Feeling Blamed and Constantly Criticised

by Kate

I am 43 years old, so not quite a boomer. But my Mum is old enough to be my grandmother, so I relate to many of the stories on here, and am experiencing intense frustration, guilt and increasing feelings of worthlessness. These are affecting my marriage.


My mother and I have always had an ambivalent relationship - we love each other very much, but have always had conflict. Basically the dynamic is that I have always felt constantly criticized by her, and this seems to be increasing. I am her only daughter and the youngest child of 3.

My husband and I relocated to the semi-regional area where my mother lives, about 2 years ago. We did this because I was working full time in a city and spending most weekends traveling to try and help Mum a bit, and was taking time off work quite a bit when her health issues started increasing., and basically exhausted.

I was lucky to get a 4 day per week job here, which is full on and way more hours than 4 days per week. (ironically managing supports for people with disabilities).

I am the main breadwinner as my husband was retrenched about a year ago. We live about a 10 minute walk away from her house. Mum is 86 now and quite frail, with numerous health issues. I admire her fighting spirit as she is determined to stay in her own home.

We are not full time carers by any means, but it was clear she needed more help and when the opportunity came to relocate we thought it was a good idea.

We check on Mum daily, and have her over for a meal a couple of times a week, drive her to doctors appointments, and do odd jobs around the house like lawn mowing and basic repairs. She also has home care come for 2 hours 2 times a week. They take her shopping and do some housework.

My brothers never see Mum - she relocated here about 20 years ago and really did not visit them much when she was more able, and particularly my oldest brother has a fairly similar relationship to that of Mum and me.

Mum is also someone who on one hand is a lovely woman, and on the other is a very critical person. She criticizes constantly (and this is something she has done our entire lives). The criticism is about everything - little things even - "I don't like your shoes", "you need to lose weight", "how does your husband put up with you", "you just work with disabled people, you could have done so much more", "you are horrible", " you wasted all your talent", "I don't like that painting you made" etc....

A number of years ago, she came to stay with me for a week. I went to work one day and she had re-arranged my furniture, because "I had no eye for how a house should look". Our relationship has always been like this - her trying to "fix me" and me reacting to it.

It may sound petty, but when every choice you make, or gift you give, or idea you have, or just about every expression of yourself is criticized, it gets very wearing. If I, or in the past, my brothers reacted in any way, we have always been told we are "too sensitive" and "need help".

So now, Mum is 86, physically frail and in pain, and it feels like I am being blamed for just about everything. My brothers really want very little to do with her (the last time they saw her was at my wedding 2 years ago), and I am held responsible for this.

Her younger sister (who we pick up from the city where she lives, about 2 hours away) when she comes to visit gets very stressed and yesterday over dinner told me I should be getting my brothers together to help Mum clean up her house.

I responded that I am not responsible for their behaviour and that they want nothing to do with the whole situation, I was then told it was my fault because I am not a good sister. (Flashback to being with Mum in hospital 3 years ago when she had heart block, and being there every day, and brother who lived nearby not visiting and refusing my request to drive her home, as I did not drive at the time).

They do not want to be part of the whole thing.

Then Auntie says she does not understand why we have not cleaned out Mums house and what good are we being up here.

Mum is a hoarder with a whole self contained floor of "stuff", which she does not want anyone to touch, unless she sits in a chair and has a long discussion about every object. She then tries to give me or my husband items we do not want and then gets hurt if we do not want them.

The mess is overwhelming - to her and to everyone who is allowed to see it - only her sister and me and husband. It is hard to explain - I have cleaned Mum's bedroom and junk rooms countless times over the years only to go back a week later and she has chucked any "mess" in there again.

We have said on numerous occasions that we are happy to order a skip and spend a weekend to throw stuff out. But Mum has an idea she wants to go through everything. This is probably selfish but I do not have a month to be there every day and go through every box, bag and junk item packed to the roof in 4 rooms.

I do feel constant guilt that I never do enough, yet also feel pretty traumatized by living in the dynamic day in and day out.

About 15 years ago I sought counseling to work through the guilt, resentment and anger I felt in the relationship with Mum - it is the only relationship in my life where I feel such pain, futility, anger and frustration. My uncles wives do check in on me - and tell me to priortitise my husband.

One of them asked us if it was Mum's idea if we were here. I was able to say "no, it was ours".

My husband does not understand how the relationship between Mum and me is the way it is. He sees it, and does his best to help, but finds it heartbreaking and he should not have to experience it.

He tries to support me the best he can through it, and is lovely to Mum - she adores him (and often undermines me with him too - telling him she does not know how he puts up with me).

Relationships in other parts of my life are pretty good. I am lucky to have some good long term friends, new friends in our new town, and get on well with colleagues in a fairly pressured human services environment.

In some ways this is family systems stuff - my Nana was the matriarch and controlled much of the family - Mums younger sister cared for her for over 20 years - Nana's sons moved away and had little to do with her. There was a lot of criticism and manipulation in these relationships too.

Many years ago a therapist told me to consider walking away from the relationship. I was working through some major depression. But she is my Mum. And may not be here for long.

I get so sad about it and yet am so enmeshed. I worry about the impact on my relationship with my beautiful husband and have nowhere to go with this whole thing.

Thanks for the opportunity to vent!

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Twins?
by: Anonymous

OMG, your mother and mine sound like they are twins on personality. We uprooted our family to move 3 hours away to my Moms town because she can not live alone any more (elderly, widowed, serious health issues),..she has refused to let us move her to OUR town.

This move was my husband's idea, because he adores my Mom, and she gets along great with him. I am the target of my Mom's anger and frustration. I am the caregiver. 24/7.

She's always been critical/judgmental of me, and it's worse now that she has health trouble and is frustrated at losing some of her independence. If it weren't for my sweet husband and the power of prayer, I'd be in a lunatic farm.

I will make sure when I get old 1) I will never demand our son uproot his family to care for me and 2) I will be appreciative of anyone who helps me, AND I will willingly move to an assisted living facility instead of making demands on our son or his family.

I love my Mom, but her anger/lashing out at me is driving me up a wall. We are in the middle of this major move (for HER), and all I get from being a caregiver is criticized and screamed at.

Mom's physical health is not good, but her MIND is fine (no dementia). She's just a nasty person to me, and now that I'm caregiving it's a constant thing.

She's capable of being a decent person, and always (and has always been) very sweet to my husband, our young son, and to her friends.

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sympathize with you
by: Anonymous

Gosh, you are a better person than I am. I am 44 but my mom is 64 but very draining on me. Please take care of yourself! You are not going to change your mom, but she is changing you! It all comes down to choices and dealing with the consequences.

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To "Feeling Blamed"
by: Anonymous

I understand every feeling you expressed and, if nothing else, want you to know you are not alone.

There are many of us doing the same thing, but I could relate to your comments more than most because as much as I love my mother and vice versa, she is like your mother - very judgmental, critical, domineering. When a person has grown up with a parent like that it wounds us forever.

I'm now 66 years old, been thru therapy in the past and know all about finding my internal "balance", but counseling can't always erase the injuries of a parent and, at some point, we have to walk away from them altogether or find a way to cope with their irritating traits - not a simple task!

I have to work on it constantly, but I have learned to keep telling myself that I'm not the little kid any more who my mother could dominate. Not every thing she tried to teach me about my behavior or appearance or choices was good.

Here's the secret though ... if you can find a place in your mind where you no longer feel like the little kid who is supposed to do, say or act how your mother thinks you should, then it takes a big load off. Its the same as giving yourself permission to be who and what you want to be!

The trick is learning to remind yourself over and over that YOU are an adult now; nobody else can push you around. Think of it like this - if a stranger says something mean or rude to you, you don't usually personalize it or take it to heart. Instead, you discount their power and move on.

THAT is how I've learned to deal with my mother and it boils down to the fact that its not HER that has to change - because she never will - but it is, instead, my responses to her that makes the difference.

Once you learn to do this, it becomes easier to walk away and wash your hands of everything - at least temporarily. Putting YOUR priorities first is not a sign of disrespect for your mother; it's a sign of being self-respected.

Your feelings count! So do your husband's feelings and needs and the two of you deserve to enjoy a fulfilling and loving relationship of your own.

Put yourself FIRST and stop allowing your mother's negative traits to have power over you.

Best of luck!

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