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Am I being unreasonable with my expectations of Mom.


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First off, let me say that my mom has generally been a really good mom, and I consider us to be close. But there are some issues going on right now between her and her two children (me and my brother), and I'm the one that has to handle it, because frankly, my brother just won't (too hurt).

Basicly, she is neglecting us.

Let me put it in perspective. I'm 44, my brother is 41, and Mom is 65. It's not like we need her day to day or anything. But the fact remains that she hasn't visited her children in years. (She's Southwest US, we're Southeast US). All because of her dogs.

When I say years, it means different things for my brother and I. My mom and I used to do a girls weekend once a year. About 7 years ago, she came to my neck of the woods, and she saw my kids then. After that there were at least a couple of more years where I went to see her. Then I felt like it was time for her to come see me, and waited. And waited. Got pretty passive aggressive about it, I admit. And nothing. Because of one excuse after another that she can't leave her dogs.

For my brother, it has been longer - probably at least 9 or 10 years. He's had some serious, life-threatening health issues, so it's not so simple for him to go see her. In those 9 nine years, he and his wife had a 2nd child, who's had his own issues with deafness and autism spectrum. Mom has never met this grandchild.

The excuses she gives are either money or health or both. It's money, because she has 3, and it costs so much to board them. It's health because one dog was abused and only feels safe with mom/does not respond well to strangers, and another dog is in declining health.

I get it. They need attention - fairly specialized attention. Can't just have the college kid down the street come over to feed and walk them.

However, her children - in particular, her son - need her attention. Me, I grumble that she won't come visit, play passive aggressive by trying to "wait her out", but eventually I cave and go see her - which I happen to be doing this weekend. I don't really "need" her for any life emergency or stress, just would like to spend time with her, and to have her get to know her grandchildren better. And I really can't afford airfare to take the four of us to see her.

My brother, on the other hand, could really use some nurturing from his mother. Like I alluded to earlier, he was nearly at death's door with a chronic cancer that they now have under control (but is not cured). He has an older teenage son, a younger son with developmental issues, and wife who's just trying to hold it all together. He's career Army, fairly low level rank, so money has never been plentiful for him to go see her, even if the life stress wasn't there. And certainly not enough to take the whole family to her.

I admit, I'm not much of a dog person. They're cute an all, and I can see how they add a lot of love to the family. I understand that they can be as important as children to some people - many of you here - but honestly, that is not me. So I'm asking you dog lovers out there - am I being unreasonable to expect my Mom to make the necessary arrangements for her dogs, even though they have mental and physical health needs, so that she can go see her kids and grandkids, given all that I've told you?

I leave first thing Friday morning to go see her. I'd really like some advice on how to handle this - or even if I should approach it this way. I'm thinking of having a heart to heart with her, telling her how much her son needs her, and she's missing out on some important things with her grandkids. I'm even willing to offer to pay for her airfare to go see my brother. (I'd have to dip into savings to do it, but he's worth it.) Am I asking too much of her?

All comments welcome.

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Well, notfred has a point; she may not be likely to change her behaviour after all this time. Yet, 65 is not too old to make changes in important areas of one's life.  And her children and grandchildren are important!


Anyway, "65 is the new 45".  (heh)


Yes, I believe it is appropriate to have a meaningful discussion with her about how you and your brother feel.  That is the key... to express how you feel, not how Mom should act.  


I'm a mom of two adult children and I don't think you are unreasonable at all in your expectations.  Whether she can or will meet those expectations is another matter.


However!   It may be difficult not to sound like you are "guilt-tripping" her.. she may be defensive.   I like your idea of offering to pay for part of her airfare for her to visit your brother (then she can afford to board the dogs.)   That is very generous; I can see how much you care for your brother.  You're offering her a solution to consider.  


If you focus on your feelings, (and to the extent you know his feelings, your brother's), a conversation may be helpful in getting her to realize how you and he feel about her choices. 


Your mom has the right to make the choices she makes (not able/willing to leave her dogs).    YOU have the right to tell her how you feel about her choice.  


I wouldn't make those same choices if it came down to seeing my children (and future grandchildren, I hope!)     That doesn't mean I am "better" than your mom; it just means that I prioritize things differently.  


I don't know if this has been helpful; I definitely feel for you and your brother.  I hope you can talk with her this weekend and make some progress.

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This isn't about the dogs.  This is about a woman getting her way and having other people cater to her.  If I wanted to see my children, dogs or no dogs, I would go see them.  


If I didn't want to see people and I was too manipulative to come out and say so, I might trot out the strained rationale that I would love to see my children and grandchildren, but you know, the dogs.   This woman has made her position clear.

Edited by eldorado
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I have a relative who is unable to travel for much the same reason - she can't leave her pet and is quite phobic about it. She's also a little phobic about traveling away from home which compounds it. What seem to other people to be trivial excuses are huge and insurmountable barriers to her. So I'm not jumping to the conclusion that your Mom's not going because she doesn't care. You know her better - does she seem to not care in other ways?


Mostly, I've never been a big fan of escalating situations like this just to make a point. Especially with family. That's how people end up not speaking to each other (or not seeing each other) for years on end over asinine things. If she can't or doesn't want to travel - go see her if you can. Tell her what you think about your brother, too. You'll probably know pretty quickly whether this is a "won't" or really "can't" issue with your Mom.

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Interesting perspectives. Makes me think.

She did not always used to be this way. She was with me for the birth of my two children. She was with my brother for the birth of his older son. She organized a big ol' family reunion at my brother's house - including my dad, with whom she does not get along - just before he shipped off to Iraq. So it's only been in the last few years, and the change has been gradual. Or maybe I've only gradually noticed it.

Anyway, this weekend will be illuminating. In no way am I looking to start a fight. I will be very gentle. I like the approach you suggested FC.

Part of me wonders if she's avoiding visiting out of guilt because she hasn't visited in so long. Or what if this is a symptom of a larger growing old issue? Or what if she's just been on her own too long, and patterns are now ruts? I don't know. I'm just rambling at this point.

Thanks for your responses!

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Your mom might be using the dogs as an excuse because she has mental or physical limitations. She may not want you or your brother to know that she's afraid of travelling or can't can't hold her bladder or anyone of a billion reasons. Maybe she is depressed. Or, maybe she focuses on the thing before her (dogs) and not so much on the impact to those who are not (you and your brother). Maybe it hurts too much when she is alone again after a visit. Maybe she's just a bitch. Maybe many things. You won't know until you talk openly, not to your mom, but to her as another adult.


I'd go have the heart to heart without the expectation that she's self-centered. Something may be up with her. Also, really, seriously, don't be passive-aggressive. You're better than that or should be. Deal with the situation openly and honestly and then accept your mom for who she is.


I could be totally wrong, but if she turns down your offer to fly her out and blames it on the dogs, she's lying to you or to herself and you.

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  • 4 weeks later...

She could have a friend that the dogs already know stay in the house overnight, if she is worried about special needs. I've paid my friends, who I met working at the doggie daycare to either visit my dog at our home, or to stay overnight with them. We paid less than the boarding kennel, but our friends got *all* of the money, instead of a percentage. Violet knew all three of her sitters, and loved them all.


Also, dogs with separation anxiety can be treated. I totally forget which meds they use, but they use them. My Boxer was medicated for separation anxiety the last year of her life.


Sorry, if a dog is mentioned, I fixate on it.

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