Living back at home
Hi, To get straight to the point, I’m having mum problems. We used to get along very well, but I moved abroad when I was 18 (just after my A Levels), and now, 5 years later, I’ve come back to the UK and am having serious problems getting along with her. I’ve been staying at her house for a couple of months because I’m starting Uni in September and it wasn’t really possible to rent somewhere for such a short time.
I never noticed before that she had such a constant negative attitude to everything, she acts as if I know absolutely nothing about life, in spite of having lived in a big city and in another culture for five years, and even when she directly asks me a question about what life was like there or anywhere else I’ve lived since I left home, as soon as I start to speak, she interrupts and says that everything I’m saying must be nonsense and I don’t know what I’m talking about, or simply starts to describe a completely unconnected experience of her own.
It’s not that I don’t believe she has advice to give me, but sometimes it gets very annoying that she doesn’t seem to value any of the things I’ve tried to do with my life, and ignores all the experiences I’ve had and ways I’ve tried to grow.
Please, if there’s any advice you can give me I’d be incredibly grateful, because I’ve found myself starting to blame her for the fact that I had no self esteem, and no respect for myself as a girl/woman when I was growing up, and had a very hard time understanding the way most of the modern world seemed to work when I left home. I don’t want our relationship to be ruined forever or put undeserved blame on her. However, I don’t want to let her destroy the fragile attempt at self esteem I’ve managed to build either.
I’m sorry for the length of this email but I feel like the more you know, the better advice you’ll be able to give.
Thank you very much for any or help you can give me,
Love, Anonymous Me xxx
The Mookychick answer to your problem
You can’t change anyone but yourself. First off, living in a big city for five years doesn’t give you absolute knowledge about everything (I have to say that one of the skills it **usually** gives people is the skill to find cheap, temporary lodging fast) but maybe you’re coming off that way to her and that’s why she’s acting negatively. Your perspective is obviously a little clouded –
“as soon as I start to speak, she interrupts and says that everything I’m saying must be nonsense and I don’t know what I’m talking about, or simply starts to describe a completely unconnected experience of her own.”
These things happen **every** single time you speak with her? I fail to see the problem you’re describing. Instead, I see someone who’s extraordinarily embarrassed living at home again after five years. And what are we to make of your threats? “If she doesn’t pay attention to me in rapt silence, I’m going to decide I don’t have any self-esteem because of her!” If you are so worldly, it should be no problem to find another place to stay – for three months or any amount of time.
I’ve been in the same situation myself (instead of five years abroad it was seven months in India. I came back – not wiser, because all the new things still had to be put in place and assimilated properly – but definitely more experienced.
You’re right in that five years abroad has given you a lot of valid experience. You may, however, be seeing things in a negative light in a couple of areas.
For one thing, your mother may not be as naysaying as you think. It’s just that you’ve got your own things going on in your head – probably a strange mix of confidence and anxiety and wanting to adventure further and wanting to settle down, all mashed together – and when she speaks you’re translating it a certain way, through a filter. Check your inner translator. Is it that she’s tired? Is it that she’s tried to talk about her own experiences and life and feels judged by you, or not listened to? What I’m trying to say is – is it really that bad? And could it be that it was your turn to be a strong one – after all, you have dropped back into her life out of nowhere – and you perhaps missed your cue?
Sometimes simple ways are best. You won’t be at your mother’s for ever. In the meantime – simple is best, unless you’re thinking of moving out immediately.
Do the washing up. Cook meals. Cook stuff you’ve made abroad. Cook stuff together. Make sure your room is tidy – do the grown-up thing, even if your mother’s room isn’t tidy! Pay your way a little, buying shopping and such.
Listen to your mum. Not necessarily when she’d downplaying your experiences – although make the effort to listen to that too, even if you don’t think it’s appropriate to take it on board. I mean, listen to her. Life isn’t just about telling of your adventures, it’s listening to others’. Don’t think you fully know your mum – just as she shouldn’t think she fully knows you.
You feel you’ve changed. She may not be so sure. You’re back in the nest. She may not be entirely comfortable with that – or she may be expecting things, or missing things, that you’re not providing, that she thinks might be fair due for your return.
What I’m basically saying is – be the grown-up here. Both of you are no doubt wanting to please, but feeling anxious and defensive. If you lose some ideological ground in some conversation it needn’t mean that you’re losing your sense of self, or your ideals.
Remember: This is temporary. You’re just passing through. So make the best of it, and be the best person you can – the same as you would if you were staying in a friend of a friend’s flat in Italy.
Treat your mum with the respect you know you yourself deserve! Even if it doesn’t change the atmosphere, you’ll look back on this period in your life and know you handled it well!