What I Want You to Know is a series of reader submissions. It is an attempt to allow people to tell their personal stories, in the hopes of bringing greater compassion to the unique issues each of us face. If you would like to submit a story to this series, click here. Today’s post is by an anonymous reader..
My mom (along with my dad) immigrated to this country in 1969. She escaped from a communist country. She spoke no English. She left everything she knew to create a new life. For that, I think she’s amazingly strong and brave. She was a dedicated mom – she chauffeured us and came to every school program and packed our lunches. Even now, she wants to help me however she can and gives me stuff all the time. I love my mom. But I don’t like her. I feel horrible for voicing that.
My mom is one of the most negative people I know. She could find something wrong with the most perfect of situations. Everything, no matter how wonderful, is “just ok.” She rarely smiles about anything. She is judgmental and condemning. She points out what is wrong with most people. She often doesn’t listen when you speak – in fact she will sometimes literally start talking in the middle of your sentence. I don’t enjoy being around her. I don’t feel like a good person when I leave her presence. She has often emotionally pressured my sister and me – we’ve never been there enough, never called enough, never visited enough. She wants us to be emotionally close but never put into the relationship what it takes to have that kind of bond.
There was a time last year when my husband, our baby and I lived with her for nearly six months. My dad had passed away, and my husband and I were in between overseas missions assignments. Even though we were literally at her house every day, it still wasn’t enough…my husband wasn’t at home enough or wasn’t helping me enough with the baby; we left a light or the radio on when we went upstairs; we put the plates in the dishwasher the wrong way. Whatever it was, it wasn’t right. At the end of the six months, my husband told me that it had been one of the darkest times of his life. This is what I grew up with.
And yet she’s older and needs help. I’m once again living in the same town she is; I’m nearby. She doesn’t always understand how things work – the systems of Social Security and pensions and insurance…email…Skype…printing pictures. When the hearing aid office wouldn’t return her money, I was the one who spent weeks making phone calls and writing emails. When she can’t figure out what happened to her answering machine, I’m the one that runs over to check on it. When there’s a bat in the attic, my husband and I are the ones that deal with it. She’s still living on her own, but very needy in many ways. I now find myself mothering my mother. I’m providing care to someone I don’t like.
As I deal with her negativity, I try to look at her through eyes of compassion. I understand in many ways why she is the way she is. I feel an obligation to help her as much as I can. I believe that families should help each other. I believe the Lord asks us to take care of even those who are unlovable…especially when they’re our own family. I know she doesn’t have anyone else to help her besides my sister and me.
What I want you to know is that taking care of an elderly parent weighs heavily upon you (and I don’t even have to deal with dementia or major health issues or “real” problems). It’s difficult to find the right balance of providing time for a parent while trying to take care of your own family. I want you to know that I have gotten so much advice on how to deal with my mom, and I have tried it all…”I” statements (“Mom, I feel frustrated when you walk into my house without knocking, I’d prefer that you ring the bell and then wait for an answer”); being nice; being firm; hinting; being straightforward; being honest; keeping various details hidden. I’ve tried it all and have never seen it make a bit of difference. At the end of the day, I’ve come to the conclusion that I am not going to change one thing about my mom. I’ve decided just to be myself…whether she likes it or not and whether she agrees with it or not, she’ll have to deal with it. I want you to know that sometimes I might just want to talk about it without getting any advice. I might just need to laugh at the ridiculousness of it all. I might just need a hug.
I want you to know that parenting a parent sometimes stinks!