Reading: When A Good Daughter Hates Caring for Her Aging Mother

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When A Good Daughter Hates Caring for Her Aging Mother

She thought she hated being run around by a demanding mother. Then she discovered what she really hated

By Anonymous

“My first resolution for 2019 is to stop complaining so much about my fucking mother,” I said to my significant other on New Year’s Day this year.   

She’s 92, and bravely facing her twilight, a widow just doing her best to get by in the familiar comfort of her home of 40 years. From my point of view, she’s self-absorbed and inexcusably dependent; has been her whole life.

I’m obviously a hideous person. Who could say such things about her own mother?

It’s just that she gets me so angry.

I’m not talking garden-variety annoyance, though I experience that, too. I’m talking bomb cyclone. This dramatic meteorological phrase perfectly characterizes my category-five internal weather at times. When it blows over, I feel enormous shame about my anger. The kind of shame that wakes me at three in the morning to beat me up. To echo Nora Ephron, I feel so bad about my feelings!

I was at the grocery store the other day in line behind two lovely teenage boys. “They were so polite and nice,” the cashier said to me. I complimented her on how nice she sounded with them and she replied, “I like young people. I used to do elder-care, but I came to hate it because old people complain too much. Especially aged baby-boomers who feel entitled. It wore me down.”

I wanted to kiss her for her honesty.

Here’s my  list of what I call  the Four Stages of Hating Caring for an Aging Parent:

1. Annoyance. Mom “forgets” to bring her wallet to restaurants, so I’m obliged to pay. Mom “forgets” her cane when I take her out in the world (she doesn’t want people to think she’s old, she once confessed) so she makes like an albatross on my elbow. Also, she eats only the gooey inside of a wedge of Camembert and leaves the rind for others.

2. Frustration. I recently went to some effort at her request to find her a new orthopedist because she disliked how her original one rushed through appointments. But then she decided it wasn’t her shoulder that hurt, it was her groin. “Okay, Mom, we’ll look into it,” I said and I cancelled the doctor I’d just found.

3. Resentment. Caused by #1 and #2 above. My mother didn’t work for a living and so has always prioritized spontaneity. To survive juggling a staff-job for 30 years while parenting three children as a single mother — I had to kiss spontaneity goodbye in favor of planning, organizing, scheduling. She doesn’t get this, and blithely calls at the last minute for help getting to long-standing appointments.

4. Anger. An ugly sludge builds in me during my days when I have to give half my work day over to caregiving. While I love my mother, there are times when I have to face the grim fact that I don’t enjoy her company. Rather than have a real conversation in which being honest would involve disagreeing with her, I go into my fake, submissive, yes-woman persona to get through these visits.

Mom lived alone self-sufficiently until recent years, when things around the house — like stairs — started to get dangerous. The turning point for me, however, came after a couple of shrill calls about the smoke alarms just as I was sitting down to dinner in my home 40 minutes away.

“Mom, stop yelling,” I’d say. “At least it’s not you burned to a crisp!”

We children decided it was time for scheduled caregivers. Even she agrees that more “company” will be good. “But not live-ins.”

The agencies cost too much so we’re using word-of-mouth to hire part-time helpers. But it’s like herding cats to get them to show up on time. Inevitably, there are last-minute cancellations. And then come the hysterical emails from Mom with the subject line: Damn! Damn! Damn!

I’m pressing the point that it’d be better to institute a more organized, full time caregiver set-up. Alas, Mom has shot down all the candidates we’ve come up with like so many ducks at a carnival shooting gallery. “Too mousy.” “Too gossipy; I don’t want my business spread all over town.” I think the veto-power helps her to feel in-control and alive.

Then, Mom says, “I don’t want to be a burden to any of you.” Translation: I wish one of you would come live with me.

I’ve grown weary of the constant complaining and the expectation that my siblings and I will step in to solve every problem. (Not all ninety-somethings are this dependent, I recently learned. My best friend has a mother nearly the same age who is way more independent and competent; she just sold her house, packed up and moved into the city from the burbs without a peep to her children.)

My mother is, fortunately for you, not your mother. Surely I’ll be infuriating my children in my unique ways a few short decades from now (if I’m lucky). But what is shared among many of us adult children seems to be a distaste for this task. I thought I was prepared for this stage, but it has blindsided me.

I’ve learned I’m not alone in my reactions.

I asked myself why this mother-care is so disturbing and came up with a couple of reasons. One: it just feels crummy to see myself begrudging, withholding, patronizing, spiteful. That’s not me.

Two: isn’t it a violation of the natural order to be parenting the parent as he or she becomes the toddler, especially at a time in our lives when we’ve just finished raising our actual toddlers into adolescence or twentysomething-hood? Why, just when we get to reclaim a life for ourselves — are we dragged right back into servitude? And who wants to see their parent’s naked, wrinkly old whatevers when the hospital gown falls away?

For help with this monstrous swamp of emotions, I turned to Dr. Gretchen Kubacky, a Los Angeles psychologist and Certified Bereavement Facilitator.  I asked her 1) what are the origins of such unwieldy feelings and 2) WTF can I — or someone in my same predicament — do to get back to some semblance of yogic balance?

Dr. Kubacky refers to herself on her website as Dr. Gretchen, so I’ll call her that. She says the various feelings we adult-children experience may be connected to the natural order being upended, “but really, it’s just a hope that we won’t all need care like this in the end. Fear of loss, or anticipatory grief, can produce intense feelings of grief, sadness, and longing or yearning — for what will be missed, for things to be the way they were.”

But what triggers that extra dollop of negative feeling?

“I think the rage about the helplessness or incompetence ties into frustration and fear about one’s own decline or demise. It’s right in your face, this person who probably looks something like you, decaying, and that’s scary. Also, depending upon the person’s diagnosis (for example, some dementias), they may be undergoing a significant personality transformation or loss of memory that is also scary, confusing, and fear-inducing. We expect children to be ‘incompetent,’ but we don’t expect that of adults.”

When I rant a bit about my mother’s assumption that her children will jump through hoops to help her stay at home despite the time-suck her insistence on jerry-rigging imposes, Dr. Gretchen answers mildly, “And don’t you get that, viscerally? The idea of being institutionalized with a bunch of mind-numbingly dull attendants probably sounds like the worst imaginable fate to your mother, who has been independent for so long.” Point taken. “But at the same time, you’re right, it’s incredibly selfish to demand in-home care forever — unless she can afford to hire the best, 24/7.”

I share with her this platitude that seems to rise above the din of unsolicited advice from friends: “You’re lucky that your mother is still above ground to complain about.” I’ve tried to let that inspire me, with only minor success. Dr. Gretchen rejects attitude-adjustment.

“You are not required to be grateful, and you are not a bad person if you’re not only not grateful, but also a little angry, bitter, and resentful. Sometimes there is great beauty in caregiving, but it’s hard to focus on that when you’re overwhelmed with duties.”

Or in my case, overwhelmed with anger.

“Anger is often the cover emotion for sadness,” she says.

Oh, did I leave out sadness? I guess I did. Add that to the list. “And, there’s a great deal to be angry about in a caregiving position. You miss out on fun or interesting or important things to do menial work, have repetitive conversations, deal with supervising people, anticipate needs that the patient can’t articulate, share (or not share) the burden with siblings or other family members. Old family dynamics flare up during a caregiving period, which can go on for years.”

Dr. Gretchen distinguishes between the current back-burnering of our own priorities and needs, and past back-burnering: “We have a saying, ‘If it’s hysterical, it’s historical.’ In other words, when you’re having a strong visceral emotional response to something, it’s probably not just about what’s happening in the moment. It probably has its roots in old family dynamics.”

Bingo, that’s me. (And I thought this interview with Dr. Gretchen was going to help you.)

Now I know where my missing compassion has been all this time: buried deep beneath unfinished business. Being raised by a self-absorbed mother takes its toll. Mine taught me not to speak up about my needs or insist upon my wants. She told me that was selfish, and I learned I was a selfish, bad girl. I’ve been mindful of that for years, but only now — when the tables have turned and I’m begrudging my mother her needs because she didn’t let me have mine — do I really see that the anger I’ve carried with me through the decades isn’t helpful.

Dr. Gretchen brings it back to sadness: “Maybe you have always been longing to be cared for fully by her, and now that she is on the tail-end of life, it is inescapably clear that she will never care for you the way you wanted her to.” 

Does that mean that to properly grieve childhood hurts, you have to let the anger ferment into sadness? 

“No,” replies Dr. Gretchen, “I say have the sadness AND the anger. Grief is non-linear. That old Elisabeth Kubler-Ross thing (denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance) sounds all neat and tidy and linear, and it’s just not. You can have all of the emotions, only one or two, skip through a couple, find one arising in five years, and so on. Don’t manage your emotions; let them come to the surface, air them out, and release or integrate them as needed. Repeat until you feel better.”

Interesting.

I do occasionally find it rewarding when I inadvertently make my mother happy by offering her an extra hug at the door, inputting contacts into the speed dial area of her phone so she thinks I’m a genius, telling her her hair looks beautiful, or showing up unexpectedly with dinner on a cold, dark winter night. Then she gives me a bright smile of relief. Maybe instead of thinking “she’ll be dead soon, so be nice now,” I will try pulling the curtain back on my anger to encourage the more delicate, shy feelings to step forward out of my past. If that clears the way for some “great beauty” moments, it’s worth it. I’m betting those will nourish us both.

What’s a grown child to do? Whether you’re experiencing mild annoyance or gigantic resentment, current back-burnering or past sadness in disguise, here are Dr. Gretchen’s steps for moving yourself forward:

Start a conversation in public “No shame in acknowledging the feelings. Like with this article. Also, have individual conversations with people who are in the same position, quite possibly any of your similarly aged friends. You will soon find an abundance of similar feelings.”

Seek out regular support  “Friends first, then therapy, and perhaps some sort of online support group (because when you’re busy caregiving, you don’t have a lot of time to get out to a meeting).”

Set boundaries I’d already set my own Mom boundaries: roughly two half-days a week for FaceTime, and the inevitable emails, phone calls, and administrative work on top of that. (My two siblings handle plenty of other matters.) I’m continually trying to clue in the team of helpers and random friends and neighbors to the fact that I have a day job, because they seem to assume that I can just drop everything. Dr. Gretchen says: “Boundaries are everything. Enlist friends or neighbors to check in on the parent while you’re at work… Sign up for a meal-delivery service for them… And take time out for what feels like self-care for you.”

Meditate  “Self-care isn’t just about the spas-and-bubble baths type of thing that populates the media. Meditate — now! Download the free Insight Timer Meditation app and pick something. Don’t tell me you don’t have time! One of my favorite meditations is less than two minutes long. Have compassion for yourself and the complexity of feelings you have surrounding this person’s process of aging and dying. Deal with your anger; you don’t want to carry that forward with you past your parent’s death if you don’t have to.”

A note about Anonymous: I only have about ten friends, but if one of them saw my name attached to this, and chose to pass it along to Mom, well, I’d be left with nine friends and a needlessly hurt mother. It’s compassion more than shame, I’m fairly certain, that has led me to write anonymously here. While my mother has a remarkable new capacity for openness and honesty as she approaches the edge of the cliff and looks backward to take stock, I see no reason to drag her through the parts of our shared past that would only ignite her sense of failure.

  1. Deborah Burns

    Assignment: Read two books … Motherland by the great Elissa Altman and Saturday’s Child, by … me! Both these stories speak to this theme in different ways and, unexpectedly, seem to be helping readers. All best, Deborah

  2. Christina Reale

    Thank you! So well written and accurate for our generation. Any advice on online groups to join?

  3. Katie

    EVERYTHING in this is me, and the revelation about her mother telling that her needs didn’t count being the basis for her feelings blew my mind- spot on. Wow.

  4. Anon. 2

    Thank you for this! Such a relief when I read again and again that I am not the only “perfect” daughter that has had her cover blown by feelings of anger toward aging mother.

  5. W

    Thank you so much for this essay. I relate so powerfully to the upsurge of blind anger. My mother controlled and manipulated me as a child as if I was clay for her to mould into a device that would make up for her unrealized self. I parented her emotionally from a very early age and had to, later in life, learn – very deliberately – that my existence was not meant to be shaped by the needs of others.

    Now that she is 80 and her husband, my stepfather, has dementia, the old pattern of me being her bottomless emotional and physical resource has returned. I am an only child in my late 50s. I have no children of my own and I live on a very low income. I have no pension coming when I reach retirement age. All of the stress of carrying them as well as the fear that I will not be able to care for myself now and in the future (if my 2005 Toyota breaks down, I can’t afford to fix it, for example), leaves me triggered into searing resentment every time my mother repeats the same story that she told me yesterday and the day before, each time as if I have never heard it, as I am trying to get back to my pay-per-service work.

    Anyway, reading this blog post has helped me feel less guilty about my resentment. I am still trying to figure out some practical strategies to get through this period of my life and still have some health and energy left when it is finally over.

  6. Rosa

    Thank you so much for sharing! I feel exactly the same way (extreme anger, resentment and sadness for the time my 95-year-old and disabled mother steals from me; time I could be spending with my 10-year-old daughter and my husband. My mother live with us so every single day of my life, for the last 2 years and 3 months, start with me taking care of her. I have amazing help (caregivers who have become friends) and lucky to have a full time job who keeps me away from my mother, but having her in my house means I don’t have a place to come and simply relax with my family. I’m so angry and I hate her so much that I don’t even feel guilty about these feelings anymore! I wish I knew how much longer I will have to do this. Knowing for sure when the nightmare will be over would help me go through it. But there’s no way to know. I feel I’m in hell. I feel my free will has been taken away from me. God help me!

  7. m

    So glad I found this article and totally appreciate all the comments. It feels good to know I am not alone. I feel like I raised my mother and I missed out on a “normal” childhood. My mom struggles with a plethora of mental health issues including depression and anxiety and possible bi-polar disorder.
    I literally have PTSD because of her anxiety attacks and her own PTSD. She had horrible nightmares when I was a child and she would wake up screaming, often times she would experience paranoia as well and be convinced someone was in our hour or outside and she would call the police and they would walk through our house at 3 a.m. with flashlights and check all the closets.
    Anyway, she moved in with us 5 years ago and I feel like it was the worse decision of my life and feel trapped. To confusing to try and write about here….but ever since she moved in with me I have slowly felt like I am dying. I allow her to suck the life out of me.

  8. Deborah P Higgins

    God Bless You !!! I’ve spent the last 15 years of my life caring for Senior Citizens and People with Memory Issues and Society doesn’t give a
    DAMN! I’m an Administrator of an Assisted Living Community of 150 People and all day all I hear are complaints! No Complements! Just Fucking Complaints! Food is to Saltly !, Why can’t I have 6 pieces of bacon at breakfast? My Kids are stealing from me! The staff didn’t knock on my door before entering! A caregiver stole my pull up! Why can’t we go to Walmart during the Corona Virus? Why did you sit her with me at my dinner table? Please tell my mother Happy Birthday ! on her 100 Birthday I can’t talk to her I’m busy please tell her I love her! I’m going to call State because you served Peanut butter cookies instead of Oatmeal cookies !!!!

    Please note I have spent my last 15 years helping Senior Citizens, I’m Advocate for them! I go to court for them! I shop for them when their family abandoning them! I spend my own $$$$ Money Clothing them even buying Medication for them! AND MOST IMPORTANT WHEN I FIND OUT THAT they’re ACTIVELY PASSING I SIT IN THEIR ROOM UNTIL THE END COMFORTING! STROKING THEIR HAIR, GIVING THEM APPLE SAUCE!, SINGING TO THEM! MESSAGING THEIR HANDS! AND WHAT TO I GET IN THE END NOTHING!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!NO THANK YOU FOR THE FAMILY ONLY THIS ” HEY CAN WE DUMP MOM’S OR DAD FURNITURE HERE!

  9. Gillian

    Thank you so much, what a perfectly timed find to read. I’m so angry..I’ve opened up and said things but I don’t regret any of it. Now I’m left to pick up the peices and move forward.

  10. Bev

    Thank you so much. My brother just flew back home.
    He gives me a break twice a year. I feel like I have just been plunged back into the abyss. What a relief to know I am not alone. Thank you for some help and direction. Despite the rage I love her dearly. I so don’t want to fail at this. There are times when it seems as if it would be easier to “go”first. This is the first article that addresses the real misery the anger causes everyone involved. If you are a caregiver, that had to stumble through your own childhood/adolescence, while no one could muster any energy or interest, then this is finally, a helpful read. Bless you writer.

  11. Kate

    Very poignant. It hit all the feels. So much internal rage, resentment, and the weight that I will endlessly be trapped in this reality of obligation to support her over my own needs, wants and desires of living my own life.

    • lesley

      That was our point Kate. Everyone is feeling the same thing but everyone is too ashamed to discuss it. Thanks for the comment.

  12. daughter

    I could have written this, minus the help from siblings as my only one lives abroad so conveniently can’t do anything (including being unable to even phone our mother for a chat). I care for my mother 8 hours a day>Every single day. To the detriment of my own teenage daughter. And as my mother gets more dependent, forgetful, negative and demanding, my rage just grows and grows. There is tony bit of consolation to know that I am not alone in dealing with such feelings.

  13. Sadya

    I don’t like my parents but I love them for giving me a stable peaceful home. Too peaceful and too stable, at the cost of ones sanity. They overprotected us and then threw us out into a world so different from what we grew up in, to the point we now can’t function normally. I can’t stand my mom, she has totally negative vibes and is a religious nutcase. My parents raised failures , and I’m one of them. Not looking forward to taking care of them in their now old age.

  14. Fiona

    Omg-Ithought it was just me!! I thought I was an awful person. I don’t like my Mum,she can be very demanding,self centred and cruel . I have three siblings but she lives nearest me and I dread needing to care for her. The others won’t. I constantly feel like a fourteen year old rushing to do her bidding. But I feel so very guilty . I’m 52 and still daren’t tell her I have a tattoo!!

  15. L

    This article expresses so much honesty about the obligation to care for an uncaring parent. It really resonated because that white-hot anger bubbles just beneath the surface every hour of every day.
    I’m an only child caregiver to my single mother. She lives with my family because she never made any financial or long term plan for herself. I moved years earlier across the country so I could become whole and put distance between us. She has no real friends and she doesn’t care to make any. She is passive-aggressive, incredibly tactless and she tried to live her existence through me. I finally had my own family and I had counseling for years to become who I wanted to be. She was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer, almost died several times, only to bounce right back. However, I had to fly home to care for her and leave my family several times because there isn’t anyone else.
    I finally made the single biggest mistake that I regret every day of my life in bringing her to live with us. It is miserable. She is functional enough to retain some independence but she has no friends. She sits all day in her room and complains about literally everything any of us do. She points out everything, every tiny thing that we do wrong and is never, ever wrong. I had to stop having my craft group friends over because she would make fun of them or say horribly offensive things to them. My teenage sons have just ignored her because she isn’t kind to them. My husband doesn’t tolerate any of her bs. And I’m left feeling angry at myself for bringing her here. Angry because she can’t afford her own place. Angry because there isn’t another option. It’s like being backed into a corner.
    To say that I hate your mother or feel resentful and angry usually makes me look heartless and cruel. Her church “friends” call her but they don’t want to spend time with her. But she outlived her prognosis and she continues to get chemo even though eventually she will be out of options. But that day never seems to arrive, even though I selfishly wish for it and then feel horror at my very ugly feelings.
    Whoever this author is, I am grateful for her honest account and I wish I could have a cup of coffee and hear more. Thank you for choosing to post this.

  16. Brenda Snell

    My mom has dementia. I’m exhausted and my brothers (who live in distant cities) don’t get it at all. I am just done. I am so much better at expression, but today, as stated, I am done. I’m just becoming a horrible person and I feel like I don’t care. When the day comes, I don’t even want to deal with the funeral or even go. I just don’t care. Oh, and let’s just heap COVID on top of all this bullshit, shall we? Thank you for this post. It helps me realize that I am not alone. SIGH….

  17. Bbb

    These comments are a lifesaver for me tonight! It’s so refreshing to hear I’m not alone! I go to support groups because my mother has dementia and I sit there as everyone is sad and upset about there parents decline.,as I am saying to myself I wish she didn’t remember me!!!! She had turned into someone I can’t stand. Worse she thinks nothings wrong with her. She’s embarrassing ,rude ,unkept , demanding…it’s awful! I never had any children by choice now I have a 82 year old one. Oh and she lives in a memory care facility which is comforting she can’t burn down her home but has a phone and pushed one bottom to call me with demands…..with therapy I know now alot of my boiling anger comes from the past….she wasn’t a good mother never taking care of my sister or me and now I’m expected or stuck taking care of her! May add because she has outlived her past 5 husbands,! God I feel better bitching!

  18. paul neri

    Anon you’re doing a terrific job (two half days a week!). I don’t think most people realise what’s in store for them. They think that when the kids are off their hands they can enjoy retirement little realising that they could have an elderly parent wanting, if not demanding, to be the centrepiece of their lives. Even if it’s a cherished parent, they can be a huge imposition. We are living too long.

  19. RRussell

    I came across this site after googling “ resenting having to take care of my mean Mother”. I feel like I have had to take care of her my entire life. When I was younger, she was depressed all the time and was so wrapped up in herself, she hardly noticed she had three kids.
    Now that she is 84 and I’m 56, I’m still trying so hard to make her happy. Intellectually, I know I am wasting time, money and energy, but I still find myself trying to cook for her exactly like she thinks I should cook, dropping everything and running to the pharmacy because she MUST have her medication tonight, but the store closes in 15 minutes. I’m never told in advance about a doctor’s appointment so I can make plans to be off work, no one I find who can sit with her or run errands or clean for her is good enough. She always runs them off or refuses to answer the phone or door for them. I know it is just manipulation so that I will be the one who does everything for her because I do everything like she likes it.
    Don’t even get me started on my brother who visits her 3-4 times a year but lives only 20 minutes away and has cut her grass ONE time in the FOUR years she has lived in the house next to me. I have a sister who tries to help but she has enough problems of her own and lives an hour away- but my Mom stays mad at her all the time for some stupid nitpicking reason, which leaves me alone to look after her and run myself in the ground for her. My Mom has has zero friends. No social support. Won’t speak to her other sisters – because of some silly reason or other that happened 20 years ago. Just me. I’m her entire life support and she is perfectly happy with it being that way.
    I made a personal choice to not have children of my own, but here I am with an 84 year old child who insists on telling me what to do! She got mad at me the other day because I suggested she see another doctor because every doctor she sees is “the devil” and hung up on me when I tried to call her to tell her that her groceries would be delivered. (The one thing I stopped doing for her was grocery shopping because I was constantly panicking in the stores if they didn’t have EXACTLY what she wanted me to buy because I knew I would get hell for not buying the right thing- even though I was freaking paying for it!) now I have her groceries delivered but still hear constant complaints about the people who buy and deliver the groceries for her.
    I could go on and on. Really just need to vent. I’m sure tomorrow, I will cook for her and bring her food, take out her garbage, run her errands, etc. and I will just bite my tongue while she complains and gripes about everything in her tiny little sell centered world. And I will figure out how to calm myself down from the anger and anxiety until next time.

    I can’t imagine what it is like to get old and have to depend on other. I’m sure it is very hard, but as God is my witness, I will NOT be a selfish, mean and manipulative old person to those who come around me. Life is too short to bring such misery to others!

    • lesley

      We’re glad this piece hit a nerve. Many women are asked to do this impossible task. Thank you for your comment. And hang in there.

  20. Becky

    I was so glad to find this article! I am at the end of my rope with being the sole caregiver of my 90 year old mother. I have caregiver burnout and compassion fatigue from the overwhelming litany of ailments. Her health has declined over the last 5-6 years and I am it! I live with her, which means there is no relief until I leave for my full time job on the days I work. My saving grace was Monday mornings – until COVID – then my weekends turned into 2 1/2 months. I am so resentful as I can’t go to visit my sons, who both live away. It’s just SO consuming. When I work, I have a lady come in to take care of her, because things are really slipping and she should not be alone. She is so stubborn and continues to do things that her doctor and I advise her not to do. Falls on deaf ears. Just so very emotionally frustrating and draining. So good to hear that my feelings are felt by others who are in the same position. Thank you for letting me vent.

    • lesley

      Becky: you are not alone! Many of us are left to deal with this. You mention Mondays might be free. You might want to check out our free Positive Mornings coaching calls which go on Mondays 9-10 Am EST. Really gets you set for the week and helps you meet a group of intelligent people dealing with similar issues. You can find sign up here: https://www.coveyclub.com/positive-morning-coaching-sessions/

  21. A non in Michigan

    Thanks to all for their stories. Like many here, I hate being around my 82 year old mom. I’m the only surviving offspring. She was an awful mother who was neglectful, emotionally and, at times, physically abusive. She drank too much and slept around too much. Now that she’s old and alone, I am her only interest. Sorry that I can’t be one of those incredible people, who despite their shitty upbringing, are doting, loving children. Just mostly bad memories. I took her out yesterday for a “fun” afternoon and she cried 5 times (lack of money, being lonely, “nothing to do but bug me”, she can’t see my kids who live out of state, 81 & made too many bad choices in life – 3 failed marriages). OMG! Misery. I also feel guilty because I envy my friends and family whose mothers are already dead. F. Really? I’m in my 60s and feel like she could outlive me. F.

  22. Cindy

    Thank you. I was praying as just arrived to be with my mother and have such feelings of hatred. What can I do God – please help. My body is tense and so unhealthy. This article/blog lovingly appeared. what stood out “you are angry because you realize she will never care for you. ” Wow – ahhhhhh this it spot on. I have been pt staying with a negative, ugly hearted, selfishish woman for last month – never has changed. The first day of arrival is always hard – it’s a rough landing. The 2nd day is usually good – playing 32 rounds of dominoes a few times and making dinner. She is so hungry for love. The third day is a mix of good and cannot wait to leave – you made it! If tmrow is not a good day I will put in my resignation and state my boundaries. My brothers can decide whether we try to find another pt caregiver (she has one) – she told one to leave- or put her in a memory care against her desire. It’s tough season but a time many families face Sistahs thank you all for sharing. I feel more settled. Amen

  23. P

    Your article was “spot on”. I struggled through my childhood/adolescence with a verbally/emotionally abusive father and a controlling, self-absorbed mother, who is now 83 and needs help, as she has falls and is using a walker. We are going to sell our home and move her in with us, but often I question if it will be emotionally healthy for her to live with us. At times, like tonight, I find myself getting so angry with her and I feel like I am a terrible person. Then I realized after reading your article that it is an anger that is more than that moment we are in; it’s so much more. I wonder sometimes how long this will go on, my caring for her and I know it is only for a season, but I resent the time that I am missing with my husband and boys. So many ways that she hurt me keep coming up in my mind and now I think I understand why. When my boys were born she wanted us to move close to her so she could help us with our kids. We moved in her neighborhood and after we did she told me-“I think when people have children it’s their problem and not anyone else’s.” She was retired and didn’t help me with my kids at all. I could go on with more hurts, but I don’t want to write a novel. It’s just hard being a caregiver to your Mom, and thank you for sharing your experience with us. It really helped me know I am not the only one who feels this way.

  24. Clara Beth

    Finally someone whos going through the same. My mother left my father 6 years ago, had no money or job of her own, once they sold the house there was nothing left as my father had remortgaged their house so many times and left with what money there was. So we moved into a rental together, I was off to getting married abroad so had left my job etc and was waiting for the visa to be processed, but the now ex fiance called it off days before the wedding – no explanation given.

    So there I was back in the UK living in the rental with my mother. After a year of depression, I started my business from home and through so much hard work am now doing very well. However I pay for everything. My mother gets a pension, probably not a lot but I still pay for everything. Two years ago my 74 year old mother was very ill and diagnosed with a blood disorder, so there are many days where she’s exhausted. But this doesn’t stop her being opinionated, moaning about the state of the country and swearing to herself about virtually everything. I have noticed how she is less and less bothered about everything, I m having to pick up the slack more than ever. When she cooks it’s a disaster, she has no patience for anything. I ve watched her turning into a relatively useless lump, that expects me to carry one supporting her.

    I finally got onto the property ladder and of course my mother moved with me. There was never a moment where she ever considered that this would not be the case. ( The rest of my family never questioned this either)

    Of course my younger brothers dont do a thing, one lives abroad with his partner and the other down south with his partner. None of them offer to assist financially or otherwise. I guess they assume me being the only daughter that I should automatically assume the role of caregiver. I also feel they resent her for leaving it so late to leave my father, knowing she would not have any property or savings of her own.

    After all my mother regularly cared for her parents while her brother lived thousands of miles away and never bothered.

    She expects that I care for her and often remarks how my brothers should do the same and they are a disgrace for not doing so..but are they? Why is this an expectancy? Especially for women.

    I have a 23 years son of my own living away and working hard. I never want to burden him the way my mother has me. I have a private pension in place, life insurance and expect to be mortgage free within 3 years time. If I get sick, I will go into a care home- no arguments!

    As for the feelings – oh yes very frustrated, seething ( Seething Cow as my mother once muttered about me) , angry feeling like I cant breath, have five minutes to myself.

    No hope of meeting or being with anyone – who would date a 40+ women living with her mother – and even if things progressed – there would be the whole guilt trip about selling my house and leaving my mother to care for herself.

    I feel like this is my life- by the time my mother passes on, I will be too old myself to start a relationship or live my life beyond what it is.

    • lesley

      Clara: thank you for your note. It is proven research that daughters end up caring for their family more than sons. But have heart: we believe that you are never too old to get the life you deserve to have. Believe and hang tough.

  25. Sarah

    Hallelujah!!! This is spot on.

    I’m carer for my 86 year old mother who is dying of multiple myeloma. She can’t walk, wears diapers, is fairly away with fairies due to the morphine she is taking for he pain. I am an only child and she lives with myself and my husband. My husband has just left for a week visiting our children in the UK – I should have been going with him but I couldn’t because I need to look after my mother. I’m having a little cry at the injustice of it.

    We had a fairly toxic relationship and I’ve had a fair degree of therapy to try and undo the damage of my childhood. She has always been self absorbed, narcissistic and dependent. I really started looking after her 6 years ago when my father died – throughout her life, she did nothing for herself, couldn’t drive, use a mobile phone or a bank card. At that point it was just taking her shopping, and keeping an eye on her. Then 2.5 years ago she was diagnosed so we moved her in with us while she had chemo and I have cooked cleaned and shopped for her ever since. She was quite happy to let me literally do everything for her until the nurse pointed out that a lot of it she should be doing herself (showering for example).

    She’s since had a relapse and she currently has the nurse in twice a day to shower her and to put her to bed at night, I am home with her because I am a teacher and it’s school holidays. She calls me every 10 minutes for nothing in particular. Sometimes I’ll rush in from the garden to see what the problem is and she’ll just say that she wanted to say hello. I have some private online lessons but I’ve had to stop them because I can’t have the peace and quiet I need to do them. I also have a summer holiday rental business plus a very big garden to take care of. I am caring for her exceptionally well – I get her up, take her to the toilet, wipe her backside, administer her drugs, cook for her, clean for her, wash and iron her clothes, sit with her at night when she can’t sleep. I’ve managed to distance myself emotionally, it’s hard to show love and affection that I don’t feel. I’m very kind to her but today I’ve lost my patience and told her that she can’t keep calling me for no reason and that I have things I need to do. Now I feel guilty and angry and sad and a whole host of things I can’t describe.

    Thanks for this, I couldn’t have read it at a better time.

  26. Helena Jansen

    This is me so thankyou so much for writing it. I hate myself at times as have wished my mother dead and then feel like a wicked person, but she gets to me so much at times. I have 3 siblings but none of them have contact with her so its down to me. I was sobbing my heart out reading your story as I can identify with you so much.

  27. Linda

    Just came across this and so glad I did! I have been angry and resentful over the time it takes to care for my aging mother. I especially identified with “if it’s hysterical, it’s historical.” Much of what I am doing now I did when I was young. I hated it then and I hate it now. I’ve heard the remarks “you’re so lucky to have your mother” or “what I wouldn’t give to have another conversation with my mother.” These remarks used to make me feel guilty. No more. Words coming from folks who have free time to do as they please.

    When I was “growing up” it was all about what she needed to make her life more comfortable, while my needs were ignored and never taken into consideration. I was afraid to ask for anything. In high school I had to clean the house daily, prepare dinner, and look after my brothers, and have her bath water ready when she arrived home from work one day per week since she had a standing hair appointment. She thought I was her housekeeping and cooking service. I could never play after school sports. My dad had left us, and was equally unavailable and useless. I feel bad for that young girl, and I wish I could talk to her and tell her that her life and needs and wants mattered. It was the adults’ job to figure that mess out. They failed and it was not my fault.

    I could not finish college as there was always some problem at home. I did my best. I started working, got married and had my own family. I vowed to not do this with my own kids and I didn’t. She always characterized the time I spent with them as “bending over backwards” or “spoiling” them when in reality it’s what parents do to care for their children. I’m better at setting boundaries, but Covid presents the obvious issues for the foreseeable future. I’ll reassess once the pandemic has passed. For now I will give her what she did not give me, and what she did not give her own parents when they needed it.

    She was recently hospitalized for a few days. I still work full time and luckily can work remotely. Since she came home there are multiple nurse appointments, aide, OT, PT, MD, CT scan, x-ray, and now an upcoming mental health appointment. My brother and SIL are some help but they were more than happy to push her off on me after having her for a few days. They want to be sure I am doing my fair share! And there is always something that is needed; today’s list – another shower bar, a new shower stool, a different towel bar, and the topper: lightweight towels (her old towels are too heavy).

    The health aide who came today told my mom – oh your daughter is great! Don’t you wish you had more daughters? Her response: I do – she needs the help. So you see, entitlement and sexism is alive and well. It’s okay to inconvenience and impose on daughters. Oh – and my brother is the one who is trusted with financial matters, not me.

    Rant over. I had to write. I identify. I felt guilty and not guilty and angry and resentful for hating care-giving and on some days hating her.

  28. Anon

    My mother now lives in our basement. She has chronic back pain, stomach issues, a brain tumour (not malignant) and suffers from depression and is probably bi-polar. She is passive-aggressive in her requests/demands and we do everything we can to make her comfortable. Yet, nothing is good enough. It’s too hot, it’s too cold, it’s too dusty, it’s too damp, the taps, the lights… etc. She has led a life over the past 20+ years of complaining about her health, telling everything about the meds she takes…it becomes a grating, annoying narrative. Her marriage of 30 years is over and she had very little love and support during that time. I am an only child so there is no one else who would care for her, save my wonderful husband. And I find myself feeling resentful… because she spiraled into using Percocet, didn’t care for her body and soul, didn’t exercise, didn’t eat properly…and now all she does is sit in front of her computer all day. Her teeth are all rotten and she will only agree to a process of a year of extractions before she will get dentures. A YEAR, of one extraction per month basically, because she is afraid of the recovery should she have several teeth out at once.
    HOWEVER… I am not changing diapers, I don’t have to lift her in and out of bed, she has her own private space and mostly manages her own appointments, etc. I help… by buying groceries and taking her to the odd appointment. And she has a safe and nice place to live (no cockroaches like the apartment she had found for herself last year, OMG!)
    She used to be a vibrant, talented, and tenacious woman. It is very hard to realize that she is no longer that person, but instead, has withdrawn into her own little world.
    So…the feelings of resentment are hard to deal with. It’s my Mom for God’s sakes! She raised me, partly made me the woman I am today…and yet… I am so mad at her….because she doesn’t have a life any more. I visit her downstairs about 3 or 4 times a day but have gotten to the point that I can only stay for a maximum of 10 minutes, because I cannot listen to the complaints for much longer than that.
    Here’s the rub – once again, I find myself considering ‘therapy’, to learn how to deal and cope with all of this. I sought therapy when my son was abusive to me, I sought therapy when my ex husband was abusive to me, and now this? The people causing me the anguish are never the ones who seek therapy.
    But I cannot bring myself to utter the words “you are a hypochondriac” to her. (I know that some of her ailments are obviously very real.) I am afraid to be honest because I don’t want to hurt her.
    I am angry, but I am sad too. I find myself wondering what the next few years will bring.

  29. Caroline

    Born in to generational “family”of mental illness & domestic violence always distorts, dominates and impacts ongoing. Mother largely by choice/skewed perception excuses, ignores, permits/perpetrates abuse & witnesses/endures without action horrific daily assaults perpetuated by husband largely upon her middle aging offspring. I don’t like or admire my mother and try very hard to continue to care and impart kindness. My mother has always held disdain for me expressing that she wished I was never born. In the next breathe she says with what appears unattainable dismay how “exceptionally kind, compassionate & intuitive” I am with her & everyone.
    As a sensitive, caring and diligent person I have been in the workforce 28yrs, 2 degrees, husband who died when I was 38, no children and spent last 15yrs in/out hospital having some 9 ortho operations. Unforseen circumstance has me residing for a roof over my head with parents. Nothing is mine & I must do everything. This exposes me to direct demands of increasing caregiving duties whereby I cannot even scratch my own head. Well the day has come where the matriarch till recent had me providing to every need & tasks of such personal nature that I’d never imagined would be forceably expected. Her ailing/incapable 87yr husband tho primary carer refuses to complete such tasks to support his wife. He looses his temper having her a vulnerable quivering mess. Times he’ll throw his walking stick at her bashing her leg to cause large hole/bleeding – warfrin. Too many times I’ve been the mother/protector & rescued her. Slap COVID-19, sibling abuse/rivalry/bullying & 6mths ongoing of nuisance neighbour barking dog German Shepherd at 3-6hrs/day non-stop I am ready to drop dead.
    I’ve literally washed daily chronic diarrhoea post longterm antibiotics/hospital for mother. Destroyed myself physically on top of bi-lateral total knee replacements & heavily plate braced foot/ankle by physical manoeuvres beyond. Picked up the bodies multiple times of both parents from major falls. Got down on my false knees to perform CPR on mum till emergency ambulance arrived. Hijacked by her commanding home visiting doctor recently to bellow at me “your mother says she has depression & inappetance due to the tension between you & your father.” Commanding me to be in the same room as her in my home & me unmasked!!! CV19?? WTF I leave room with the doctor shouting “COME BACK HERE… it MIGHT NOT BE TRUE.” WTF. The doctor said mother’s recent xray show no fractures/breaks from recent fall.
    Fast forward 3 Aug my sister & I aid 8 paramedics to transport my mother to hospital ER at midnight & wait further 4hrs 4am b4 on-duty doctor in charge reports & admits her. We cannot visit CV19 precautions. Mother has fractured coxic from recent fall, ongoing KRF, RA, hiatus hernia – minor operative treatment as she’s not up to major op ever. Vomiting, inappetance, immobile/bed ridden, pneumonia, nausea, high BP pain etc. She’s still in hospital. Blame it on me though mother. I ring her & yet I don’t want to speak to her as she hangs up. I struggle to hear her voice & she gets turse. We just have nothing to say. I just don’t want to be entangled & drowning. I want to see life & in peace b4 I die.

  30. Anon

    I do have all of the anger and resentment that the other comments outline. The fact that there is no definitive end in site is devastating to deal with. The lack of support from siblings is disrespectful and unkind. I doubt I will speak to my brother or sister again after my mother dies. Your life is not your own when a parent lives with you. The relationship with your partner is changed beyond repair. I have been very clear with my mother that I need her to go away for a couple of months to stay with my sister because I need a break after the last 7 years. It doesn’t matter whether I tell her I am falling apart and need time alone with my husband, she just says she can’t do that. It’s all about her.
    She doesn’t have enough money to pay the exorbitant cost of a retirement home, but her dementia that was diagnosed as mid level two years ago is starting to now deteriorate more rapidly. She is eligible for long term care but of course, I would have to force her into that as she and my siblings don’t see that she’s a problem. I say I will never ask my daughter to do this for me and want to ensure plans are in place should I receive a diagnosis of dementia.
    The biggest problem right now is that people are not as concerned about their mental health as much as their physical health. There has to be more emphasis on people planning for their senior years both financially and medically. It is not your children’s responsibility to pick up the pieces from a parent’s complete avoidance of future planning. There should be organizations and information in place to guide people as to how to get plans in place. This awareness should be starting at least when a person is in their fifties…probably much sooner.
    Those of us who have let parents into our home are pretty well stuck as there aren’t better structures in place. I know there are seniors programs and caregivers that can come to the home, but honestly, if you can even get your parent to participate, it’s more work for the caregiver to organize. It’s exhausting! We all have to face the facts about aging and take individual responsibility for our futures.

  31. Daniela

    With you in solidarity…just want to point out though that just because she never worked for a living doesn’t necessarily mean this is why she is the way she is last minute. Let’s keep the working mom spirit separate here…not all who stay home are this absorbed and selfish.

  32. Jane

    I have looked after my mother all my life and today I spent too long having an afternoon with a friend. She asked me to help With some tasks which I did and I said I would go back later which I did. But she was so angry as I had spent ‘too long’ with my friend and I am guessing because I didn’t call her, felt even more angry. My heart sank. I am 60 + which makes it even worse…!

  33. KP

    Thank you so much for this. I can’t express how much these words resonate with me. Time to try and let go of unfulfilled expectations….

  34. Thank You

    I came upon this post after doing a random Google search–and I’m glad I found it.

    Bless you for your honesty, warts and all. I too am dealing with a parent that does some things I just don’t like.

    My mother is hands down, unequivocally and definitively the most fiscally irresponsible person I have ever met in all my days. And I say that as someone who worked with a woman that took to using Muppet-like voices to talk to bill collectors that called to get her overdue dough. Yes: imagine hearing the person in the next cube twittering over the phone, “Carol? No, no Carol works here, please stop calling” in their best Kermit the Frog voice. My mother is worse.

    She is 73 years old and her credit is in the negatives. She has worked hard all her life (to include retiring not once, not twice, but thrice) and also has Social Security coming in. She lives in a gated retirement community that is subsidized, so her income covers her rent and expenses 4 times over…but she is horrid. With. MONEY. Think having $1500 in the bank and needing $1000 of it to cover bills, but spending $1100. That means that yup–I will call my daughter to ask for the other $600 I am now short and using all manner of manipulation tactics to get it. I am so hurt that she feels my money is “disposable”.

    Now, I know what some of you are thinking. You’re thinking, “Well gee–just say “no”.” Well, I’m not Nancy Reagan and that only works on ’80’s era drug mitigation ads from TV. It’s not that easy–especially with a master manipulator that knows every button to press and string to pull to get her way. This includes mentions of “only having one mother in your lifetime” to threats of being out on the streets. My father passed when I was in my early 30’s, so I attribute a lot of giving in to the lamentations of the “She’s all I have left” sentiment.

    My mother is a Boomer that grew up under the “gotta be tough as nails” child-rearing of the ’50’s. Elders were to be respected (even if they were full of crap). Honor thy Mother and Father (even when they don’t act in a manner worthy of honor). And by all means–do as I say, not as I do. When I mentioned the business I planned to start 7 years ago, she put up a fuss. I am a Business major and knew I’d be successful, so it didn’t hit me until Round 5 of her chiding me over the phone for “risking it all”: it wasn’t me, or the business. It was the threat that starting it would make me financially unstable. That, in turn, would cut into her honeypot and make life inconvenient for her. Can’t have that.

    Frankly, I actually ascribe to honoring thy Mother and Father. The older I get though, I realize that honoring sometimes means saying “No”. The odds of a woman in her ’70’s suddenly “seeing the light” about, y’know, the responsibility to pay the bills you create is slim to none. But I will still love her. That love will just mean that no, you can’t have $300 of my hard earned dough to play the slots at Atlantic City this weekend–but you’re welcome to find a way to do it on your dime.

    Thanks for sharing.

  35. Tami

    I drive 500 miles every 4-5 weeks from my home in Colorado to my childhood home in Oklahoma. I spend 2 weeks caring for my mom and give her caregivers time off. I have been doing this for 3 years. The anger, resentment and resulting guilt and shame had me googling why I hated taking care of my mom. What I saw as strength and courage in my mom when I was young has morphed into a total control freak. My anger does come from sadness. I am sad that my mom has turned into a needy child which I never wanted. I understand her fear as it is mine, also of dependence and decay. Her finances are drained and me and my sisters(3) will need to start ponying up. She needs more care than she can afford and we are all able to help but not always willing. She didn’t save a lot of money and this also breeds resentment. The article is spot on and appreciated. Thanks

    • lesley

      These are tough times–especially for responsible daughters. Know you will get through this. And that you are not alone Tami

  36. Carrie

    I needed this article and your comments today. I have been trying so hard to deal with these feelings…meditation, therapy, support groups, medication, writing, etc. Maybe I am a slow learner, I don’t now. For today, while I empathize with all you are going through, I don’t feel alone.

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