Q I am 34, a female adult child of an alcoholic father. He passed away when I was 12. I have three older brothers and an older sister. All four siblings still live at home with my mother, a classic martyr.
I moved out at 18. During the six months it took to save money to move out, my mother would guilt-trip me or verbally abuse me into staying home. These tactics worked on my older siblings, and my older brother is being groomed to continue the dysfunction after my mother passes on.
Once on my own, I worked on myself and emerged as a moderately lucid person. I deal with my family on the usual holidays and birthdays, out of duty. I wrestle with doing the right thing. My mother and I were never close, and I do not expect or want a close relationship with someone who has been so selfish and controlling.
I cannot have meaningful conversations with my siblings because it is like they are in a time warp, and I am the only one who is growing and changing. We have the same guarded surface conversations year after year.
My husband and I recently purchased a home and are planning on having children. We have already talked about how much interaction we will allow our kids to have with my family—which will not be much.
When I told my mother we were buying a house, she asked how many bedrooms. I replied, then out of the blue she said she did not want to go into a home when she gets older. I knew immediately what she was implying.
But being a people-pleasing child of an alcoholic, I did not immediately respond. I changed the subject. In another conversation, she went on and on about how bad nursing homes are. This time I was more prepared. I said not all homes are bad, and if you check on your family member regularly, it should be okay.
She again said she did not want to be put in a nursing home. I finally said she was not going to stay with me. My husband and I both work, and we will be having children. Then she said she could watch the children.
Nothing in my dealings with my mother implies a closeness that would make her think this would happen. We never got on. We do not hug. We do not say “I love you.” I spend maybe 10 days a year with this person.
She has handicapped my older siblings who have no friends and never formed romantic relationships. This person thinks she is going to live with me, and I am livid.
Since the time I said she will not be staying with me, she continues to say she does not want to go to a home. I thought, since I have been separated from the family unit for so long, the codependency and guilt would go away. It has not.
I need someone else’s insight to give me back my peace of mind. Short of outright saying, “We are not close, I will never live in the same house with you again, and my children will have limited contact with you and my siblings,” what does one say?
A Tinsley, you can’t let a door-to-door salesman talk on and on. If he’s selling something you don’t want, you close the door.
You are looking for a champion to tell you what is blatantly obvious. But because of the way you were raised, you still struggle to claim your right to independence.
Visiting your mother allows her to deceive herself into believing she was a good mother. But she made your siblings perennial children, and that is why they are not able to care for her now. You broke free of her orbit once before. Now she wants to use that success against you.
Mars is a tough environment to live in. There’s no air and the radiation levels are high.
If you live there, you must create a self-sufficient environment, like a bubble or a geodesic dome, in order to survive. In effect, that’s what you did. You created a space where you, your husband, and family could thrive. Now she wants to suck all the oxygen out of your bubble.
It’s time to sever ties with the mother ship.
She wants to wheedle her way into the lifeboat you made for yourself. Enlist your husband’s aid to protect your family from the damaging radiation this woman will expose you to.
It is impossible to live on the red planet without a protective dome. It is equally impossible for you to live on this planet without protection from her.
Wayne & Tamara
Invade – to enter as if to take possession, to intrude upon.