My Mom’s a Basket Case

Question: Dear Luise: I got married 2 weeks ago tomorrow. Before I got married my mother was struggling tremendously with everything that was happening.  She has never tried to control my life but all of a sudden she started telling me what to do and trying to control all situations.  Today I contacted her (the first day of being back from our honeymoon) by e-mail and I interpreted her e-mail to be very cold.  She seems to be taking everything in life far too seriously.  Everything is a struggle and hard.  What in the world is her problem and how do I handle her?  I am a wife and am trying to learn that I am frustrated with her for not showing me some grace.  Here is what she wrote: “I am wrestling with my (our) new roles, it is different, so many things happen, changes, growth, new boundaries.  I have never been a mother-in –law before, so I guess I will make some screw ups just like being a mom.  Life is a process.” What is she really saying? Please Help! J.

Answer: Dear J.: Well, this is a first for me. The post-wedding identity crisis is usually with the bride in her new role. I think many mothers may go through what yours is experiencing without knowing it consciously. Good for her for seeing it clearly and presenting it honestly.

Beyond that, it is her issue to resolve, not yours. Let her know that you are in the same boat and that you both have to work through what comes up for you, independently. You have a new life, a new home and a new identity. She may feel she has lost a family member in one way but has acquired an extended family at the same time.

Try something like: “”Hi Mom, Thanks for sharing what is going on with you. I’m in the same boat. New beginnings and no “User’s Manual.” Let’s be patient with ourselves and each other. You’re totally right…life is a process and there isn’t one among us that is going to do it perfectly. Not even close. I’m looking at these changes right now as an adventure. How you perceive them is up to you, of course, but know that I hold you in my heart. Thanks for everything, always…and tons of love, ”

If the situation accelerates, you may want to eventually suggest to her that she get counseling and you may also have to let her know that you don’t feel it is appropriate for you to share her plight with her since you have a pretty full plate. If it’s a bid for attention, don’t buy into it. Offer her my web-Forum: as a sounding board or come on over yourself, we’d love to have you.

Let her know that you want to hang out with her when you can, if that would be fun for her. Keep it light. That may be a tall order but it’s the only way I know of to get through this. Blessings, Luise

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