Sunday, October 18, 2009

Long Post about Mom

My mom went home yesterday. I took her to the airport at about 3 o'clock.

And the guilt sets in.

I always have to sort through and manage my feelings of guilt after a visit with my mom.

She's my mom and I love her, yet...there is not much about her that I like very much. Add that to my character flaw of impatience, and it makes for perfect guilt breeding ground.

She is 64 years old going on a cranky 87. She is very negative, and most of what she likes to talk about is how annoyed she is with a neighbor, her homeowners' association, the clerk at the grocery store, something that a former co-worker did, how everything is a rip-off these days, etc., etc., etc.

She has virtually no friends. Her only friends are long-ago friends who live in other states. She is not social, has no interest in joining clubs, taking classes, participating in any group or having to interact with other people.

She is planning to retire and move here from Arizona to be nearer to me. No one wants to grow old alone, and she is virtually estranged from my two sisters who live in Texas and Massachusetts.

She has become a bit forgetful, I think because most of her activities include watching celebrity gossip TV shows and HGTV. She has no interest in current events, world issues, local politics or anything that requires critical thinking skills. She has a knee problem, so she is not very physically active. She's just a tiny bit overweight, but she groans and complains about physical aches and pains as though she's got one foot in the grave.

I'm just frustrated. I find it difficult to be around her for very long. It is difficult to listen to one negative, bitter tirade after another.

The purpose of this visit was to go around and look at possible places for her to live when she moves here. So I drove us all over town the past 4 days going mostly to new construction developments. If anyone knows of a new one story home in a neighborhood near me, with granite counter tops, big kitchen, open rooms, lots of storage, two car garage, large walk-in closets, nice big bathrooms with double sinks, three bedrooms, about 1800 square feet, no homeowners' association dues, 3% interest rate and a price tag of, say $225,000....would you please let me know. Or, perhaps you'll have better odds buying the winning lottery ticket. It's not like she's asking for much.

She did bring me bagfuls of infant clothes. Mostly used from my nephew (that he wore 20 years ago), but in perfect condition. We went to the stores once during her visit, and she aimed for the baby section, but would only touch, point out or comment on things that were pink, ruffled or said "Our little Princess" on them.

So I know my baby is a boy.

She also went to my Friday morning OB appointment with me. As we waited in the waiting room, a young mom had her 2 month old baby girl with her. She prepared to breastfeed the baby and draped a blanket over her shoulder. She position the baby and fed her for a few minutes until the receptionist called the young mom's name. The mom said, "Oh, just a minute please" and as she removed the baby from her breast she looked at us, smiled, and commented, "Just enough to get her through the appointment." I just smiled and nodded and said she had a cute baby.

My mom leaned over to me and said, "You're not going to nurse, are you?" I said, "Yes, of course I am!" She asked, "Well, how will I feed the baby?" The young mom, who was finally now standing and putting her baby in its stroller just grinned. I said, "Well, mom, I can put the milk in a bottle." She replied, "Oh."

When they called my name, my mom wanted to come too, which was fine with me. The girl first led me to the scale. I stepped up and she slid the weights until the lever balanced. I'm up a total of 11 pounds. I stepped off and the girl was already walking ahead of me down the hall, leading us to the exam room. My mom? Well, she said aloud, "Let's see who weighs more, mother or daughter?" and she climbed up on the scale to weigh herself! I said, "Mom! Get off of there, don't play with things! Let's go" and I just about grabbed her by the wrist and dragged her down the hall with me. As though everyone had the time to stand around and wait and think it was cute that my mom wanted to try out their scale! What was she thinking?

When I told my husband about the scale incident, he asked if I had any real concerns about my mom's ability to care for our child. I guess my mom is planning to be our day care provider. She did great with my nephew 20 years ago, but...well...she's older now. Not that 64 is old....but SHE is old. We didn't expect her to be our full-time caregiver, and when I mentioned this to her, she said, "Well, who else are you going to get?" And she basically argued that there is nothing else she will have to do. She doesn't want to get a part-time job. She doesn't want to join anything. She doesn't want to do anything. I don't think our child would be in danger with her. I don't think she'd forget him or leave him in the car or anything like that. She just doesn't really pay attention or think outside of her own little world.

So a few times over the course of the visit my patience wore thin. I snapped at her or responded with a short temper. Then I felt guilty. It's always this way. Love my mom, but feel frustrated, bored, exasperated, agitated, irritated....until I snap. The thing is, she thinks she's smart, clever, wise and that she and I think just alike.

So she has to go home and get her house ready to sell. She'd like to spend one last winter in Arizona and she thinks she'd probably move here sometime around May of next year. One thing is that she is a meticulous housekeeper and her home, which is 7 years old, is in perfect condition. So I think it will sell pretty quickly. In a way I'll be glad to have her here. I just hope she doesn't expect that I will want to spend all my spare time and weekends with her. Yes, of course, taking the baby and going with my mom to the park or a pumpkin patch or summer kite festivals will be fun. But I also need alone time with my family, my husband and child. Which is why I would prefer my mom to take an interest in something other than me and my family. To have a life of her own.

My husband thinks maybe the baby will give her something positive to think about for a change. Maybe it will help her be less negative and get her out more. I hope so. For everyone's sake.

I guess time will tell.


anofferingoflove said...

i have the same annoyance/guilt relationship with my mother. i think it comes with the territory.

the comment about breastfeeding is funny - glad you stuck to your guns! (metaphorically speaking)

Lara (NoodleGirl) said...

Your mom sounds like a challenge and she's really lucky that you're as patient with her as you are.

My friends and I often wonder if we'll become as "annoying" (or insert "reclusive", "controlling", "weird") as some of our moms when we become senior citizens -- does that happen to all women? But then we meet a really cool and funky sixty-something and breathe a sigh of relief...

embieadoptmom said...

DUDE! That was deep. I think your DH is right though-the baby will lift her spirits AND HER ENTIRE UNIVERSE! Babies change grumpy into good! I think it will all be GREAT!

stillhopeful said...

You are very patient! It must be frustrating to not have the kind of relationship you'd like with your mom.

I can understand your concern about her being the primary childcare person - not just for the forgetfulness or safety issue, which is good that you feel comfortable with, but also for the skills, attitudes, and development opportunities that your child may or may not be exposed to.

You might want to consider a daycare for 1-2 days a week? That way your child will be exposed to both the love and attention of a grandma, plus social and development opportunities of a more structured environment? We're having my mom watch our little one 2 days a week, MIL one day a week, and then daycare 2 days a week. I like that there will be different influences that my child will be exposed to, and selfishly, that I won't feel like there's another person (whether its a grandma or a teacher) that will be with my child so much more than me/DH will be.

Anyway - try not to let too much guilt seep in after her visit, because isnt your gender u/s coming up soon? So exciting!!!

IVF 40+ said...

Oh families! Families, especially mother/daughter relationships are intended to make us crazy - otherwise all those therapists would be unemployed!

Since you are the mum you get to decide when she helps, how she helps and if she helps! This is your baby, your family and your rules. She'll learn very quickly.

How are you! What's going on in there???

Kara's Mom said...

OMG - is your mother my mother? I spent the day (3 hrs) today with mine and by the end of the 3rd hour I was going out of my mind. I feel like my mom is my burden to carry, my brothers won't take responsibility for her when she loses the ability to take care of herself. And she drives me insane, and I feel guilty for my impatience with her. Exasperating.
I wish I had some advice - all I can say is, don't let her overrule you whatever you decide with the baby.

Mad Hatter said...

I really feel for you - it sounds like a challenging position to be in, knowing that your mom is moving closer and assuming that she will taking care of your baby every day...I like stillhopeful's suggestion and IVF 40+'s comment. I agree, also, with the prediction that the baby will bring out a different, brighter side of your mom. That said, you and your husband have lots of time between now and then to determine exactly what the boundaries will be - and let her know before she moves there, so everyone is on the same page from the get-go.
Funny how we all (or at least I do) think that once IF is solved, we won't have any problems! ;-)

Alex P said...

Hey lady. You and your mom should set some rules. Tell her how much you expect to need her for childcare, and set up your alternate arrangements before she can argue. even 3-4 days of babysitting every day is EXHAUSTING. There are lots of reasons she shouldn't be the only person taking care of baby- socialization, attatchment, and there are lots of everyday things she may not be thinking about getting done which will be problematic if she's in charge of baby at all times- there's banking and grocery shopping and keeping her house so pristine. Hard to do when she's at your house all the time... Baby watching is hard, maybe not even right after birth, when they eat sleep and poop, but when they are crawling and learning, and you have to put so much into keeping them stimulated and not just mesmerized by TV... it's SOOOO tiring. If she has trouble just walking and physically being herself, it will be no fun bending and lifting baby and what not. EEEK.

Maybe a 'gift' to the local YMCA for her? one where there's lots of aquasize, scrapbooking clubs,whatever? To help her knees, and her socialization. Or perhaps you have to just level with her and let her know that if she doesnt find something fun to do, she's gonna be the weird grandma, and you want baby to have a cool fun grandma.

Alex P said...

Oh I forgot to say that if the YMCA thing was a go, she could use it to take baby to lots of swimming and baby activity classes too, so it would mean baby gets to be out of the house also during the day. Even if she doesnt want to use it, having baby enrolled in day classes may force her to interact with others, and get her out of her shell wether she likes it or not.

Holly said...

Mom's ARE exhausting, but they mean well...I don't know what it is that once they hit their mid 60's, they drive us daughters nuts!!! You did a good job keeping your patience as much as you did!

Hey, and having "vintage" baby clothes in mint condition is a bonus-$aves $$ and no one's child is dressed like yours! My son wears almost all hand me downs and people are alway commenting on the cute outfits "they haven't seen before" !

Lorraine said...

Just wait until my long post about my mother - I think you'll recognize quite a bit! My mom is 68, and she would probably be a fairly responsible caregiver, but as far as a child learning to model behavior, all I can say is YIKES!

I think the first year or so would be relatively fine - a lot of sleeping and the kind of activities that end up being so enthralling to a baby - peekaboo, where's-your-nose, clapping games - are the things that a sedentary grandma can really appreciate. But after that, some kind of day-care is probably best, at least part-time. If you have some kind of plan in place so that she knows all along what you think is best for developmental reasons or whatever, she can't take it as personally.

As for getting her out of her shell - let me know if you come with something, anything, that seems like it might work!

K said...

It sounds like sort of a bitter sweet thing. But I do like your DH's positive outlook on the whole thing. She could do a 180 after she moves and sees her beautiful little grandchild. (I know I'm hoping that from my dad...) It is hard though, having parents back in town after and extended absence. Dealing with that too...

just me, dawn said...

your mom sounds as selfish as my mom, your breastfeeding is all about how it affects HER....but you are patient. I could not live that close to my mom, nor could i let her watch my child of us would not make, probably her, because I don't take her nonsense very well. Wishing you the peace and patience it takes with such difficult relationships.

cindyhoo2 said...

I am so sorry that the visit was stressful. I have the same issues with my mom. She does and says things that make me wince.... yet I love her and feel guilty about all my cringing. No easy answers really.

but I will say that you are smart to plan ahead to spend time with hubs, you and the little man (I just feel it). It is only fair that you get to fully enjoy being a mom. Grandmothers participate only within boundaries... now practice saying "no" and the trick will be to do it without guilt. Speaking of winning the lottery.

Serendipity said...

your mum sounds a lot like my nan, she's 65 totally negative, forgetful, has no interest in anything that isn't her interest, is totally agressive in the way she talks and the woman drives me to frustration... but I love her and feel so mean for thinking the way I do.

my hubby won't let my nan look after our baby because of the way she acts with my niece & nephew - she refuses to take direction, takes great delight in doing what you tell her you do not want done and is basically from another era (doesn't hold the kids hands in shopping centres or walking down the street and sees nothing wrong with it!).

Make it clear from the start if you are not wanting her to be your primary caregiver and try get her involved in volunteering - my nan is a world better since she started volunteering for the make a wish foundation (although now I wish she wouldn't go on and on about all the sick kids she meets!).

tireegal68 said...

Dear BWUB,
Your other gentle readers have said it very well. I am so sorry that you are having to deal with this. Setting boundaries is so hard, even if you have had practice. Not sure if you have been able to set boundaries with her before - sounds like you are the only sibling that is willing to be in her life so you already win the prize for being kind and forgiving! - but practise practise. I am not betting on a complete transformation when she sees your cute and adorable baby. She may become more focused on something positive for a change ( i.e. your little guy / gal. But if you can transform your way of thinking and doing things - not out of guilt, but out of mother bear protectiveness and knowing what is right for your baby - you could get through this.
I agree with the idea of limiting her to being a part time baby sitter, for all the reasons above.
So sorry that many of us have to carry this burden.

Anonymous said...

I'm just catching up on all your posts and I had to comment about your mum. The way you said that when she leaves you feel a mixture of guilt & relief is exactly how I feel about my mother. I love her and get agrivated by her in the same breath and then once she's gone I have an overwhelming sense of guilt that I shouldn't feel that way about my own mother. But in reality nothing is simple and our mothers are people too so they have just as much a part to play in making sure life and relationships go on happily and healthily. I guess what I'm trying to say is don't beat yourself up about it, it sounds like you are being as sensitive as you possibly can and you have good reasons to feel the way you do.