Baewatch: “My Mother Is Overly Dependent On Me And It Makes Me Feel Trapped. What Do I Do?”
As much as people talk about how hard it is to be a parent, no one really knows or discusses how difficult it is to be an adult child with an ageing parent. I feel like the more your parents age, the more childlike they become. And in the Indian culture which is super family-oriented, the parent 100% becomes the children’s responsibility. Now while I do agree that caring for your ageing parents is what one should do, I will also admit that sometimes the responsibility is too much to handle and can get exhausting and overwhelming for the children to handle. Especially if it is a mother whose entire life has always revolved around her children.
So when this young woman wrote to us about a similar situation she is facing with her mother, Team Hauterrfly wanted to help.
I share a pretty good relationship with my mother. She is open-minded compared to most Indian parents and hence it is easier for me to interact with her. I feel blessed to have a mother like her but amid the Covid-19 lockdown both of my maternal grandparents’ passed away and ever since then things have changed. She has been through a lot and I have done my best to shoulder her responsibilities and be there for her in any and every way possible. However, it has been a year since my grandparents’ demise and she still continues to be overly dependent on me. She demands my attention to an extent that it interferes with my work and personal life. I personally believe that being a homemaker all her life, she is unable to find things to keep her busy anymore and losing her parents has taken a toll on her mental health. I think she may need professional help but I don’t know how to talk to her about this without offending her. And as much guilty and selfish admitting this makes me feel: I feel suffocated and trapped. Am I a bad daughter for wanting some space from her? What can I be doing differently? How can I make her understand that she needs to be more independent and that I need some space? What do I do?
Here is the advice that we had for this woman
don’t let this take over your life
Janvi Manchanda, Senior Features Writer: I believe that grief can cause immense pain and losing one’s parents cannot be easy. Even if she is not mentally ill, there is nothing wrong with seeing a mental health expert to help her navigate through this loss. I think you’re so worried about her being fragile that you have stopped addressing real problems which, IMHO, is another problem in itself. TBH, I think you should begin by having an honest and upfront conversation with your mother (since you said that she’s understanding and open-minded) and if that doesn’t work involves your dad or maybe some other adult from the family. Having said that, I do not think that you’re wrong in wanting your own space. You have done your bit as a daughter and I believe you will continue doing so but don’t let this take over your life. So, feel free to let her know when you want a break from her and some space to live your life. And if it falls on deaf ears, be rebellious! It’s not the best way to go but at some point, we all need to do things for ourselves.
ask her what kind of support she expects from you
Kinjal Panchal, Writer: What I would suggest in this situation is that you have an open conversation with your mother. Ask her how is she dealing with the loss of both her parents. If at all there is anything you can do to help her. I think it would also help if you ask her what kind of support she expects from you to help her overcome the pain and grief. I also think that maybe a change in environment might help. Over the weekend, you could ask her friends to come over and spend time with her. Or maybe you could take her out. And it would be a good idea to ask her to consult a therapist as well.
motivate her to try new things
Preeti Singh, Writer: When I can’t help my parents, I also feel like a bad daughter who is ungrateful but it is what it is and we cannot do anything about it. And I completely understand why is she struggling to move on from the death of her parents and I think your presence gives her solace and that’s why she wants you by her side all the time. You can talk to your father about this and maybe you both can convince her to visit a therapist. You can also motivate her to try new things like joining a Zumba class or yoga class that will help her to maintain her health and she will also meet new people.
push her to rely on herself more than on you
Priyadarshini Malavia, Writer: Being an only daughter, I have found myself in this situation several times. I feel like since losing her parents, your mom simply feels lonely. I understand that it is difficult for you to be there for all her needs but I think just letting her know that you are there for her will make her feel better. Also, try talking to her about the concepts of mental health and therapy so that she can have an open mind about them. Furthermore, just try your best to be patient with her and gently push her to do stuff by herself and push her to rely on herself more than on you or anyone for that matter. At the end of the day, it is never wrong to be self-sufficient, is it?
Also Read: Baewatch: “My MIL Won’t Let Me Do A Maternity Photoshoot Because ‘Nazar Lag Jayegi’. What Do I Do?”
Just be kind with your words
Eshika Joshi, Intern: Firstly you can never be a bad daughter. Wanting space is okay as long as you are communicating it properly rather than an angry outburst. I believe my mom depends too much on my sister and me. She knows we are the only two pillars in her life since neither of us shares a very good relationship with the other family members. When a parent dies I think acceptance is the first step to grieving and moving on. No doubt, it is a very difficult choice for one to make. Sitting down with her and letting her open up with you once and for all is something you can start with to see which stage she is at. Has she accepted the fact that her parents, the two people who loved her immensely, who always had her back and who walked her through this journey of life are no more? or is she regretting being a ‘bad daughter’ for not being able to be there for them at times? Be the person who can listen, lend a listening ear because sometimes it feels lighter when someone just listens and lets you decide, introspect and understand by yourself how you can move on. I’m not asking you to be her therapist but let her know that you understand that she is having a tough time but you too can not always be around. Tell her to focus on herself and explore herself mentally, emotionally and physically. Just be kind with your words.
Baewatch is Hauterrfly’s weekly service to women everywhere. We are giving no-holds-barred, funny, interesting answers to your relationship problems. We’re not experts so you may end up married or broken up. It could go either way. *shrugs*