Controlling parents… I’m 40!

My parents only see the negative me and it’s ruining my relationships with everyone else.

It won’t be easy, says our elder. But you can — and must — break free.

Dear EWC

I am 40 years old, and I live across the street from my parents. I am married with an 11-year-old son. My parents are very involved with him because they babysit while I work. My mother is very critical. She is critical of how I dress, how I do everything, and how I raise my son. I understand that she has him part of the time, but I think he respects her more than he does me. I have a temper. I do not get along well with my parents. They try to control how I vote. It is very complicated. I have very low self-esteem as a result. I do not see the point in cleaning my house or doing anything because my parents do not see anything positive that I do they only see the negative. I don’t have good relationships anymore with anyone because of this.

Roxie replies

Most of us find the process of separating from our parents to be complicated, and it can often take a very long time. There are definitely certain parents who make it harder.
The more that you can get your parents’ “voices” out of your head, the happier you will be. Try to run your life by referring to your own tastes, not theirs. If you can accomplish this, you may find that your temper calms down a bit.

I realize that what I am saying is not easy. It would help if you were not dependent on them for childcare. My guess is that you need for their help makes them feel more entitled to express their opinions. Is it possible for you to move farther away from them? Given your son’s age, could you put him in an after school program that would reduce the amount of time that they babysit? In just a few years he will be old enough not to require supervision after school.

Even if you need to keep your parents in their current babysitting role, and if moving is not an option, can you reduce the amount of time that you spend interacting with them? Sometimes our parents are able to control us because we let them. Tell them (calmly, if possible, and not during or just after a fight) that you want to take a break for a little while. Discontinue those activities that give them the opportunity to express their opinions. Don’t invite them into your home where they can pass judgment on your housekeeping abilities, don’t talk on the phone with them, don’t join them for dinner. And, when you are in the privacy of the ballot box, vote the way you want.
I realize that this sounds harsh, but I think that the amount of stress and unhappiness that you are experiencing justifies it. If other members of your family criticize you for this, explain that it is just a temporary situation while you sort out your feelings. Of course, you will be available if there is an emergency.
Your letter doesn’t describe your husband’s role in your family dynamic. Could he “run interference” for you, so that necessary interactions with your parents are channeled through him? Maybe it is a lot to ask of him, but I’m sure that he will be happier when your mood improves.

Finally, you need to take some responsibility for the things in your life. Our parents have a tremendous influence on us, but they are not the whole story. Try to work on repairing your relationships with other people. Having a satisfying life of your own will make it that much easier to say goodbye to old habits with your parents.
I don’t know if you have ever considered counseling or therapy, but even a few visits can be very useful in dealing with tough situations.

I hope this is helpful. You have a big task ahead of you, but, if you try hard, you can make it happen.

Letter #: 437891
Category: Family

One Comment

  1. “Harsh?” Hey Buddy, you’re such a softie you might as well be a fabric softener sheet.

    Individuating/Separating from our parents is the task of Adolescence and Early Adulthood. Since you’re a bit late for that train which is not at all surprising considering you make the CHOICE to keep getting hit by one on a daily basis, here’s some news you can use:
    -You state your self confidence and self competence has been severely stomped: Shocker! I bet the same person who told you you have a “temper” is the same jackass who is highly vested in ensuring you never gain any.
    -There is no such thing as “free.” Period. Fully Stop. The same woman who raised you to be a hot mess now has daily access to YOUR CHILD. That reality should scare the crap out of you and ENSURE you take steps to do something that was never done for you growing up and to the ripe old age of 40: PROTECT YOUR CHILD. NOTE: WILD ANIMALS MEET THIS PARENTING BAR. The finest Legacy we leave our children is a complete repudiation of our own history of abuse (oh yes she *is* an abuser) not simply in words but more importantly by BEHAVIOR. Where’s your infamous “temper” when ya really NEED IT because nothing else seems to particularly motivate you at the moment 😉
    -You don’t “need” their help: You are CHOOSING to use their help. Own your choices and investigate your options and follow through if you’re really vested in Adulting. Please note rarely is the “Right Thing” the “Easy Thing.” This is not one of those rare times.
    -Be advised you’ve already done a fine job of setting yourself up for a Grandparents Rights Case. Please stop adding more footnotes-starting NOW.
    -You do not need anyone including your spouse to front for you. There’s no acceptable reason to throw him in front of the train you insist on standing in front of in the name of Marital Harmony or some such idiocy. This is YOUR responsibility: He deals with his bunch of crazies, you deal with your’s. Besides, any partner would resent being tied to the choo choo tracks just because you want some company.
    -Stop with the “Timid Widdle Forest Creature” Presentation. Hello, you’re an Adult. A “Groan Up.” You can eat ice cream for breakfast and pizza whenever. Your infamous “temper” is in complete opposition to your attempt to persuade me of your presentation. So which is it? Are you Timid or seeking an easier way? (See above.) Uh Huh, I thought so.
    -Move. That’s right: Ya put the house on the market, go get the boxes and start packing. The train tracks aren’t going to be rerouted for your convenience so you better be.
    -Therapy. ALLLL THE THERAPY. Start auditioning a few. You don’t want the one with the salubrious hand pats but the one with the professional ass kicks.

    I expect by now you’ve been struck with a near terminal case of The Vapors™️. You’ll survive. Someone needs to get your attention so hi there, my name is Tundra Woman who was Lady Grantham 40 years before she was a tingle in some writer’s imagination never mind the writer’s parent’s imagination. Or where ever.

    If you want to bewail your fate, coming to an advice place named for people like me who reside in the Antiquities Section of Old Farts isn’t a good choice. But then again, making good adult choices doesn’t seem to be your forte.
    That absotively needs to change NOW.

    And I’m here to tell you that since no one else has stepped up. And further, YOU CAN DO THIS.

    Good luck, get going and FFS, remember: Pizza! Ice Cream! SEX-Without mommy dearest sitting on the the bed like the voyeur she is telling you how bad you are at that too. I assume you have the basics down as somehow you managed to reproduce and to my knowledge asexual reproduction is not how humans produce more humans.

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