Home Groan

4 Jun

Letterbalm Bossy MotherDear LetterBalm: My sister and I moved back to our family home because I lost my job six months ago, and she hasn’t be able to find one since she graduated from college last year. Both of us are looking hard, and we’ve been able to find part-time work and freelance projects to contribute to the household and add to our savings. Everything was O.K. until my normally wonderful mother started acting like a prison warden – criticizing all aspects of our lives, especially our friends and our social life. My sister and I are over 21, with good friends and values. I have a strong job history and good professional contacts. We aren’t irresponsible, and we don’t run around. I’m not sure why Mom is doing this. She even makes caustic comments in front of our friends. We’ve had words, and my sister and I have had to lie about our separate plans so she doesn’t start in about how we could do better or how that person isn’t worth our time, etc. I need to get to the bottom of this and shut it down.

–Worse than Home Alone

There seem to be two conflicting ideas here: You and your sister are adults, but you now live under your mother’s roof. She may be projecting her worry about your respective job futures onto your present situation, blaming your friends and your social life as distractions from your job search. Ms. L.B. suggests that your mother sees you and your sister without resources, without work, without security. You need to have a talk with your sister first, then the two of you must sit down with your mom. You take the lead (your sister is there for silent support) and rehearse ahead of time. By all means, remain calm and sympathetic, but be firm (and, if your mom pushes her right as a parent, you and your sister should be prepared to seek alternative lodging):

Mom, Luanne and I want to talk with you about something that concerns us. But first, we want you to know how much we appreciate you welcoming us back home during this tough time. We’re seriously on the job hunt, you know that, and we’re contributing to the household. Luanne and I have faith that we’ll be getting jobs in good time. Which brings me to our problem. You’ve always been the most laid-back mother, so we don’t know why you’ve taken to criticizing our friends and how we spend our free time. This isn’t like you at all. We know you’re worried about our future, but it looks like your worries are spilling over into unfair and hurtful criticisms. Please stop this right away. We don’t want to stop having our friends here or keep our plans from you. We know we’re under your roof, and we respect that. So, if this is a problem, we need to discuss this together. You’ve raised us well so that we can handle our own lives, and we love you very much. Can we resolve this now?

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