically and emotionally draining work the way it is given its all associated with my dads passing but my moms intense nature just multiplies it. She is really trying for everyone we work with, the bankers, funeral directors, senior living directors, as she asks the same questions over and over, really fast, and just tires them out as me. I so much wanted to go home as I was just tired and also given is the three week anniversary of sorts of my dads passing it was just more on my mind. I kept thinking if it was this time three weeks ago, I could still have a chance to go be there with him until the end.

Anyway, I wanted to go home. She asked if we could go to a restaurant to eat, and as much as I did not want to, I did. I then brought her home She wanted to know if I could listen to any messages on her answering machine as she does not hear well so I did. In fact, she never did hear the funeral very well as she would not put in her hearing aids in the sanctuary so we had a CD ROM of the service, so she wanted me to play it in the CD ROM as she does not know how, so I did. Then she asked if I could stay there and listen to it with her. I just lost it. I said I have been telling you the last couple of hours how tired I am, I want to go home, you are not the only person who lost someone, why would you ask that? Why after telling her I was looking forward to going home after seven hours with her would she even bother asking me that? I guess the answer is she keeps asking and asking u ntil I say no and blow up. So instead of going home and just grieving and stuff, I have to go home feeling I let her down. I know I didn't, but she makes me feel this way. When I told her I resented her asking me that, she just sat there with a blank face. No apology, no, you are right, you have done a lot for me today, etc. No understanding why that would bother me.

I get it, shes lonely and grieving too and probably does not like to be alone. But was with her seven hours. And if she was easier to deal with, I could perhaps spend more time but she wears anyone out after ten minutes. And she refuses to take anxiety meds or get therapy or is even not calling the bereavement counselor from hospice back to set up an appointment. For some reason she wants to dump all her stuff on me.

I am not working. I lost my job just prior to my dad being diagnosed about two and a half years ago so since I am more or less financially secure, I wanted to be available to help him. I told my mom I wanted to begin looking for a job again as I need to return to some normalcy. She didn't say it exactly, but you could tell she was unhappy about that. She wants me available to be her slave. I just want to run far away from her. The ironoic thing is in my field, I could more easily get a job if I was willing to relocate, but that would really stun her.
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But, Karsten, can you really do that? You say “I guess”, and that leads me to believe you’re not entirely convinced that you CAN taper down your availability to Mom. Maybe you rely on her to need you as much as she relies on you? Everyone needs to be needed, and Mom is the one who needs you. I don’t think it’s possible to say, “Ok, Mom. You have until the end of June and then I’m cutting you loose!” You aren’t that kind of son. If you truly want your own life. You need to help Mom find her independence. A toe in the water at first. Gentle encouragement to find her own way and you’ll always be there to catch her if she falls. Big pats on the back for even the most minor of successes. And, as she finds her way, maybe you’ll find yours?
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Thanks. My moms primary MD has already prescribed anxiety meds which she will not take. She resists any suggestion of therapy or help. My sister in law tells her, you are already getting therapy in a sense, your son (me) dumping all of your anxiety on him.

I agree with Jeanne that my idea to indulge her a bit for a reasonable period then taper off will not necessarily work for her. But I do intend to be there for her a lot for a month or so, then WILL taper off. And she will not like it but I will have to stand my ground.

As to your question, she really does need caregiving in the sense her anxiety incapacitates her. Of course, I enable that by having been willing to help her. I guess the best medicine in a sense would be to eventually not be there for her so much and she will have to adapt.
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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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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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I went through something similar.
Count your blessings!
I recently moved in with my loved one and I work full time and try and have a personal life!
I take care of her, the house, my dog, and stay very very busy.
Life sometimes isn’t easy but you do have a separate home from her and can set up boundaries that she will adjust to.
Be patient and consistent.
You never know when the care for her will escalate and you will have hard choices to make. Like moving in with her or alternative care.
Best of luck! And keep us posted.
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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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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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Maybe I’m thinking differently here, but as you describe your mom’s personality and behavior as being the way it is for many years I don’t see any “weaning” her off your presence being a good thing. Clearly, she’s not going to change in personality or expectations on you, so it’s on you to place the boundaries and show up when and how often you’re comfortable with. I’d say stick with the 2 days, anything extra should be unannounced and a “bonus” for her. And the getaway for you is a wise and wonderful idea of your friends. We all get trapped into thinking we owe our parents huge explanations for our choices when in fact we don’t. It’s fully possible to honor and respect our parents without having to justify our actions or be constantly available. I know from your past posts that you’ve been a great advocate for your parents, now I hope you’ll advocate for yourself, it’s time to enjoy some life
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Heres a illustration which shows her attitude. She has a friend at her church, a Mrs. Smith Not real name. Mrs. Smith has a son in her fifties, who has never left the house or gotten a job. Just lives with Mrs. Smith in the basement and does nothing. There must be some issue with him, I dunno. Mrs. Smith lost her husband a few years ago. A few weeks ago some of my parents friends from church were visiting my dad in NH. Mom was chatting with them and pointed out how lucky Mrs. Smith was to have a son living at home to help her out. The friends from church gave my mom this incredulous and perplexed looks. They asked how that is considered lucky that Mrs. Smith has a son in his fifties who has never left the house or gotten a job or anything, they didn't consider that something to feel good about. My mom backpeddled, and said of course that is not good, but given it is the case, Mrs. Smith is lucky to have him there. One of the ladies who is a little pluckier said, no Jeannie, I really think you think she is lucky. SHe said first of all from what she understands this son living in the basement probably would not be of much help to Mrs. Smith, but also why would you th ink that is lucky? My mom thinks its lucky to have someone there for a slave basically.
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Yes to both, job and volunteering. However looking for a job is time consuming, so I need to keep time for myself to do that. She would begrudgingly accept that I have to do that. I also like volunteering things but her attitude will be if I volunteer for no pay, why not help her. I just don't see a good outcome here. I have been there for both of them the last couple of years and at some point need to feel I need my own life. Perhaps a bit premature, as Freqflyer said my mom does have legitimate needs and I can help her for a bit. But I guess I just have to have a schedule in mind to wean her off, to set boundaries, and just accept she will try to guilt and manipulate me and not much I can do about it. I suppose if after a while she realizes that wont work, she will lay off. I dunno.
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It's a question for YOU, Karsten. She'd be managing, wouldn't she?

She might have asked you to take some time off to tend to the graduation, but she might realize you had other demands on your time.

Are you looking for a new job? Looking into volunteering?
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freqflyer, just to clarify, my dad was 93 and he fully capable until 91 so they did have a good retirement. While one is never ready to lose a LO, my parents were not short changed in that department. As to GA, I would actually prefer to do all the cemetary visits on one day and this sounds bad, get them out of the way so I don thave to be carting her around for several different days.

Yes, my mom has been this way her whole life and naturally things like this bring it to a peak. I cannot change her at this point, I just have to set boundaries and when she tries to manipulate me or guilt me, just put up with it. I really DO think I need to be there more for a bit of time, but then I ask myself, how would she do this if I was working FT?
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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, I can fully understand what you and your Mom are going through.

Your Mom just recently lost the love of her life, thus this isn't how they had planned their retirement. Plus she was witnessing Alzheimer's and couldn't help your Dad fix it. Your Mom just needs time to adjust not having your Dad around. She needs to go through the different stages of grief, thus there will be a stage where she is angry at your Dad for leaving her alone. This is normal.

You will be going through your own grief in your own way. I know for myself, it is just now that I miss my parents who had passed going on 2 and 3 years ago.

It is great that your Mom is looking forward to Grand-daughter's graduation. So that is a positive.

Another thing that is probably happening is the adult/child dynamic, where once again you are the child and Mom is the adult, so she will be telling you what to do like you were a teenager again. Just so with the flow until you notice that Mom's grief is behind her.
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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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