<p data-uw-rm-sr="">I've been a long time follower of the forum and it's heart-warming to see the support and empathy shown to members. I'm not yet in the deep end of the care giving journey but anticipate to land there in the next few years. My mother immigrated to the US over 30 years ago and has raised me as a single parent without any support. She recently turned 65 and I'm about to turn 39. I was living a short flight away from her for about 5 years but have moved back into town (less than 40 min away) during the pandemic a few months into my marriage. There was always an understanding that it was just the two of us in this world and an implicit expectation that I would be there for her as she got older. Since I started working after college I began contributing to household bills and have continued to do so after moving out to the tune of around $2000/month. This also includes expensive gifts and contributing to large household expenses. I'm fortunate enough to be able to work from home now in a pretty high level position, but I've been helping her financially at the expense of my own future from the start of my career. I call her pretty much every day with most conversations centering around her complaints and frustrations. If I skip a day, she will manage to remind me that she has no one else to talk to. After moving back to town, I see her pretty much every weekend to clean her house, bring over cooked meals and groceries. Bringing in hired help is a challenge because her expectations are very high as well as finding someone willing to wear a mask and gloves (she's super COVID-conscious). I find it easier to put the labor in myself at this point. Although we have no children, this schedule has put a strain on my marriage because my husband thinks I'm prioritizing my mother's needs over our relationship sometimes. We live in a very expensive city in California and my mother isn't able to retire and hasn't planned for it at all. She works from home but gets overwhelmed with daily upkeep tasks. Although she lives in a townhouse in one of the best neighborhoods in the city, she always complains because she doesn't have enough indoor and outdoor space. She's worked really hard all the years she's been in this country so she is depressed over getting stuck in her current circumstances. When I was a child I told her that I'd love for us to live in a mother/daughter house so we can always be close by. My sentiment has changed - our relationship, while mostly good, is fraught with the usual complexities (she still thinks she knows best, is quite judgmental and uses me as a dumping ground for all problems and unresolved trauma with her own mother). While I would be fine with her moving closer so that I can be more present for her during the week and she would feel like she'd have more nearby support as she gets older, she doesn't like my neighborhood because it's not as high brow as hers. She brings up options, which are often very expensive and inconvenient for me (moving to the middle of nowhere to get a property with more land so that I can build her a house on it). She's even started mentioning moving in together but quickly commenting that "she doesn't want to be where she's not wanted". I recognize that she's had a very difficult life. Her family was abusive and awful, no successful romantic relationships, no friends. She is a great mother and has done everything possible to make sure I feel loved. At the same time, I resent being the only backstop, support system, and retirement plan. Objectively speaking I already do a lot more for her than most people do for their parents at that age. How do I balance the prison of guilt/obligation and the desire to not feel trapped by our circumstances?

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“my husband thinks I'm prioritizing my mother's needs over our relationship sometimes”

You absolutely are. 1000%. He is absolutely correct and you owe him an apology. You are lucky he hasn’t left you yet and when he does leave, he is going to leave skid marks.

I’m sorry but you need to hear this. HEAR ME.
Helpful Answer (7)

You have only one life and your husband and marriage come first. I too caved for many years to my mother's demands, manipulations, meltdowns until I just had enough. I needed to be honest with her and tell her NO! you can't live with me. NO! I'm not giving you more money. NO! your not coming over for the holidays (where you misbehave and upset everyone).

When I stood up for myself. Yes, she had a meltdown and that only showed me her true colors. What she really thought of me...nothing more that someone to use to get what she wanted. Push your guilt aside and stand up for yourself, your husband and the life you really want.
Helpful Answer (7)

"Our" circumstances? Really, just her circumstances. She's a full-grown adult who's had her whole life to plan for retirement (by not living in such an expensive place for starters) and didn't. She's been treating you as if you were her spouse, not her child. What's she is doing to you is dysfunctional. No one can be "assumed" into a cargiving role. You don't have to accept it. You have a life and you should live it.

Others on the forum will post about F.O.G. (fear, obligation, guilt). You have options. If she's controlling and using you it is because you have never put up healthy boundaries and defended them. Respectfully, please consider talking to a therapist so that you get an fresh, objective perspective on your situation. is accessible and affordable.
Helpful Answer (6)

You are married now so things have changed. Dramatically. Your mother is complaining while you write checks to support her high falutin lifestyle and hubby is upset, rightfully so, that you've prioritized her over him. Mother can take some of that $$$ you give her and hire a housekeeper and order food online to be delivered, until you cut her off next month. I'm a year older than she is and would NEVER take money from my children so I can live higher on the hog than they do! That's disgraceful, imo.

Once you tell her how you can no longer finance her life and devote your weekends to cleaning her townhome, ask her what she intends to do next? Find a smaller, less expensive apartment with more outdoor space? Perhaps move to a less bougie part of town? You have a husband and a life now that doesn't include building a home for HER in your plan. You'll always love her and go to visit her, but now you've entered a new phase of life, sorry mom. Her passive-aggressive statements of not being wanted should not be ignored. She's trying to guilt you into acquiescence!

Set down some HARD BOUNDARIES with the woman you don't change for anything. Get some therapy to help you realize you deserve a life of your own now, as an adult of 39 years old, and your mother is a user. No "good mother" who loves her daughter so much would EVER allow her to give up her LIFE like this and pay her way to boot. Open your eyes and realize the truth. You matter more than you realize, my friend.
Helpful Answer (6)

Unfortunately you have become completely enmeshed in each others lives and this is very entrenched and will be difficult to untangle. It will get worse before it gets better once you begin to set some boundaries with the help of a good therapist. Your question was about balancing the "prison of guilt" and desire "not to feel trapped".

I don't think you can balance those things. You are indeed trapped and will continue to be until you start to set boundaries.

It is easy for us all to sit here and say what you should do. I think you know. The fact that you are her sole source of emotional support is not normal, never mind the financial aspect. No wonder you feel drained. I can't imagine there is much left for your husband. Read up on enmeshed relationships. You will need a lot of therapy to break these patterns since you have been emotionally caretaking for her since you were a child. You deserve your own life free from the albatross of guilt. What you are doing now is not sustainable.

I'm really sorry you are in this situation and wish you the best and hope you can break free and that she can find some other outlets. No one person can be the sole support for another. No one person can meet one hundred percent of another's needs, especially not between parent and child.
Helpful Answer (6)
Beethoven13 Dec 19, 2023
A very insightful and helpful reply. The action and behavior change required is difficult but can be done. It’s so helpful to have support around you from people who understand or who have done it.
I think there is a red flag here for your marriage. I don't think it will go the distance unless you make some changes. Your mother is on the young side and already your husband is feeling that you are prioritizing her needs over his.

If you love your husband, do not take him for granted. A spouse has to come first and it doesn't sound that he does in your life from what you have written. I don't think you can have a marriage and be so enmeshed in your mother's life.

You have three people in your marriage. You need to figure this out.
Helpful Answer (6)

My mother also “raised me as a single parent without any support” – and my two sisters. She didn’t migrate to Australia, she went with my father who then went back to the UK leaving her with absolutely no family closer than 12,000 miles. She supported herself as a teacher (technically still married so 60% of the male wage and not allowed to be permanent), and she NEVER took money from any of us. She moved herself into a senior living place after we all left home, and made her own life. She had a sharp tongue on occasions, but she was tough and she was never a complainer. Phones were just for emergencies - we didn’t have one when I was growing up, and the habit stuck. Yes eventually I did see her weekly, and I moved in with her while she died. But she didn't dominate my life.

Stop saying or thinking that yours was ever a great mother, or that you owe her anything special now. She really wasn’t so special, and you don’t owe her much – certainly not your life, your money or your marriage. Forget about any 'implicit expectations' she dropped on you when you were too young to understand the implications - see them for what they really were. Consider moving away, so that her only option is to get on with her own life. Drop the bomb, and look for cover!
Helpful Answer (6)

IMO your priorities are messed up, your relationship with your husband should always come first.

As for supporting your mother to the tune of $2,000 a month that is crazy. She needs to downsize or get a roommate.

Is your mother handicapped or just plain spoiled? Why do you do everything for her? Stop going there every weekend, spend the time with your husband before you lose him.

Guilt the buzz word of the 21st century, self-imposed thought process that is keeping you stuck.

Have a sit down with your mother, lay out your boundaries and stick to them.

You are only trapped because you do not have the backbone to stand up to her, this is you doing this to you.

Good Luck.
Helpful Answer (6)

Why have trained your mom to be dependent upon you? I can’t think of any valid reasons why you would do this.

Why does she feel entitled to be living in a neighborhood more expensive than you do? Or more importantly, why do you feel that she is entitled to more than you have?

Of course, your husband is going to feel ‘less than’ your mother. He deserves to be number one in your life.

I don’t care how much money that you make, if you keep spending it like there is no tomorrow, you will be sorry.

I can’t imagine doing this to my daughters. I want them to use their money for their own needs.

Please do yourself a favor and make an appointment with a therapist.
Helpful Answer (5)

Oh, honey--

this is so far from being healthy and workable--how does your Dh put up with this dynamic??

My daughter lives in the Bay area and I don't know how they survive--they were able to buy a tiny little bungalow and were thrilled with the $1.3 million dollar price tag.

I'd NEVER ask my kids to help me, financially. It's my responsibility to take care of me--evidently you and mom feel differently.

If you can take a big step back and read your post as if you didn't know you were the OP, would you feel differently?

People generally NEED some space in their togetherness. Parents need to allow their kids to break ties and establish new boundaries. Your mom's not doing that and you're not helping her.

My DH is not terribly 'invested' in our marriage, but he would NEVER EVER allow either of our mothers to move in with us. That's a death knell for most marriages.

At least you are questioning your choices. That gives hope!

Couples counseling would be a good start and might help you see things clearly.

This is not 'love' This in indentured servitude. You can be supportive of mom and also have a personal life. I hope you seek that out before it becomes impossible to do so.

You're kicking in $2K a month to help mom maintain her lifestyle. Maybe in your budget-world that's just psocket change, but in the rest of the world (that's not California!!) $2000 a month is a lot. My mother lived on that amount for 20 years.

You can have a close relationship with mom and your DH. You can't continue to pay for mom's excesses. I guarantee your DH is going to have thoughts about that.
Helpful Answer (4)
whyme8 Dec 18, 2023
Thank you for the response. I should've made it clear that my mother never asked me for money. I have always volunteered it and it became so ingrained me that I just continue to do it because frankly it's the easiest part and the most transactional. My husband knew about his before we got married and is luckily a very generous man with strong family values. I've actually seen a therapist already, when my relationship with my mother was at it's breaking point early last year. Also went back to anti depressants for a short while after many years without medications. To be honest I feel guilty just posting this because it somehow feels wrong to speak to my situation in a public forum. If there's anything I learned is that we can only me responsible for our own decisions and how we engage with others. Everything else is a wash.
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