'Am I Right To Stop Talking To My Mom?'

Reader Needs Space writes,

When I was seven years old, my father died and since then, there has only been my mother and me, her only daughter. I have no siblings, and she never remarried.

Since his death, my mother has become very possessive; she would be so worried something awful would happen to me, that she didn't allow me many experiences as a teenager or a college student. Moreover, she would always expect the best from me, and even if I was among the best in my classes, that was never enough for her.

I know she meant well, but she suffocated me so much that I moved abroad just after graduation. I started living in a city where I landed one internship after the other.  I had a lot of friends and lived a happy life. However, when I got a better opportunity in Asia, I seized it in order to finally have a more stable job with a higher salary.

It was a one year contract, renewable for a second year. Although I liked the job, everything else went wrong: I couldn't fit in the city , and I couldn't make any friends. I was starting to become depressed: I felt no emotions, and I had an overall sense of non-reality around me. I told my mom how I felt and that I wanted to leave after my contract.

Even if she is far away she still manages to influence me a lot, and puts a lot of pressure on me. She told me I would never be able to land a job and that she didn't want me at home if I would be unemployed and depressed: she literally harassed me until I renewed my contract.

I managed to pull myself together and concentrated only on work and not on the people, and it has been better for some months: however, I recently had a change in management, I am becoming even more overloaded than before, and my new managers are mistreating me.  My morale went drastically down again: the only reason why I stayed, which was my job, had suddenly become unbearable.

I tried to explain it to my mother, but she just told me to hold on until the second year ends. I am shocked by how my mom, a renowned doctor who cares a lot about health, does not recognize how dangerous this situation may be for me. I am not depressed, since I can drag myself out of bed everyday, but I feel powerless and I cry daily. I told her this, and she still thinks renewing was the right thing to do to build up experience.

I am so mad about her not caring about how I feel, that I stopped talking to her. I still love her, but it hurts me to have so little support on her behalf. Moreover, I want her to understand how much SHE hurt me.  My question is: Am I wrong about not talking to her, considering that we only have one another? Or should I just be strong, until she understands how cold she has been towards my feelings?

Dear NS,

This is a very hard situation.  On the one hand, you feel bad for your mother being alone in the world with only you to think about and talk to, and on the other hand, you have a very developmentally appropriate desire to be your own person and make your own decisions.  As with this woman, your mom is treating you like you are younger than your years, and assuming that she knows best for you.  This may stem from love, but it is not working out for you to stay in this dynamic right now.

Only children, particularly girls, at at great risk of being in enmeshed relationships with their moms, especially single moms (or moms who feel single because their marriage is lonely).  Enmeshed means where there are no boundaries between child and parent, such that the parent feels that she can say anything on her mind, and SHOULD say anything on her mind, without much thought as to the feelings or developmental stage of the child.  Additionally, often the child falls into either a parent role, or a baby role.

For example, in the parentified child dynamic, a parent would tell her child in depth about her romantic life, or her depression, or other topics that aren't the child's business, and that make the child feel like she has to take care of the parent, rather than vice versa.  In the baby dynamic, the parent keeps the child very young, not allowing developmentally normative experiences or freedom.  You're in the latter situation.

I suggest you read about these ways to deal with intrusive parents, and you take a small break from your mom while you seek your own therapy to help you deal with this major issue.  Also, a therapist can help you deal with the depression that you likely have.  You may be getting out of bed, but crying every day and feeling terrible every day are symptoms of depression.

You are right, you need to learn to make your own decisions.  If you want to get out of this job, get out of it.  Your mom loves you, and her whole world revolves around you, so she doesn't want to see you fail or be unhappy.  She is so terrified of this that she is obsessed with giving you advice that she feels may be able to protect you in some way.  This obsession renders her unable to respect you as an adult, and it makes you feel tied to her, powerless, and hopeless.

Your mother may never change, but you can change, and you can assert boundaries and not allow her to impact your mood and your life decisions.  As I doubt you will remain estranged from her for long (nor would I recommend this, although a short break may allow for more clarity), you will need to create a new dynamic, which is closer to peers than mom and child.

You can love your mom and respect her while also firmly and kindly telling her that you know what is best for you.  However, if you want to be in this adult role, you also cannot call her all the time and you cannot ask her for advice.  This would be a mixed message and will land you back where you are now.  It will likely be hard for you to make decisions at first without her input, because you've never done it before-- she never let you when you were growing up.  But it is an essential step to independence and true adulthood.

Good luck, and till we meet again, I remain, The Blogapist Who Says, You Sound Super Smart And Motivated So Get A Job That Makes You Happy.

This post was originally published here on Dr. Psych Mom. Follow Dr. Rodman on Dr. Psych Mom, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest. Order her book, How to Talk to Your Kids about Your Divorce: Healthy, Effective Communication Techniques for Your Changing Family. This blog is not intended as diagnosis, assessment, or treatment, and should not replace consultation with your medical provider.