Mom Needs To Let Go Of Adult Son

QUESTION

I am 24, out of college and looking for work. My mom calls me three to four times a day, checking on me and offering advice. When I go home it’s the same thing, she tells me about the mistakes she made and how she doesn’t want me to do the same things. I’m starting to feel real frustrated. How can I tell her to butt out of my life without hurting her feelings?

ANSWER

JILL:
What is happening is actually not about you but about your overly loving mom. She needs to move forward and embrace the second half of her life. You need to have the “Mom, I love you but………..” talk. I would recommend that it is done face to face on one of your trips home. Sit quietly in the comfort of her home and engage in an adult conversation. She has to see you as her grown up son, who needs to move on with his life and make his own mistakes. Stay away from giving examples as they are in the past. Everything that you say is about taking you both to the next level; you as an independent man (and isn’t that really what she has raised you to be) and her putting herself first.

She will probably get emotional but keep going. If you don’t have this conversation your loving relationship will start to crumble under the weight of her interference.
Tell her when you will be calling her; at first this may still be more than you want but you can decrease this slowly.

After you have gone back to your life, you need to set verbal boundaries
If she starts to call unannounced say that you will catch up with her on whatever day you have picked.

Initially keep the conversations upbeat and general. Ask her questions about her life and encourage (don’t push) her to follow new interests.
When she strays into advice mode, just say firmly “Thanks mom, I’ll work it out”.
If she starts to criticize something you have done “Mom, I really want to share this with you and I would like you to just listen.”

Lastly, ask her for her opinion. Now that might seem to contradict what you are working towards but it isn’t. It will make her feel needed and with time stop her from worrying about every little thing you are doing. She will relax and start to realize that for the big stuff you still value her experience.

VICKI:
Your frustration is understandable on many levels:
1. You’re holding back from speaking your truth and that creates disharmony within.
2. You’re boundaries are being crossed and that causes anger.
3. When your parent offers unsolicited advice or questions you it may appear as if they have no faith in you; this can make a person feel small.

Jill was absolutely correct when she said that it is not about you. Your mother has obviously made choices in her life that she regrets and is trying to save you from having regrets. She is guilty of loving you the best way she knows how.

Follow the steps Jill has outlined for you and make sure when you speak to your mother that you acknowledge that you understand that she is acting out of love and that you love her for it.

Make sure you tell her exactly how her actions affect you; be honest about your feelings using gentle words, however when letting her know what you expect from her be firm.

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2 Responses

  1. wow, great practical advice for a commonly experienced situation. i like how you reversed the problem to focus on helping the mother. keep it up jill and vicki!

  2. I enjoy reading your articles- keep up the great work!

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