Hi everyone, great to see this community board online. I have been under a lot of stress for the last two years due to my mother's declining physical and emotional health, as well as financial problems exacerbated by gambling. My mother is on a limited income (social security only) and has had gambling problem for the last decade. She routinely spends her limited excess income at casinos and then asks me and my siblings for cash on a monthly basis to pay for her basic needs (food, utilities, etc.) In addition to the stress and financial burden she is placing on us, she is also depressed and lonely since she retired two years ago and will not take steps to see a counselor or develop new interests or hobbies. Her excuse is that she has had health problems over the last two years which have required her to convalesce. This is true to some extent, but not wholly especially when she finds time to go casinos to ease her pain and "forget about things for awhile."
I feel like the only thing I can do (and what she expects of me - since she "did it for me when I was young") is to spend money on her as well as spend a lot of my free time. She asks me to sleep over at her place all the time and then accuses me of being cold emotionally when I refuse her demands knowing that she would have done it for "her parents."
I am in my early 30s, single, and have a lot of life issues (career, personal health) that I would like to tackle. I feel I cannot support my mom emotionally and financially and take care of myself. I have siblings but they are not a huge help in the emotional support department. I feel like I am sacrificing my life for hers. I just want to run away sometimes and break away from my needy mom. Finally, she is very critical of me and my siblings and I know this is because she is unhappy with her own life, but I find her very difficult to deal with. She treats me like a little girl, but one that needs to take care of her every need.
Any other young people out there who are burdened by a single parent? I dread getting married or dating seriously because I feel like my mom will become so needy and will be detrimental to my long-term well-being.
Thanks for any advice you can offer!

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Glad you reached out to this community for support and hope you will reach out again to local caregivers support groups. It sounds as if you have been sucked into your mother's toxic pathology - those are strong words, not meant to be critical of your mother, but accurate based on what you have written about her mental/emotional health challenges. I'm concerned you will need on-going support in order to extricate yourself from your mother's dis-ease. Consider Gam-Anon, which is a support group specifically for those who have been affected by another's compulsive gambling. If there is no Gam-Anon meeting in your area, visit meetings of Al-Anon (for those who have been affected by another's drinking). The principles taught in Al-Anon would be helpful in your situation. Also consider Codependents Anonymous. There are no dues or fees for any of these groups. On your own, your ability to help your mother improve her life is extremely limited. Otherwise, she would already be much better, wouldn't she? With proper support, you can change your enabling patterns, which will help you but could also help your mom change her self-defeating coping mechanisms into more life-affirming behaviors. Blessings to you AND to your mom.
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Thanks a lot for your reply. It's exactly what I needed to hear!
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Your mom is playing head games with you, isn't she? Of course she supported you as a child. In our society we do not expect 7-year-olds to be self-supporting. What has that got to do with what you owe her now?

It is not appropriate to expect an adult child to subsidize one's gambling habit, and this is, of course, what you are doing when you give your mom cash. I do not oppose senior gambling. When my mother and her sister, in their 80s, could get on a bus, go to a casino, spend the morning playing bingo, have a nice lunch, play a few slots machines, and get back on the bus, I thought that was a nice way for them to entertain themselves for a day. But they both knew that their entertainment, no matter what they chose to do, needed to come out of the small excess after their rent and food was accounted for. They did not expect their children to pay for their groceries so they could gamble.

If you are going to keep bailing her out, there is no incentive for Mom to cut back on her gambling, is there? (I think this is called enabling.)

Seeing a counselor can be part of convalescing. It is not more stressful or effortful to go to a senior center to check out what is going on than to go to a casino. This is more mind games, I think.

Accusing you of things like emotional coldness and being always critical of you is yet more game playing. If she did think you were what she accuses you of being, why on earth does she want to spend so much time with you?

Your mom is hitting all your buttons and taking advantage of you. Was it Ann Landers who always used to say that no one can take advantage of you without your permission?

Your job at this stage of your life is to become a contributing member of society, to preare for your own independent future, to start saving for your retirement, to date and socialize and build a network of friends and perhaps a partner that will be a foundation for you for decades to come. Do your job.

You are absolutely right. If you don't nip this manipulation of you now, in the bud, it will blossom into full scale needy dependence.

It is not that you shouldn't be nice to your mother, or buy her occasional treats, or treat her with respect. It is that, in my opinion, you shouldn't let her play mind games and manipulate you into supporting her bad habits.

Good luck!
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