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Tips to become more tolerant of my mother

(98 Posts)
eisbaer Fri 22-Nov-13 17:16:23

Just that, really. My mum irritates the living shit out of me. I can't articulate why, apart from really petty stuff(eating her breakfast while phoning for a chat, ignoring my requests at my house not to and carrying on doing my laundry etc). I know as a 37 yr old I should be able to overlook that and think on it all kindly, but every time she comes to stay I turn into Kevin The Teenager. So does anyone have any tips or recommended reading that could improve my behaviour towards her? I don't have the time or money for counselling or therapy. Ironically, she was much harder on my sister growing up, is more or less solely responsible for her ongoing eating disorder, and yet she seems to be over it and to be able to interact with her adult to adult. It makes me miserable and I cry every time we part because she is 72 and, well, who knows how long anyone has but obviously you want her twilight years to be happy and for her not to feel like a constant source of irritation to her daughter! I know she may always irritate me, but how can u handle it better? Anyone?

eisbaer Fri 22-Nov-13 17:17:21

Sorry for typo, am 8 mths prg(not helping tolerance levels)

whereiseveryone Fri 22-Nov-13 17:19:30

Watching with interest. I have a milder form of the same irritation!

brettgirl2 Fri 22-Nov-13 17:28:00

Does she live far away then? I think that's hard, my mum's fine but we would drive each other mad if she came to stay. Could she stay at a hotel or would that offend her (my mum would prefer it)

MildredH Fri 22-Nov-13 17:31:28

I know this may seem odd but when my mum irritates me (frequent)
I try to remember that one day she won't be here and I'll miss her terribly.

eisbaer Fri 22-Nov-13 17:32:13

I suppose I want someone to come along and say "that was me five years ago, I changed x,y and z in my thinking and now I can be much more civil towards her. What I don't get is that I can tolerate much more unreasonable/interfering behaviour by others and let it go, see the bigger picture, but every tiny thing with her just gets my goat! I can't fathom why anyone could choose to have a conversation with her, she doesn't listen and butts in over everyone with totally random pish. Have decided to take steps to change it though, which I guess is progress. I envy people who seem to function as adults with their mothers.

eisbaer Fri 22-Nov-13 17:38:09

Sorry, x post, she lives about 2 hrs' drive away. No way could I suggest a hotel, that just wouldn't do. But you may have a point. My aunt and uncle drive the same distance(yes she drives to me to help with childcare. I know how bad and ungrateful I am!), but they seem to get that there is no room to swing a cat, never mind stay over, so they use their vouchers for a hotel stay. No hard feelings, just see that we prob need space after kids are down. So maybe the lack of room exacerbates things, I recall she didn't do my head in as much when we had a spacious open-plan flat. But we also had fewer kids then, all factors I guess. I will try reminding myself she won't be here forever, seem to be all too aware of that once she goes, but at the time it's as if a switch flicks and I am in stress mode!

DIYapprentice Fri 22-Nov-13 17:39:40

Have a think about some of the things that annoy you, and then try to work out WHY they annoy you. Some of them may just be because SHE is doing them, others because ANYONE doing them would be annoying/upsetting.

If it's something that would be annoying from anyone, then be firm with it. If it's the eating while on the phone just breezily say 'oh you're busy, call me back when you're finished eating' and then hang up without waiting for a response. If it's the laundry, then take the laundry off her, gently steer her out of the room where the laundry is and say 'I said LEAVE it mother, you are not my hired help'. (This one is a lot harder, but then I'm the one who gently manhandled my mother out of my house because I didn't dare leave her in it without me present and I had to go out - she wanted to stay and do some housework for me while I was out.)

If it's the things that are only annoying because she's done it, then hopefully without the other annoying things you will be able to tolerate them more.

If you she really won't stop doing things in your house, and you don't want to have to physically stop her, consider installing door handles with key locks and then lock all the rooms that you don't want her going into. A bit hard to do the laundry if you can't physically get it out of a bedroom, or out of the washing machine!!

Vivacia Fri 22-Nov-13 17:44:44

I think you've got the answer in your first post. You respond to her as a Child to a Parent. An Adult-to-Adult interaction might be healthier. Try googling Transactional Analysis?

eisbaer Fri 22-Nov-13 18:03:58

Yes adult to adult would be way healthier! I will google it. And I am going to note each thing that pisses me off and try to identify why and if it would annoy me if anyone else did it, hard though that may be to envisage. I need to stop reacting in an angry, aggressive way too, just say calmly what I will and won't put up with.
Lots of it is older person stuff though. Like..not listening to anything anyone says and butting in with some mindless story about something that happened to the butcher's friend., or similar. That's something that drives me nuts. Mind you, if my MiL was like that I should try to copy how I'd cope with it from her because I would just have to.

You do not mention your Dad, is he still a part of your life?.

Its not so much your behaviour towards needs to improve so much as hers. It sounds like she has no concept of boundaries whatsoever.
With regards to yourself, you are going to have to raise your boundaries a lot higher than they are currently because these people will take a mile if you give an inch. Does she actually come into your home and do your laundry; does she have a key?. If so, remove that from her. If she cannot behave she cannot see you.

At 72 as well, she could well live for another decade or two yet. What about you, why do you seemingly put her happiness above yours?. This is partly why she's been allowed to get away with such rubbish for so long. She has no idea or perhaps even cares that she is a constant source of irritation to you. You've come to realise as well that your mother's relationship with you is dysfunctional.

Re this comment:-

"Lots of it is older person stuff though. Like..not listening to anything anyone says and butting in with some mindless story about something that happened to the butcher's friend., or similar".

I would think that on further reflection you would come to realise that she has always been like this (so her behaviour can't be put down to just age. Your sister perhaps just agrees with everything your mother utters now to keep the peace. If I am reading this correctly as well, your mother is responsible for your sister developing an eating disorder.

I would have a look at the "well we took you to Stately Homes" thread on these pages as the resources at the beginning of that thread could well help you. You state that you have no time or money for counselling but taking time to look at those resources could be a start for you. BTW BACP are good with regards to counselling and do not charge the earth.

eisbaer Fri 22-Nov-13 18:42:25

My dad died 16 years ago. He was pretty irritated by her much of the time and I wonder if my being angry and ratty towards her "keeps him alive" in a way. Also, consciously, I'd far rather be like my dad than my mum so I think I almost ham it up to ensure I don't resemble the quietly controlling, passive aggressive parent. think you are bang on about my sister who has, by the way, spent thousands on counselling re her body image, low confidence etc. I suspect I harbour anger twds my mum on her behalf as I have always been her protector and my mum is utterly baffled as to where her low-self-esteem and unhealthy r'ship with food and poor body image should stem from. Though I am far harder on my mum, I would say I have a far more honest relationship with her than my sister now, who just stays at arm's length. But I think I need to find a third way, as the guilt and self-flagellation following a visit is v. harmful! I thought the stately homes thread was more for people from outwardly loving homes who were abused in some way?

Stanislas Fri 22-Nov-13 19:16:20

I would have killed for a DM who did my laundry without asking. And ironing and cleaning the oven and washing the kitchen floor......

MoonHare Fri 22-Nov-13 19:30:12

eisbaer I read your post with interest.

My Mum drives me crazy too. She's so self centred and self serving (she does have positive qualities too). But I am right with you on the irritation during phone calls, my Mum often eats while talking to me "It's OK MoonHare it's a one handed job" is what she says, she talks always for exactly an hour (because that's how long the call is free for) on times/dates that are most convenient for her, is frosty if for some reason I hadn't answered the phone when she had said she would be calling, she also talks for most of the hour about random people she is acquainted with who I have never met, there's always someone who has upset her in some way and she goes on about that. Often it's not even what she says but what she doesn't say or the way she says it, anyone once else listening would think it perfectly innocent and wonder why I was upset but she knows how to needle me in a passive aggressive way.

When she's in one of those moods (I can tell instantly by the way she says hello) then I find the way to make the calls work for me is to try to monopolise the conversation myself going on about my children/my friends or to ask lots of questions about the members of my family who live near her.

In spite of the above I am actually feeling much less irritated by her than I was approx. 18 months ago when I was also pregnant. I really do think being pregnant reduces your capacity for tolerance, plus there's something about being about to produce a child that makes you reflect on your own childhood and the sort of parenting you received. My Mum has her good points but overall she wasn't the best at parenting young children.

I think once your pregnancy hormones calm down you'll find it easier. The other thing for me was that (while I was pregnant) she and I had a huge row, started because I could not hold back and told her some home truths. She was being really mean about my long-suffering Dad and that's what made me snap. We didn't speak for 3 weeks, then she phoned me, she did not mention our row (nor has she ever since) and did not apologise but she has been much better and made more of an effort with my children since then. I now find I can take a deep breath and let most of it wash over me, because yes, I will miss her when she's gone.

Maybe you could take a deep breath and tell her how you feel (not 100% of how you feel but enough to get the point across) and then leave her to think it over for a while???

I have lurked on the 'stately homes thread' and the backgrounds of most posters on there do seem so much more extreme than mine I would feel like a fraud joining in.

eisbaer maybe we could start our own support thread - "My Mum drives me crazy by eating on the phone"!!??

bubblesmonkey Fri 22-Nov-13 19:37:05

If you find an answer I'd love to know. My mum irritates the living shit out of me.

eisbaer Fri 22-Nov-13 19:43:19

Moonhare- great thread title...I'm in! Preg hormones have much to answer for, you're right. But I will try your technique of twisting convo round to mutually relevant topics and see how that goes.
Stanislas- I hear you, but I have actually said to her before, I'd rather not come home on my work days to a pile of ironing, washing to hang out when there's no room and it's raining, so I save my laundry for the days I don't work, but if you want to help me I'd love someone to clean my kitchen floor/dust the lounge or similar. Totally ignored that request and kept on with the laundry, ruining a batch of whites and my AP undies in the process. But I get your point and am fully aware that I am lucky to get this help, it just feels so intrusive and panics me somehow.

Spookey80 Fri 22-Nov-13 19:45:06

My mum also irritates me. I used to be so close to her, but she can now seem a bit self centred and every time I ever try to talk to her about something in my life concerning me, she just brings it back to her, so I lose my patience and don't bother telling her anything.
It's a shame, because of course I love her, and she helps us out a lot with the kids, but I too can just pick up the phone and tell from her voice that it will be an annoying conversation.
...however I of course love her and when I get snappy with her I always feel guilty,,so it's not worth it ,,therefore is try to be patient and just let these annoyances go over my head. ...she's my mum after all.

eisbaer Fri 22-Nov-13 19:45:59

I tried to tell her that I would like to pick my own plants for our garden in the new house, and that to me it felt a bit like her choosing to colour scheme in a room in the house, which caused considerable awkwardness, but she took the point on board. So maybe you just need to have that awkward spell before a change in dynamic.

MoonHare Fri 22-Nov-13 19:57:57

Well, my Mum is due to phone tonight, I put her off yesterday because I was just so tired I couldn't face an hour long conversation. I'm not really looking forward to tonight's but I can't put it off any longer.

I think that thing about 'adult-adult' is so true, I too often end up playing the child, if I try to do 'adult' though she often reverts to child herself. However, eisbaer the fact your mum took on board what you said about your garden - letting you know she wasn't pleased about it of course! - does show that when you do take the adult role she really has no choice but to respond.

It sounds like you mean too much to each other for her to be the type that would cut you out if you were a bit stronger with her.

I know my mum would never cut me out (who else could she go on about to about the wife of my Dad's friend who supposedly snubbed her if she cut me out????!!!) so I suppose I should try being clearer with her about what I want out of contact with her, it feels so hard though doesn't it? She has no problem telling me she has to go because a favourite TV programme is starting or not ringing when she said she would because my brother came to see her unexpectedly, but if I were to do the same I would be left in no doubt as to her displeasure!

Am off to read up on transactional analysis before she rings at 8.30.

I'll come back to this thread though eisbaer I'd love to know how things progress for you.

fancyanotherfez Fri 22-Nov-13 20:47:07

My relationship with my mother is exactly the same! She is currently upstairs keeping the kids up after spending the day telling me why they don't eat ( the 25 biscuits she's sneaked into them maybe?) or that they have difficulty going to sleep ( no they don't...).
My parents have a relationship that consists of barely disguised mutual loathing. They have nothing in common apart from their children, and when my sister left home 5 years ago the complete disinterest spilled over into open contempt. Every time I see her, I have hours of moaning about my dad. For some reason, I'm much more forgiving of him. I don't even know if I care enough to change the relationship, just become calmer about it all! Sorry, that was a bit of a hijack, but I need to know the same thing!

BabyMummy29 Fri 22-Nov-13 20:50:36

Spend as little time with her as possible OP - it's the only way I retain my sanity as far as my mother is concerned.

I can't trust anything mine says or does, so avoidance is definitely the best tactic otherwise I will fester over all the horrible things about her

eisbaer Sat 23-Nov-13 01:23:15

I think not spending, like, days on end together is a good idea. And I will take time tomorrow to write down all the gripes and analyse why they irk me.
Am so relieved to find others feel the same way about their mums, it is such a complex dynamic! I am seriously hoping this baby(DC4) is not a girl, as would hate for a daughter to be as critical of me as I am of her still at this age. Will report back.

JessieMcJessie Sat 23-Nov-13 07:10:34

I used to have similar feelings about my Mum. It wasn't eating on the phone, it was talking with her mouth full as if she was literally unable to stop talking long enough to chew. This was the same woman who brought me up with impeccable table manners. The rambling on about people she knew I didn't know too, and talking through television programmes. Being extremely opinionated and prone to judge others (not me so much but definitely my boyfriends). No matter how old I got I always reverted to a grumpy teenager when visiting her. We had few major issues and I loved her, and she loved me, and was sometimes really good company, but I didn't look forward to her calls and I always felt that things she did annoyed me more than if a friend was doing the same thing.

OP what you said about keeping your Dad alive by taking over the mantle of being annoyed by her struck a huge chord with me as my Dad also died many years ago,I am much more like him than her in personality and their relationship involved a lot of eye-rolling and exasperation from him (always good-natured though). My brother reckoned that a lot of her more challenging personality traits came to the fore after my Dad was no longer there to keep them in check.

Anyway all this is in the past tense because earlier this year she was diagnosed with cancer and was dead within 8 weeks, aged only 66. I am sorry to say that even after she was terminally ill she still irritated me sometimes. I feel bad that I never really got to that adult relationship stage with her and wish I'd tried harder, so it's good that you're doing that.

CogitoErgoSometimes Sat 23-Nov-13 08:10:05

That was me a few years ago. My DM is Gold Medal Olympic standard at being irritating and that's not just me saying it. Very irrational woman smile I think what changed for me was that DS was getting older and I realised that, like a lot of DCs, he can be pretty irritating and irrational at times. I had various ways of dealing with that so I started to treat DM the way I would a stroppy pre-teen/teen. Works really well for me.

- If she crosses a line and is offensive she gets told straight away (no silent seething). I am less worried about 'sparing feelings' but don't hold grudges.
- If it's something unimportant I ignore it
- I try to find the idiosyncrasies funny rather than annoying.
- We live 200 miles apart.

She's lately displaying some of early symptoms of Alzheimers and that's changed the dynamic a lot too.

Lweji Sat 23-Nov-13 08:30:56

I was going to suggest the same as Vivacia.
I read a book about transactional analysis and I feel it di help me deal better with my mom and actually be more assertive.
The last time there was a "thing" it was mostly her being childish and me, the adult, observing her having a tantrum.

In this case, if you just know she's going to do laundry, then tell her which to do and that you will be very annoyed if she does something else.
If she still mixes it up, you may actually want to consider if he has an early neurological problem. Sadly, it could happen.

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