OK, I feel guilty already. *sigh*

We bought this house specifically to make room for my mom, who was not flourishing while living on her own.

The downstairs has a huge master bedroom suite (hers) as well as the kitchen, living room, dining room (which is actually my office) and laundry room.

The upstairs -- which she can't go to because she can't do stairs -- is just bedrooms, bathrooms and a media room that my sons and husband enjoy.

Here's the thing:

I feel like my mom is stretching out more and more. She's got oodles of room, but whenever I'm in the house and downstairs, she seems to find reasons to be in the same room as me -- especially in the kitchen. If I even glance in her direction, she perks up like she's been waiting for me to engage. It creeps me out. I find myself going up to my bedroom or to the office/dining room just to be alone. And then I feel guilty.

Look, I get it. She wants interaction.

The thing is, I don't. I don't want conversation with her. There's too much history. I don't mind her living here (too much) but I don't like the sense that she's trying to HAVE A CONVERSATION with me.

I meet weekly with a Stephen minister (a trained listener), so I have someone to talk to about this. I'd just like to hear a broader range of reactions and suggestions.

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My mother was able to make her own breakfast for the first year or two after we all moved house together. I still get a nervous twitch even now, ten years later and over three since she died, whenever the microwave goes 'ping!' or I smell hot golden syrup.

Holy mackerel, the poor woman was only heating up some instant oatmeal, why on earth did it get so badly on my nerves? BECAUSE!!! AAAARGGGH!!!

So I do sympathise with the tension there must be between you and your mother if she craves contact and you crave not. But.

Do you want to end up living in a household where the head of it 'doesn't mind' your being there but actively does not want to engage with you?

If you're not going to interact with your mother, who is? You need to find alternatives for her. Otherwise, your rescue mission has actually just placed her in a house where she is intensely lonely but never alone. Don't do that to her.
Helpful Answer (14)

I'm with Rainmom, I don't get why you would have her come live there if you can't stand to be in the same room with her, it's like you want to be seen doing good without actually having to do the heavy lifting. Maybe I'm just extra sensitive to this because I've always been the perpetual outsider, but inviting someone to share your home and then essentially shunning them is a subtle form of cruelty.
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I am wondering why you moved your mother in with you, if you didn’t want any interaction with her. Still, too late now, so here are a couple of suggestions. Probably a nuisance to do, but worth considering. They are permanent arrangements that are easier to justify than locks on doors, and far more likely to work than 'rules'.

First, swap the upstairs media room with your office. That puts you upstairs out of reach in the daytime. Your husband and son probably use the media room in the evening (and with luck mother retires early), and anyway they won’t be sitting ducks for conversations at the same time as they are using the media.

Second, put a motel-style kitchenette upstairs – kettle, microwave, toaster, bar fridge. You have water in a bathroom, just like the motel arrangement. Then you can keep away from the kitchen except for preparing full meals – you might even do lunch upstairs.

I understand the feeling that you are being watched all the time, ready to be ‘company’. Yes, it happened to us with MIL, but at least we were working outside on the farm. Perhaps if you could re-arrange the house so that you are out of reach and it is less of a problem, you could cope better with what is left.

Best wishes.
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I’ve been on this site for a few years now. I use to be more active in replying- giving opinions and advice...

I say this to preface what I’ll say here. A warning as such - since you don’t “know” me.
I am a straight shooter - pretty blunt and to the point. So please don’t think I’m being mean or judging. I’m not. Just giving my thoughts and opinions - since you asked.

It strikes me as unfair and unkind that you would move your mother into your home and then treat her like you wish she wasn’t there. More unkind- in my opinion- than if you had left her where she was. Mentally and emotionally, at least.

Perhaps your mother got her hopes up and saw this as an opportunity to once again have a close relationship with you. Is she even aware of the disdain you have for her - or is she bewildered and following you around trying to get you to like her once more? The comment about her wanting to be like you is surely an attempt to flatter you.

Clearly, you should not have moved your mother in with you - but you did. I highly doubt when you made the invitation that she expect it to be as it is. Or did you spell it out that you would be treating her more or less as a slight aquatance living under your roof?

I think you need to hold up your end of the implied arrangement. Suck it up and give the poor old gal a bit of your time.

Try setting up a routine that has a definite beginning and end - coffee together in the morning before you head to your office. A specific time and routine that she can count on and look forward to - it may very well reduce the amount of time mom spends following you around hoping for a sunbeam of your attention.

Look - I get it. I was close to my mother as a child and even as a teen but from then on - things got very complicated and dysfunctional. By the time my mom passed I had discovered that I really didn’t like her much as a person.

Still - for the last six years of her life I looked after her and every detail in her life. But I never considered having her live with my hubby, adult son and me in my home. Remaining civil would have been the least of it - refraining from smothering her in her sleep would more have been the challenge. So - I get it. Totally.

But - you did ask her to live with you and your family. Unless you stipulated this lack of contact in the beginning - I think you need to make a little bit of time and warmth with and for her. She doesn’t want to talk with your husband and your sons instead of you.
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Given your discomfort at your mother’s attempt to develop a relationship with you on your present situations, might you be able to comfortably reframe what you feel now to something different that might be better for both of you?

You recognize that you “have history”. I always envied friends who had close, companionable interactions with their mothers, AND my mother had WONDERFULLY sweet friendships with MY friends, but for some reason, NEVER with me.

And then, she became my total care, and I began to realize how vulnerable and frightened and traumatized she was by all she’d lost when she’d broken her hip. That was my turning point.

For all of her failings as far as I was concerned, I was forced to notice how courageous she was in the face of her loss, and how hard she attempted to right herself after the accident that had devastated her life.

She’d changed, and ultimately I changed, at least enough to understand her value to others. That was what allowed me to cherish a new friendship I’d never have expected to happen, and it lasted through the 5 years u til she died. I cherish the memory of it even after the 11 years since she died.

Can you consider the possibility of opening yourself, just a bit, to actively sharing some part of your mutual life? You can be the boss about how or how much. Even folding laundry can be something you can share, just to feel that you’re getting some work done.

I can imagine feeling “creeped out” by having to make cute, idle chat, but maybe some mutual parallel activity, with innocuous comments about the weather or the news? A “thank you” for her with folding the towels? Whatever YOU can tolerate on a short list developed by yourself, and pre planning for the small time increments that you are able to spend- “Mom, could you give me 15 minutes to fold these table napkins?” Then stop and go back to work?

Thinking of you. I get the awkwardness. I lived it. Hope you find a way for you both to move it forward........
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MBFoster Mar 2019
I know it was ages ago, but I want to say THANKS for your helpful reply.

I do sometimes work alongside my mom, though it's tricky because her movements are very, very slow, and I tend to be focused on getting the job done and moving on to the next thing that needs doing.

Maybe, though, I could develop a list of 'conversation starters' and, as you suggest, set a mental timer. That would also help me with the feeling I struggle with that I am her source of entertainment for the day. Some days after work I don't feel like talking. (I work in a very social environment all day. Quiet is delicious after that!)
Just wanted to send you a giant hug of support. The feelings you describe are so similar to those I had.

I know there is about as much point to saying this as there is to counselling parents of young children never to get cross with them because they're only yours for such a short time... (always goes down especially well in crowded supermarkets, I find, hem-hem)...

But now that my mother is not getting up my nose any more I miss her dreadfully and I wish I had shown her more love and less of the intense irritation and frustration which were all there, bundled up together. You can still hug yours, I can't.

Give her a bear hug from me, then go and put a lock on your office door :)
Helpful Answer (5)

What social interaction is Mum getting now that she lives with you and how does that compare to what she had on her own? It sounds like she is lonely and perhaps bored.

How easy is it for to get out of the house to visit friends, go to Church or other organization? Is she allowed to have friends over?

Everyone has different needs for social interaction. An example in my family. My Mum is out of the house every day. She goes to Church, Dragon Boats, volunteers, swims, walks the dog, meets friends for lunch or coffee. She has been a member of a social club for over 50 years. My former MIL has lived in this town for 18 years and lives in a 9 plex. She has not met anyone in 18 years beyond her neighbours. She leaves to house every three months to go to the doctor.

If Mum was forced to be home bound, she would go crazy. The same if my former MIL was expected to interact with people every day. Or God forbid, speak to a stranger.

It sounds like you need your space, peace and quiet. Mum needs social activities. You are going to have to provide ways for your mother to socialize.

This is one thing I do not understand about looking after a parent at home. Generally the care giver does not have the time nor energy to ensure the parent has a social life.
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Can you think of another living situation for her? I can't imagine how hard it must be to live somewhere where you are an obvious annoyance to the other residents. She sounds terribly lonely.
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Are you home all day with her, trying to hide from her? Since you don’t want to interact with your mom, I think you may be able to deal better with her if you give her more opportunities for interaction with other people. You don’t say how long she has been living with you but maybe a call to your local agency on aging will give you some ideas on ways to get her more involved in something. Maybe a daily van pickup to a daycare? Maybe an opportunity for her to do a little volunteer work? Maybe a sewing/knitting/reading group? Did she have any hobbies when she lived on her own that she could resume or try something new? Does she have a pet? If not, a cat or small dog of her own may give her some joy and something to love and take care of. I can’t imagine how lonely she is. Not sure if you expected her to stay in her bedroom watching tv all day? Or the bad history you must have had with her? But your statement that she perks up when it appears you want to throw a bit of attention toward her makes me very sad.
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It’s so hard to tell the actual dynamics of a situation just from reading posts. Maybe your Mom is getting enough social interaction from the rest of the family so your shunning doesn’t make her too lonely. But with your additional information, it sounds like you don’t like your Mom very much. Here’s what it appears like: She creeps you out, her compliments make you wince, and it sounds like you’d prefer no interaction at all with her. You will not engage in waffly conversation, “just the facts, ma’m”. She tries to tell you she’s proud of you, and you don’t like it. You’ve managed to get a job that gets you out of the house for 10 hours a day, and are too tired to be more than barely civil to her when you get home.
This project just sounds like some obligation you’ve undertaken since you’re an only child, but not because there’s any sense of love (or even like) on your part. I would either try very hard for an attitude adjustment, follow the many suggestions you’ve been given here to help her adjust without you. Or find her a nice assisted or independent living arrangement, and chalk it up to learning experience about yourself.
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Good advice
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