Male42NJ's picture

Mother's Day Spat

I called my mother to wish her a happy mother's day and somehow she slipped into discussions about my business and other off-topic subjects. My mother has a history of not really listening, rather she has to start fixing everything without realizing she's skating into sensitive territory and then it always unexpectedly gets a rise out of me and suddenly she's the victim when I'm the one who is feeling emotionally assaulted.

As an adult I can see this pattern and once my emotions settle I can understand she is only trying to help. What is troublesome is the manner in which it takes place, because it's not that she's just helping, she's questioning and her approach is one of someone grabbing an arm that is broken and then feeling offended because she was only trying to help.

After years of this happening I still can't get her to see her role in this kind of cause and effect that takes place. This pattern only exists between the two of us so I find it incredbily frustrating. My mother has a Phd so she's an intelligent woman, but I sometimes feel like she seems to possess intelligence in some areas of logic and reason by her emotional senses are less attuned.

I think my recent awareness of some of the aforementioned might offer something for me to discuss, but history has taught me that she is so convinced she is well-intended that she cannot see herself as a contributor to the problem when I become upset. She is always the victim and I the aggressor. This is very troubling because it leaves me with feelings of guilt, even though my rational mind understands that she means well and that I am in no way seeking confrontation or trying to be overly sensitive.

I'm interested in knowing better methods of dealing with this kind of problem because it bothers me greatly that on mother's day of all days this had to occur. However, when one becomes emotional the rational mind is not always present and so it's difficult to step back and stop something before it happens.

mayamay's picture

You've heard the serenity prayer? The things you cannot change include anything about your parents.

I had a similar thing happen with my folks. After a while, I started calling just 5 minutes before I had to do something else. When (not if) the conversation started to go bad, I'd say, "Sorry, Mom, gotta go!" Even if she had just started to ask a nosy question, I'd end the call, politely but quickly. She still starts to ask nosy questions. I still end the conversation. I don't offer excuses anymore. Just, "Gotta go! I love you."

Lizard's picture


No matter how much you try to remain in control, you get sucked into the cycle. Then you are the agressor and she is a victim. The best way in dealing with this is NOT to engage in th econversation. The "gotta go!I love you works." works wonderfully when you are on the phone. However, how do you address it when you are face to face? Well, you excuse yourself and go to the restroom, wash your face, wash your hands, blow your nose, whatever. Just take a few minutes before you return and change the subject. If she goes back to it, excuse yourself to get something to drink; then check on the kids, you continue this process until she gets it that you are not going to engage in that conversation. It may sometimes require you leaving events a little early or making sure there are others around to help divert some attention when things get complicated. This is a difficult and painful process when dealing with our parents.

I hope this is helpful. I have had to deal with that type of relationship with my mother.

2xstepmom's picture

Very good advice which I have used with my now 95 y/o mother for years. About a year ago, finally realized she is so entrenched in her negative ways that the decision had to be made by me to limit contact. My Mother's Day visit was made with my daughter and was very short. After years of stress as a result of trying to have a positive relationship with her, have chosen to spend my time with people who are positive and add to my life.

concerned mom's picture
concerned mom

Me three. I like what the other posters said about not engaging in the conversation. In other words, be kind but protect yourself from getting hurt. A nip it in the bud situation I like to call it. Your mom will get the hint eventually. Although this approach is helpful in protecting your own feelings, your mom may still feel hurt, though. She may feel you are shutting her out from letting her help. This may create guilt for you anyway, but overall, it's better than getting into a full blown argument, especially if you're both very sensitive. I've been on both ends of the coin where others have tried to offer their advice and where I've tried to be helpful and felt shut out. In circumstances where the subject matter is a sensitive one, it's better to just back off. I really think many people mean well, but they don't realize that what they say may be more hurtful than helpful.
As far as your relationship goes w/ your mom, do your part to discuss things that both you and she find interesting and unoffensive. I'm not saying you shld talk about the weather, but topics that neither of you are sensitive about. I also recommend that you discuss this approach ahead of time so you both understand one another's intentions are sincere. Sometimes people get offended and feel rejected, and they basically shut themselves down. By this I mean, they may be afraid or unwilling to say anything because they don't want to hurt the other one's feelings or they feel hurt and angry as well. Don't let things get to this pt. Don't tiptoe around each other b/c that will only cause more frustration and tension. You want to remain close to each other b/c I'm sure you care about one another. So please, have the conversation, and discuss all your feelings and concerns. Don't dwell on anything or pt fingers. Have ONE discussion and stick to what you say. After doing that, you know where each other stands and there's no surprises and no hard feelings. It may even help to write a letter. Sometimes putting your feelings down on paper is easier. I wish you luck. Don't let these emotions get between you and your mom. It's not worth it, and it will only create more problems in the long run.