I will maybe explore this over a few days as it will be too long. First I’ll lay out the situation. Then I’ll explore my part and what I can do about it maybe.
I don’t have a very close relationship with my 79 year old mum and it has deteriorated a bit more in recent months. We had a kind of truce. She hasn’t been very happy for a while and that has brought out the sharp edges to her character. Partly the effect of covid lockdowns, the isolation and worry of it all I think, and the worries a lot about the world in general. So a lot of sustained fear doesn’t tend to bring out the best in people. We do not get on very well in general though, there’s a low compatibility level purely on a personality level, and little in common. I have a lack of warmth towards her after my early years in her hands as a child which I haven’t ever shaken. She betrayed by trust back then and I have never felt fully relaxed on a cellular level around her. And she still bites!
As she is getting older and I suspect her expectations of being looked after or at least getting some attention are increasing. I find myself withdrawing more and I have concern about that, as this is the time that a daughter ideally would step up the support. I just don’t feel that way though and I feel guilty about that lack of care or even a sense of duty. Though it hasn’t been fully tested yet, as she is still very independent, and drives.
A big part of me thinks that I’ve already done my time looking after her – my whole childhood. I had a childhood which was largely to be dominated by her unhappiness (marriage) and my (futile) attempts to make her happy and cheer her up. I got the brunt of her unhappiness too which was expressed as anger often, emotionally and physically. She has said sorry a few times for that treatment. And I’ve forgiven her on a rational level, but emotionally I just never feel that relaxed or comfortable around her. Spent years as a young child feeling unsafe around her, and it seems quite deep.
She also used to cry on my shoulder so to speak, and I was her confidant for all her sorrows and troubles with my dad. That had the effect of turning me against him which in turn created a bad relationship between he and I. Now I do not feel much fondness or any sense of duty towards her at all. I visit every 2 weeks or so, and call once a week. Bring her a present at birthdays, Xmas and Mother’s Day. Try and maintain harmony.
I visited her yesterday, out of duty, and it was pretty uncomfortable from start to finish. I could tell she was peeved about something I have or haven’t done, probably not paying enough attention to her…so that was sitting there underlying her responses. I’m annoyingly sensitive to every nuance of her expression, as I had to learn to be as a child, perhaps we all learn that.
All the things I’m about to mention about her I am examining in my own heart too. As there are bound to be elements of these traits being disowned in myself which is why I find them so triggering.
She is prone to jealousy, and being bad tempered, as well as aggressively judgemental and critical. She likes to correct others including me. She is desperate to be right and is crushed when she is wrong. But will uphold being right even though she knows she is wrong to maintain that rightness. She has fixed ideas of correct conduct and tries to apply to them to me and to others.
She tries to be kind and can do this when she is happy but now that she isn’t happy her guard is let down and she can’t help herself. I can’t help feeling the bad mum is always in there waiting to come out only restrained by her desire for harmonious relations. So the good behaviour she has displayed towards me in recent years is no longer dominant at the moment. Her criticism is coming out. For example she will ask about my business and the guys and I will tell her a few things and each one she will voice her approval or disapproval of my actions and decisions. Good bad good bad.
Yes so this poor woman, isn’t as bad as I’m describing which is my subjective experience and very much tainted by bad experiences as a child. It’s hard to shake this. I want to love everyone unconditionally and I feel guilty not feeling much love for her. That suggests that I’m suppressing love for her as I believe our natural state is loving. So what to do. How to I find that love? It would be sad to discover it if it’s there after she dies.