I am a young professional making my own way, and my reality makes me increasingly tired of this dynamic. What would you do? Why can’t she see how hypocritical her behavior is?
Tell us: What’s your favorite Carolyn Hax Christmas column?
A.: Your reality, I think, makes her ask herself questions she’d rather not ask.
Could she do what you do if she has to? Could she make her own way? Where would she be if all that money hadn’t just fallen into her lap?
She knows she’s always had a pillow. She knows that the way you explore and test yourself is strange to her because she has never taken on that challenge. She knows you know both things about her.
Self-doubt is an uncomfortable place to sit.
She may not want to consider “how hypocritical her behavior is,” or has the guts to face it anyway. Maybe this money-then-complain-about thing is her way of expressing her discomfort. Simply put, it’s hard to dwell on your own things while hammering away at someone else’s.
Even though I’m totally wrong about her reasons for making a fuss about you, that general rule still applies. Persistent fault-finding is not a trait you often see in people who feel good about themselves because they tend to be at peace.
All this “why” is a sidebar to the “what” of these guilt trips. Guilt isn’t just something someone does to you, like hitting you with a rock; debt is a transaction. You must participate. You should feel guilty or worry that she thinks you should.
The way to avoid these reactions – which, by the way, is far more realistic than expecting your mother to change – is to either stop accepting her money or stop responding to her complaints. “No, thank you, mom.” “Thank you mom.” That is it.
Make it real, not mean, to show gratitude anyway. Sure, those trust fund swipes you take seem unnecessary in almost any context — and if I’m right about why she’s acting so weird to you, they’re a jab at her sore spot. You may feel like a powerless person who “pushes up,” but I think you’re underestimating your strength and, in this case, actually “knocking down” your mother.
So, “No, thank you, Mom” or, “Thank you, Mom.” Until it sticks.
When you feel grounded in your decision not to participate, you may find it interesting to get to know your mother a little better – and to find out what irritates her so much. When she starts “hanging” money over your head, you can gently point out what you’re seeing: “You seem confused about this. Is that fair? Is there anything you’d rather I do or want you to do?” I understand?” Seriously. Want to know. And decide in advance not to react emotionally, no matter how she reacts. “Okay, I’ll think about that” is a barrier to overreacting.
You can disrupt this bad dynamic between you, as I said, without knowing the “why” of her behavior – but understanding invites compassion, which brightens up any room.