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Thank you for asking this awesome question. My folks divorced when I was young. I have cut my Mother out of my life due to her emotional blackmail and narcissist tendencies towards me. My Father on the other hand I adored. My mom I feel I owe nothing, She can have my brother look after her or find someone who will. My Father I spent the last year of his life staying with him. I helped him and supported him. And I felt that I owed it to him because of all that he had done for me in my life. It was the best decision. I got to spend time with my Father and I have no regrets. I am so grateful for the time I had with him before he died.

I do believe like you do that as children we owe our parents for what they gave us. But I will not be bullied or forced to owe someone who has no respect for me.

My partner is contributing $1500 Canadian a month to his parents who have just made a mess of their finances. His mother has never worked, his father has had escalating health problems. They still have two mortgages on their home, he is retired. It's a mess. They live in a huge house on acreage and won't entertain selling. His dad collects "stuff" so while it isn't as bad as "Hoarders", it is going to be a nightmare to clean out when the time comes. Fortunately my partner can afford the $$ but man is it emotionally draining. Every time he speaks with his dad, his dad cries and says he doesn't know what he would do without his help. I don't know what they would do it he couldn't give them money.

Thank you. I wish more people were aware that not all parents are wonderful. I'm in the midst of therapy, working through the discovery that my mother has Borderline Personality Disorder and Narcissistic Personality Disorder. To the outside world, she is fun, charming, supportive, loving and a really nice woman. Behind closed doors, she is manipulative, selfish and nasty.
The idea of looking after her in her old age horrifies me. She will suck me dry and mentally, it will be the end of my (already fragile) mental health. In order to take care of myself and my own family (my prime responsibility surely?) I'm going to have to say no when the inevitable request comes (and, oh, it will).
To the outside world, there is no doubt that will look like the monster in this situation. So, you know, thanks for making people aware that there might be more to the story.

I love my mother, but she didn't take care of me very well and is very irresponsible with money. I dread the day when I'll have to take care of her. I still don't know what I'll do when the time comes.

I tell my parents all the time how lucky I am to have them. As I have gotten older, I've realized how rare this actually is. It's sad, but I have very few friends who are as close to their family as I am to mine. My mom is my best friend and I talk to her several times a day. They have insurance that is supposed to take care of them when they get older so they are not a burden to me. I have told them they will never use it though because I would want them to live with me and my family. I hope one day I can take care of them the way they took care of me. I love them and am so happy to have them as parents :)

Thank you for writing about this.
My parents are divorced and my mom has a personality disorder. My childhood ranged from merely strange to absolutely disastrous, depending on the month.
My siblings and I have supported ourselves since the age of 16. My mom cannot manage money, and her finances are an absolute mess. At 61, she is still working and able to support herself for now (even though she's in horrible debt). But she has no retirement fund, and I worry what will happen when she is unable to work. My husband and I have two children, and live in a country where making ends meet is difficult enough as it is. I know she expects us to support her, and despite everything, I do feel a responsibility to do so. But I just don't see how. Honestly, I have sleepless nights over this - sometimes I think I worry about her more than I do my own kids (and as an anxious mom, I worry about my girls a lot :-).

I started couch-surfing when I was 14, and moved out into my own apartment at 17. My mother has some undiagnosed mental health issues that make her paranoid and mean. My dad is an addict, and brain damaged from contracting the chicken pox at 33. He has not worked a day since. He needs constant reminding about taking his meds, and needs someone around when his brain starts misfiring in case he forgets he can't grab a hot frying pan with his bare hands. They live hand to mouth with help from my grandmother. I'm terrified that my mom will die first and I will have to be my father's sole care provider. My wife doesn't want to move out to the woods where they live and my father wouldn't want to move up to us. I don't know how I'd manage to keep up two households. If my father goes first, my mother would at least be able to care for herself in the day-to-day, and might be amenable to moving, since it would give her something to martyr herself over. I think I would need help in caring for her when she becomes frail, I'm stronger now than I was at 14, but interacting with her is still very painful. I need to win the lottery, or start a business that makes me a mint, otherwise caring for them will do me in.

My father died 18 months ago, leaving me to care for my terminally ill mother, who after 18 months has not passed away and in fact has improved greatly with better care from my husband, myself and our 2 daughters.We originally moved to live with her thinking she would be more comfortable in her own home. (Bedridden, 24 hr oxygen, mostly blind, bowel cancer, COPD,) But my poor husband was spending hours taking the children to school on the other side of town, and I work full-time, so we have taken her home to our house now. Better situation for us, and she is happy enough in her own room here, but her remaining friends do not visit often, and my 2 sisters lead very busy lives and also rarely come over. Our situation is quite depressing, we are literally waiting for her to die, we are trapped in our own home, and cannot go anywhere for a vacation, or even have a night out without huge arrangements.
So while you think that caring for your elderly parent yourself is the right and moral thing to do, the reality is that it will become a huge burden in the end. I loved both my parents, they were both loving and caring, but having the responsibility of the end of life care for my mum is much more than I ever expected it to be. My children will forever remember this time, and I would hope to never put them in the same position when I am old.

I take care of my recently invalid mother who was, and still is very selfish, manipulative and just plain mean. I have three older brothers who contribute absolutely nothing.
She never planned for getting older (or getting to the end of the month when I was a child - the booze was more important) and just assumed that someone would take care of her.

I resent every moment of it, but feel as though I don't have any other choice. I hate that I resent it, and also hate that I sometimes find myself thinking we would all be better off if she died. That's what this kind of thing does to someone. I thought I had worked through the pain of my crappy upbringing, but the last 18 months, since she has become such a burden, has brought up many of those old feelings. They feel just as fresh as they did when I was a teen. I never wanted to hate my mom, but I think that I might by the time she dies.

I am extremely determined to NEVER be this kind of burden on my daughter, and started planning for my retirement when I fell pregnant (at 24).

I have always envied people who have at least one great parent. Both my parents sucked at being parents!

What a rotten post. And not the content!!
The hard, difficult, emotionally wrought questions raised!
It's something I don't want to read, because I find myself in this situation.
I am that person at the door, wondering what the hell to do with the person knocking.

The comments on this post have made me feel less alone.
I'd like to add that despite everything, I really do love my mom, and do want to take care of her, I just honestly don't know how we'll do it.

My daughter has an unfather and if he comes knocking at her door, she will answer it with: "You did not take responsibility for me, so I don't have any responsibility towards you!"

Great post. I had what seemed to many like a great childhood with fabulous parents. All my friends loved my parents.. I've come to realize however that at least from my mom that greatness was very conditional and it was always in the back of my mind that her love could be withdrawn. As I became an adult her love was frequently given and then withdrawn again based on her feelings of how I was living my life. 11 years ago I walked away from the cycle and vowed to never let her hurt me like that again. I haven't spoke to her in 8 years although my sister has told me she would like to see me. I know though her behavior hasn't changed as she treats my sister as badly as she used to treat me. My sister told me she's not doing great, living in an apartment with her husband, broke etc. I can feel bad for her that she's not doing well but she would not be allowed to ever come live with me.

I've felt myself withdrawing from my mother lately ... knowing that she has not given me what I needed, as a child or as an adult, and that I can't go to that fire anymore to be burned. My brother does already take care of her property ... and I took care of her once for five and a half weeks in our home when she broke her ribs. But I don't know if I can do that again. It's selfish, but she has seemed so narcissistic to me in her later years, especially ... I don't know if I can give unconditionally, in the way that perhaps I am called to do.

I have cared for my mentally and physically ill mother for the last 7 years, until recently in our home. I agreed to take her in when my brother could not care for her only as long as my husband agreed. I could not at any time live alone with her as I was her target. Unexpectedly she was diagnosed with cancer in January and went into hospice care in a nursing home in March (she couldn't live at home and didn't want to). Since then she has let go of the anger and the other stuff and we have had more pleasant moments in the last month than in my whole life before. As difficult as the last 7 years have been, I don't regret doing it but I also know that if I were not in a stable marriage with a willing spouse, I would not have taken her in. Sometimes you have to walk away once you've given all you have to give.

my dad is dying of cancer, slowly, and not very gracefully. he has been violent and abusive to me all of my life - and i am now 52. until this year, for the past 7 years i have traveled home (from aussie to NZ) four or five times a year to see my parents, taking my small daughter with me, and spending a lot of time and money to do so. before i left NZ, and until now, i paid for their major house repairs, medical expenses, travel and accommodation, and bought new large appliances when necessary. i have paid for a regular order of organic chemical free household goods every month for almost 5 years, including skincare, and personal products, and health supplements for my mum. I have always felt obligated to do so, even though they have both chosen not to prepare for their old age - and my father in particular has only ever indulged himself with what money he has had. he is mean, narcissistic and critical. my 5 year old has just started asking why grandad has never given her anything, or written to her, or even taken her out for an icecream or a movie. it is hard to explain it to her, given HER father's open handed and open hearted generosity to anyone he meets.

in april of this year I went home as usual, and on the day before i left my father turned on me with perhaps the most venom he has shown me for a few years. the following morning i woke to find that he had gotten up early and left the house so as to avoid me leaving. i severed ties with him emotionally at that moment, realising that i have nothing more to owe him. he became, as i texted my husband a few minutes later, dead to me at that moment.

i will stay in contact with them, and will keep supporting my mother, but i have removed myself emotionally from my dad. he is dead to me. and this is by his choice, not mine. he is a damaged and unpleasant man.

our relationship is that typical abused wife/husband one = where he is horrible, and then acts as if he has done nothing. and i am so grateful to him for helping me to finally break that pattern. our relationship is over, and my wallet, and heart, are closed to him. i did what i could, and was rejected. his death will be a release for all of us.

i say do what you are capable of doing and do not be afraid to let go when their behaviour dictates it. a good clue is to watch how they are with other people - if you are the only one that is abused and mistreated and they are sweet and lovely to other people you know they are choosing to treat you that way, and that NO ONE is obligated to put up with that. in my parents' situation, the government does pay for much of their care and support, and i am happy to leave dad in their care. he has been pretty plain about that being the way he wants it, and who am i to disagree?

i know m kids will support me until my death, because our relationship is so different and i am grateful that i learned how to parent healthily and to break the ugly abusive pattern i knew as a child.

Thank you for this. It seems to be rare that people who have good parents can accept that not all of us are in the same boat. Or they say well, no one's parent was perfect and they shrug off that some of us dealt with abuse and addiction and manipulation that would put any novel to shame.

My Mother is a raging mess, and has always been. "Toxic Parents" has been a life-saver for me, along with therapy, and a survival book for adults of borderline personality disorder parents. I do not love her, nor do I feel I owe her anything. Parents who nearly drive their children to suicide with their emotional abuse have forsaken what they feel they are "owed". That being said, I'm an extremely kind and compassionate person. My sister has offered to care for my Mother, should the need arise, and in return, I take care of my niece during school breaks(whom I adore and would take care of anyway!). I have a very loving and supportive husband and in-laws. I feel like life has finally cut me a break and I wish this kind of freedom for everyone. Hugs and Godspeed.

Thankfully, my father took his own life when he got to the point where his physical health problems (pulmonary and liver problems caused by a lifetime of smoking and drinking too much) would have required that he enter a long-term nursing facility. But no, if he had showed up on my doorstep, I would not have taken him in: this was a man who beat his wife (in front of us), who threatened to lie to the police so we would be taken from my mom (who, by the way, is a great parent) and placed in foster care, who lost both his business AND our house to the bank due to his alcohol abuse and narcissism; and who never, not once, paid child support after my parents divorced, and when the state finally got around to garnishing his wages, tried to file a lawsuit against my mother for alimony.

When he died, however, as his next-of-kin, I did pay for his body to be cremated, and we spread his ashes in a lake next to the city he lived in. I could have just gone ahead and not claimed the body at all, but despite the horrible things he did to us, I felt I should take responsibility for that.

Hi Tertia,
Thanks for writing this post, it has stirred some strong emotions in me.

I grew up with an emotionally and verbally abusive mother. Growing up was tough, especially my teenage years, as she would call me a Prostitute and "bar girl" for experimenting with clothes and makeup.
There were many times I felt like running away from home.

When I got into my late teens and early 20s, she would repeatedly ask me to "faster get married and move out of my(her) house".
When I eventually married the man I've been dating for 6 years, I felt so relieved to finally be able to move out and not stay with my Mum!

When I had children of my own, my Mum again didn't cease her abuse. She would criticise me for breastfeeding, saying that her 2 sons were formula-fed and they both made it to University.
I felt like stabbing her mouth with a fork.

And as there were lots of other incidents and unhappiness in between, you can imagine what kind of a relationship I have with my own mother.
I'm not inclined to look after her AT ALL in her old age.
She wasn't there for me in my toughest times and when I needed a mother most, so I don't see a need to be there for her when she needs someone.

I'm just so glad to be married and not living with her anymore.

By the way, I'm from Singapore so maybe it's the Asian culture that sons are more valued than daughters.

Cheers!
Veron
Blog: www.dynamum.blogspot.com

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