If pleas­ing mom is a chore, con­sider telling her what she wants to hear

The Washington Post Sunday - - DIVERSIONS - Carolyn Hax Write to Carolyn Hax at tellme@wash­post.com. Get her col­umn de­liv­ered to your in­box each morn­ing at bit.ly/hax­post. Join the dis­cus­sion live at noon Fri­days at wash­ing­ton­post.com/ con­ver­sa­tions.

Dear Carolyn: Maybe as both an ad­vice giver and a mother your­self you can an­swer this. Is it typ­i­cal for moms to com­plain about no one help­ing them with house­work, then, when some­one does do some­thing, to chase them off and/or crit­i­cize how they do it?

Mom’s been do­ing this for years. She’ll com­plain no one helps her, but God for­bid any­one tries. Then it’s, “I’ll do it!,” or “You did this all wrong” — even though we got the job done just as well if not bet­ter, we just didn’t do it her way. No amount of telling her how dis­cour­ag­ing it is when she puts us down af­ter we try to help gets through to her.

Have to Ask

Have to Ask: You don’t need a mother or an ad­viser for this, you need a con­trol-freak­ist. (Think ex­or­cist but with­out the beads.)

When you’re mys­ti­fied by some­one’s be­hav­ior, it can help to look at what the per­son achieves with it. Your mother cries for help but then does things to en­sure she doesn’t get any. On the sur­face it makes no sense.

Dig deeper, though, and I think your shovel will scrape some­thing in­ter­est­ing. She ap­par­ently doesn’t want help, or else she’d ac­cept it grate­fully. Right? Nor is she try­ing to get every­thing done ex­actly her way, be­cause she could achieve that more ef­fec­tively by guid­ing her helpers — or by do­ing every­thing her­self from the be­gin­ning, by­pass­ing the whole no­body­helps-me cha­rade.

So what does her be­hav­ior bring her? Clearly she gains at­ten­tion; be­hold her star­ring role in a drama where she’s the can-do gal in a fam­ily of slack­ers, in­com­pe­tents and in­grates.

Your pos­si­ble reme­dies are lim­ited; as you’ve wit­nessed your­self so of­ten, she’ll change the terms mid­way through a chore to pre­serve her ad­van­tage. Do a chore poorly, do it bet­ter than she can, don’t do it at all — she can spin it into fur­ther proof of her dogged hero­ism.

It may seem coun­ter­in­tu­itive, but one way to avoid feed­ing her nar­ra­tive is to give her what she wants. It’s like steer­ing into a skid: “You’re right, Mom, you do so much for us. Thank you.” Or, “Well, Mom, you’re the master! Of course I didn’t do it as well.” Yes, sar­casm free. You can even an­tic­i­pate her: “I’d love to take over [chore], Mom, but even my best work won’t be as good as yours — would you like my help any­way?”

This is a pur­pose­ful choice to work with, vs. against, Mom’s need­i­ness, and there­fore al­lows you a mea­sure of con­trol — ide­ally in a way that pre­empts a coun­terof­fen­sive of crit­i­cism from her.

Which, if it comes any­way, you de­flect calmly: “You asked for my help, I gave it, I won’t ar­gue with you.”

Use the na­ture of your mother’s need to guide your ac­tions from here. If she’s a lov­ing sort who just main­tains a child­like rel­ish for ap­proval, then snug­gle in and ap­prove away.

If in­stead your mother builds her sense of self from the rub­ble of ev­ery­one else’s — which I fear is the case given that you feel dis­cour­aged — then I’ll add to my ad­vice a caveat to of­fer those yesMom-you’re-right-Moms from the far end of an emo­tional 10foot pole. Mom (or any­one else) can’t meet your needs when her ev­ery word and deed is rigged to­ward feed­ing her own needs. Hop­ing or ex­pect­ing oth­er­wise from such self-fo­cused peo­ple is the source of so much pain.

It’s sad for all in­volved when this hap­pens, a missed op­por­tu­nity for the kind of base­line mu­tual sup­port that fam­ily at its best can sup­ply. How­ever, we’re all dropped at dif­fer­ent start­ing points on the path to self-ac­cep­tance. If your mom can’t or won’t help you get there, then rec­og­nize that, make peace with it — and with her lim­i­ta­tions, since they ul­ti­mately harm her most — and start cul­ti­vat­ing your own more re­li­able sources of val­i­da­tion. Your clos­est con­fi­dants, your work or in­ter­ests, your cher­ished places or causes all can be shaped into a health­ier ver­sion of home.

Dear Carolyn: I told my best friend of over 21 years that I didn’t like her hus­band. They had a long-dis­tance re­la­tion­ship for three years wherein he cheated on her for two. Long story short, she had a child and got mar­ried shortly there­after.

I’d like to rekin­dle our friend­ship but I don’t know how. She was like a sis­ter to me. She asked what I thought and now I re­gret be­ing so hon­est. We have many mu­tual friends, but she no longer speaks to me. Is there any way to sal­vage this?

Child­hood Friend

Child­hood Friend: To re­quest your opin­ion and then slap you for it was ex­tremely im­ma­ture of her. Shun­ning you might be her way of dodg­ing the truth you rep­re­sent.

But, you want to sal­vage the friend­ship, so here’s how: 1. Hope she lets you. 2. Ex­press your re­gret fully, sans as­ter­isks, even if you al­ready have. Say how much you miss her. Ask her for­give­ness.

Don’t ex­pect it, though, un­less she has grown up — a lot.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.