Posted by: Tough Cookie | 2008/01/22

Seesaw of caring and guilt

Dear CS<br>I'm main care giver of my Mom who is in late 80's. She lives in a super flat in a retirement village and is still quite capable and defintiely got all her marbles, I have sacrified a few of my own luxuries to contribute to rent, I do her washing, take her shopping or buy groceries, fetch her on sundays to spend the days with us, visit mid week, always see that she has everything she needs and extra treats like flowers etc. I know she is grateful and feels like a burden and not easy for her as she had to relocate at the age of 86, major problem is that she still treats me like a child at times she is extremely critical. I now let her know that it is not acceptable and her answer is, usually in company, "who do you think you are speaking to". I might add I'm nearly 60 !! Am I disrespectful to chirp back at her? I admire my Mom in many respects but I will not be brought down and critised in such a rude way which is also embarrasing in company. She is quite a negative person and is also always critising others she mixes with at the retirement village. How does one handle this,,,,before I lose it completely. She is sulking at the moment because I answered her back .

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Our expert says:
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I'm in a similar situation myself, so I can really appreciate the difficulties. But you're lucky that she is capable and fully marbled, as otherqwise the burden is enormously higher. As one gets older, long-term memories tend to take precedence over recent memories, and one's child is somehow always a child. And people like your mom tend to fall back on old habits, like criticizing your appearance or hairstyle. And remember, in a way, it may help her to feel less helpless and dependent, more as if she might be contributing something useful, even if her comments are actually embarrassing or annoying to you.
Now, you are not brought down by whatever ANYONE else might say, unless you allow yourself to move down. When a neighbour's dog barks at you, however rude the comment might be if you spoke fluent Dog, you brish it off and don't even imagine taking it to heart as a serious criticism --- and you could, in a similar way, disregard your mom's comments, not agreeing to take them as serious criticism, not accepting them as offensive. Recognize it as a coping ploy by her ( not a very good one, but her repertoire is diminished ). Just as an old carf may run fine but with some more groans and squeaks, so it can be with people --- we don't have to accept the invitation to be offended. Remember when Ronald Reagan one magnificantly defused an offensive criticism from an opponent in a TV debate, saying : "Gosh, there you go again!" ? See the hearing and disregarding of such critical content as part of the caring that you can become especially good at --- don't take it seriously. I know that's not easy to do, but it's possible to do, and becomes easier with practice.

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Our users say:
Posted by: britty | 2008/01/22

Had the same problem myself however my mother only insulted me when no-one was around as she didn't like anyone thinkig ill of her. I tended to let a lot of it go however there were a few occassions when the hurt was too much however I always spoke quietly but very firmly my truth and she would stop. Yes you respect her because she is your mother but respect has to go both ways and if she wants your respect then she has to give you hers. You could also deflect her criticism by joking with her. Don't play her game by being nasty to her in front of everyone, two wrongs never make a right anyway. Its great you make sacrifices to take care of your mother which you can maybe tell her in private and that you don't expect her to be nasty to you in public, she might get the message. Whatever, you are doing a great job, take care.

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