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How to deal with your mother

By Catalogs Editorial Staff

Learning how to deal with your mother may be the biggest challenge of your life

Learning how to deal with your mother may be the biggest challenge of your life

People live longer than ever before, which is both good and bad. Many elderly people require assistance from family members or other caregivers because they no longer function independently yet aren’t so dependent or incapacitated they need to go into a care facility.

When a spouse dies and the mate is left behind this is a difficult situation for the remaining person. Since women live longer than men there are more widows than widowers. Many Baby Boomers have widowed mothers. How to deal with your mother is a question numerous adult children are asking.

According to a study at the University of Michigan, adult daughters and sons report experiencing more tension with their mom than their fathers. The tension results from the mother’s need to insert herself into their lives and spout unsolicited advice. Women are pushier than men in this respect and that characteristic probably isn’t going to change with age.

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Daughters have more conflict with their parents than sons because daughters tend to have closer relationships with their parents. Many adult daughters take on the role of caretaker when their parents become elderly and unable to fend for themselves.


Taking care of one’s elderly parent is a challenge. The tables turned and the adult child becomes the parent in many respects. The status quo is no longer the same. This is hard for the elderly person to accept. She knows she is dependent on her adult child and may be appreciative and grateful for her help, while simultaneously resenting the child.

Dealing with a demanding mom (or father) isn’t easy and is even harder when the adult child is enmeshed in her own life and family, raising kids or grandchildren as well as working. The care-taking child becomes overwhelmed, fatigued and resentful. Resentment is felt by both parties. This is a recipe for disaster.

When the parent and child never had a good relationship to begin with, this further complicates the situation.

Elderly people who rely on others to assist them in nearly every aspect of their life tend to conveniently overlook that their adult child has a busy life filled with obligations and commitments. The elderly mother (or father) becomes demanding and nasty when the adult child doesn’t ‘step and fetch it’ quickly enough to suit them. This is a bad scenario. Feelings are hurt. People cry. Depression sets in as well as anger.

The relationship an adult child has with his mom (or parents in general) is the longest relationship of his life. It may be fraught with tension and ancient history. The child may love her mom and vice versa but that doesn’t necessarily wipe out negative feelings such as ambivalence, annoyance and deep-seated resentment.

It is hard to transcend these emotions but the child and parent need to try. Odds are the elderly person is horribly stubborn and unwilling to budge so it is up to the younger individual to at least attempt to make the change. When the relationship between child and mother is tense something has to give.

If both parties learn to accommodate one another’s needs and work together to resolve problems, while being respectful of the other person’s point-of-view, this is helpful and productive. This requires a “Come to Jesus” meeting between the child and parent. No yelling allowed. Both parties need to calmly state what is on their mind and express what their issues are.

It may benefit both the older person and the adult child to hire a non-family member caretaker who doesn’t have a history with the patient. A cranky mother turns into a very sweet, little old lady when in the presence of her new caretaker, who isn’t her daughter or son.

If the adult child has always been cowed by her mom, take a deep breath and speak. Stand up for yourself. It is long overdue. Preface your comments with, “Mother, I love you very much but …” and then explain how her behavior is stressing you out.

Do not get agitated. Stay calm. Do not take the bait if she attempts to engage you in verbal warfare. Yelling and arguing are destructive and counterproductive. Do not engage in this behavior. Avoidance is also destructive. Take the bull by the horns. Be the bigger person and try to get your relationship with your mother back on track. After all, you are stuck with each other.


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