How do you deal with a parent who thinks that just because you have money that she's somehow entitled to it, and wants to play victim? - AgingCare.com

How do you deal with a parent who thinks that just because you have money that she's somehow entitled to it, and wants to play victim?

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My mother seems to be under the impression that because I have worked hard and lived under my means that because things are working out well for my husband and I that we will be the lucky ones rewarded with 'taking care' of her needs. That we will be the ones she turns to. And it's not just for money. It's for favors, problem fixes, etc. Although she has some savings, and her nest egg is the paid-off-home she currently lives in, she likes to cling close to us because we are close in geography. We treat her to things often (dinners out, pay her cell phone bill, nice and thoughtful gifts), drive her long distances, and pay her more attention than other siblings when it comes to her emotional needs. I'm beginning to tire of this, as I observe her wanting more and more from us and expecting way less than she might ever even dream of getting from my siblings. Perhaps, she may think, that they have less time, or a family, or less desire to do these things.

I've recently pulled back the reins to re-evaluate how I may be enabling her to take advantage of me. It's made me mad--in a way--because I want to be able to give things to her. Other times, I want her to step up and be an adult, like she taught us to be. I'm a generous person. But sometimes, it's like she's smacking me in the face when something little can be done on her end, and it's an instant "NO!" And then I observe her manipulating me--and plenty of others--into doing things that she wants so that she doesn't have to spend any of her time, effort, or money on anything. It is borderline pathetic. The more I help, the more helpless she appears to become. She wants me to fix everything for her, but then nothing is ever good enough. Siblings get a free pass. But I'm the one who's the most generous and caring who gets the shaft--or gets the criticism about something I'm not doing---but that no one else is even attempting!

Although I've observed this behavior for a while, I recently decided I'd had enough. Right now, we are not really speaking. I don't intend for this to be long-term, as I don't want to completely sever our relationship. But when I choose to go back and explain how things will be going forward for me, I want to ensure that she knows that I'm setting boundaries. If she won't respect them, well then that's a different story.

Does anyone have any good stories/advice for how they have dealt with a similar situation?

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Hey there. Sorry for the long delay. Taking a break from thinking about this stuff for a little, but wanted to chime back in. CarlaCB, it sounds like you have it much worse than I do. My mom is pretty independent in many ways. It sounds like your mom can really be an a-hole, by making you do work she really doesn't want to do while she is off having fun. My mom does use the "I prefer you to do it" thing on me, but I think she seems less selfish than your mom. Everything is relative. I'm not saying that this stuff doesn't bother me after hearing others' stories.We can all find examples to explain or explain away our situations. It's just how it affects us individually that makes the difference. But I think we both share the same thing in that we are being disrespected. We are being told that because she "bore" us, that she somehow gets some kind of free ticket for us to take care of all of the difficult, unwanted, expensive, or menial tasks. It's downright unfair. And it's up to us to put a stop to it. Just don't show up. Stop being responsible. She'll get the picture.

For me, I will be telling my mother that we will no longer pay for her cell phone bill out of our pocket. That we can keep her on our plan, but that she will have to pay us. We have been paying for the last 7, nearly 8 years. And now, she wants a smart phone. She doesn't understand the costs. Or doesn't care about the costs. She thinks that because we have money coming in that we are obligated to help out others---just by that simple fact. We will see how this goes. But I am putting my foot down. I will be kind, as Kimber166 says in her message. But it will be for one-off occasions, and not every time or week or month for things. She should plan on being repsonsible for herself, and if there happens to be a bonus that day, so be it. Otherwise, she shouldn't complain...

Thanks for all of your support. I look forward to hearing more about how you and others do with resetting expectations---that, sadly, we may have contributed to earlier by being generous and nice.
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"Sorry mom, I can't this time."
Learn it, live it, love it. And be consistent for her sake.
She can't tell the difference between a gift and you doing what she probably feels is your duty.
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You might not like some of what i have to say. If you are generous and then pull back when mad, then generous again - you are sending mixed signals. I have a parent and in-laws that also think that because we live within our means we should give money to them and dead beat siblings. Decide what you are willing to do - sit down and think in a calm moment. With my mom - we told her we were no longer going to pay her cable and cell phone bill. We were no longer her option when she didn't have rent money. Dead beat brother in law was not going to get help when he was arrears in mortgage. When they come to us for a "small loan" we say "pay back the loans you already have from us, then we'll think about it" - shuts down the conversation fast - until mother in law screams at us that it is our fault if brother-in-law and family are in the street. Um, no - if he didn't gamble - he wouldn't be out of money. We did decide that we would treat my mom to a nice Sunday dinner out each week, and that we would start small college funds for our nephews. We are still trying to be kind - but not be mooched off any longer. Setting boundaries lead to several rounds of WWIII - but we learned to say "no". No explainations, no getting drawn into "but i'll be out on the street, your 75 year old mother!" etc. But we are much happier and feel that we are being generous in ways that we find works for us. Good luck!!
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Citygirl - Thanks for the additional detail and clarification. You and I are so much alike. I could have written the first paragraph of your last post. (And I actually did write the line you quoted about asking the sisters for more - that was from my first post, not GardenArtist's).

I have had the same feelings and the exact same argument with my mother. Your mother is much younger than mine - my mother just turned 84 and I've been helping her for 4.5 years. At first I beat my head against a wall trying to figure out ways for Mom to be more independent (physical therapy, wheelchair van, etc) and I have also gently, then less gently, pointed out to her that she can and should be doing more of these tasks for herself.

Some examples - when I lived a few miles away, she wanted me to come over every night and walk her dog and take out her garbage. The kicker is: half the time when I went she wouldn't even be home. She'd be out with her friends. I told her "If you can go out with your friends you can take your own garbage on the way out." She actually gave me a sly smile and said "Well, I like for you to do it." She thought that was cute!

More recently, she got a letter from her insurance company looking for a bit of information, and she handed it to me and said "Will you call them or should I ask (sister)? I told her right out she should do it herself. I told her we would all like to be able to push all the tedious tasks of our lives on to someone else, but life doesn't work that way. She gave that same sly smile and said "It does when you get to be my age!"

You and your mother, like me and mine, hold incompatible systems of values. And she is continually disrespecting you (me) by insisting that we conform to a set of expectations that violate our own core values. I've been there. I'm still there. It's the worst part of being in this role.
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You say quite a lot of things such as secretly, I have been observing her, I noticed, etc.

Have you sat your mother down for a frank but friendly discussion of how she's going to manage life as she gets older? If not, perhaps it's time.
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You say that your mother's behavior "is borderline pathetic." I would disagree. It is outright pathetic. It is awesome that you recognize that a change needs to be made, and that you are the one who has to make it. I wish you nothing but success, though I suspect there will be some bumps along the path.
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Thank you all for this advice. And for personal experience to help illustrate. She is not mentally ill, at least not in the most serious of conditions. I don't even think that she has a severe case of narcissism compared to some of the stories I've read online. But she is definitely immature, manipulative and self-absorbed. you're right that there is a point at which things were fine, and then they went too far. I think I'm partially to blame. I'm secretly hoping that she's using her time to realize that she can (and should) do more to really try and solve some things on her own. I'm just turned off by the fact that she is capable (early 70s) of doing things but simply chooses to favor someone doing it for her. I think it's lazy. And I feel like it's too early for her to have an attitude like that--if it's ever really an attitude that i would respect anyway. I hope I don't sound heartless, because I'm not. I just get to a point where I feel it doesn't sit right with me when someone thinks that they somehow deserve to sidestep life's challenges and demand that others are the "stronger" ones who should meet them head on. gardenArtist, you said it. "She doesn't feel like she can ask the one sister for more, or the other sister for anything." She may need to be forced into a decision that's uncomfortable or one that she can make on her own.

I have more stories to share--many that would establish a pattern and explain behaviors. I too, need balance, as I'm a Libra. Perhaps it is I who tipped it further than it needed to go. I guess I need to focus my energy first on ensuring that I don't cave in, and move back to where I was before--even though we are extremely close. Setting boundaries now will be key.

You are spot on with there being some comfort in fulfilling the role, I have felt good that I can "be there" for her. But there are two things that have happened: one, it went too far, and it became less fulfilling and more annoying when I noticed that she began to expect these things and want more, enough to manipulate. And two, it began to be clear to me that this was a situation where the payoff of feeling like I was the "good child" was going to land me in the spot that I was hoping would be shared by others who would stop up to the plate. So I would be doing this to myself, essentially, since it was unlikely that anyone else was going to offer up more attention or priority like she wanted. Somehow i need to care less about what others feel and need so much and focus more on myself and making changes within that will make me less vulnerable.

I have other responsibilities--like taking care of my grandmother and her affairs--that have made this situation more bothersome and mounting than if I didn't have those duties. In so many ways my grandmother tries to be less of a burden, and wants way much less than my mother. So this is partly why it seems like less of an excuse for my mother and magnifies itself so.
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Carla and Linda, your advice is also helping me in my quest for balance. I appreciate your insight.
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I'd advise setting boundaries now rather than later. It's difficult and painful to reach the tipping point when your mom is elderly, having health issues and you can't really address the historical core issues. Re: GA's analogy - remember that that balance point will change so be ready to adapt and adjust as the situation warrants it.
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GardenArtist - I love the analogy you presented with the intersecting lines and the balance point. I think that's exactly right. I think the rest of your analysis is right also.

Needy parents don't care about fairness. They care about getting what they need or want in the way that's most familiar or comfortable for them. The fact that you may have 2 or 3 or 7 siblings who are doing nothing while you get tapped again and again does not register as a problem to the parent.

Citygirl, I'm in the same position as you but different because I'm single and notoriously mobile. I lived briefly with my mother (I co-own her house because I was the only one who stepped up to help her with the down payment) but I found that exacerbated the problem of being the "chosen" one, so I moved out. While living there, I constantly took my own temperature in terms of what expectations most inflamed my resentment, and stopped agreeing to do those things. For example, I totally stopped cooking for her because I have 6 siblings none of whom ever cook for her (two of whom live less than a mile away) and because my mother was picky and annoying about food, and so lazy she would come to her place when the food was on and get up immediately after finishing and return to her TV chair. It burns me just thinking about it now.

At this point, most of my decisions about helping my mother are guided by the need to manage my resentment. Or, as GardenArtist put it, trying to move that intersection point back to where it's comfortable for me. I moved too far away to be on call constantly. I go once a week do her household chores and take her shopping and for errands, then go home. I tried to reduce that to twice a month but she tearfully asked me to go back to once per week because she needs too much stuff in between. One of my local sisters takes care of her finances and takes her to drs. appointments (of which there are many) - the other helps very little. Neither can be called every time my mother needs a light bulb changed or some other little task. I certainly pointed out to my mother that it's ridiculous for me to have to travel 90 miles each way to do these trivial tasks when she has two daughters who live within blocks, but she told me herself exactly what GardenArtist said. She doesn't feel she can ask the one sister for more, or ask the other sister for anything. I don't like it but I'm doing it for now. At least I have 6 days a week to myself.

I realize you can't pick up and move, but I suggest thinking hard about which types of help you're okay with providing, and which types of help make you feel taken advantage of, and start drawing the line where it will be the most help in keeping your resentment to a slow simmer. Maybe your mother will start asking more of your siblings if you make yourself less available. Maybe not, but it doesn't really matter what she does. It matter how you feel and how you get through this experience of being the "chosen" one. Hope this helps.
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