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14 October 2021

Dear Fiona: My mother is constantly at our house – and it’s making things very unpleasant

14 October 2021

The problem…

“My mother moved to live nearby when my stepfather died. I thought this would make things easier for us all – we could keep an eye on her, and she could visit occasionally for a meal and see the grandchildren. Instead, she has virtually moved in.

“She turns up quite early in the morning and then stays all day until my husband gets home from work. I’m trying to work from home but it’s sometimes impossible to get anything done – she just doesn’t seem to recognise I have a job to do. Sometimes she’ll leave when he gets in, but at other times, she expects to stay for dinner too.

“If she were unobtrusive, this wouldn’t be too bad – but she’s often critical, morose, and sometimes downright rude about me and my family. I’m an only child so haven’t got the cushion of a brother or sister to step in occasionally. She never stops moaning about how lonely she is, so even though it was expensive, we took her away on two holidays with us – one last year and one a couple of weeks ago. She was so disruptive that hardly a day went by without an argument.

“The kids are fed up with her and when they get in from school, they fly straight up to their rooms to avoid seeing her. Since we got back from our holiday, I’ve tried to be out every day to avoid her, but I just end up feeling guilty. If only she could be more pleasant to have around!”

Fiona says…

“I suspect your mother is still mourning the loss of your stepfather – she’s miserable, probably missing him, and could very well need some kind of bereavement counselling. I’d suggest you contact Cruse Bereavement Care (cruse.org.uk) and discuss things with them.Grief can be overwhelming and can definitely change someone’s behaviour – anger, for example, can be one of the stages people go through, which could be where she is now.

“What started out as an idea to make all your lives easier has become a nightmare for you – and probably for her too. By moving away from her old home, she has lost her support network – presumably she had friends and various kinds of involvements where she used to live?

“She’s moved to be near you and, in time – if she becomes more infirm and needs help – you’ll probably be grateful for this. Now though, she needs to rebuild her network, find new friends, and stop relying on you. She can’t continue behaving like this and I think that perhaps the time has come to point out that her behaviour is unacceptable.

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“Rather than look at everything you have difficulty with, I suggest you start with one thing at a time. The rudeness will probably be the clearest thing to tackle, so the next time she speaks out of turn, tell her you think she is being rude and that you are not prepared to listen. If she continues, I suggest you adopt the practice of walking out of the room whenever she starts. Hopefully she will eventually get the message and adjust her behaviour accordingly.

“You could also encourage her to make local friends of her own age, and at the same time discourage her from dropping in whenever she feels like it. Think about what she used to do – what she used to be involved with and see if there isn’t a version of something similar closer to you. If there isn’t, encourage her to try something new.

“You don’t indicate how old she is, but could she consider taking on a job of some kind? This could either be paid or voluntary – it just needs her commitment and to get her out of her house (and yours). I’d also investigate what clubs and societies there are around you that she might find interesting. It might take a bit of time and effort on your part now, but hopefully she will turn a corner, find a life of her own and become less morose, critical and rude.”

If you have a problem you need help with, email Fiona by writing to [email protected] for advice. All letters are treated in complete confidence and, to protect this privacy, Fiona is unable to pass on your messages to other readers. Fiona regrets that she cannot enter into personal correspondence.

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