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help for support living with extended family with spec. circumstances

post #1 of 12
Thread Starter 

I have a serious issue to deal with and I really need some encouragement, ideas, or support otherwise. I'm not sure if this is a good place for it or not, but it seems related.


My six year old daughter, Abryn, and I have just moved in with my grandma, who has Alzheimer's and is being taken care of primarily by my mother, who lives here also, along with my little 16 year old brother, Jake. It sounds cramped, but there's plenty of room: there is a finished basement with two bedrooms, living room, and everything we need down there. My daughter and I stay down there in one room and my brother in the other. We're get along great and communication is open and friendly.


Upstairs is where my concern lies. My mom also has a myriad of undiagnosed health problems (such as alcoholism, insomnia, and possible heart conditions, which have worsened in the past few days) and is chronically grumpy with me and has been since I was a teenager, when she had an abusive 12 year marriage with my step dad.


I have taken tons of Positive Discipline training as well as having worked in a Montessori school for 2 years (which follows similar disciplines) I have a good foundational understanding of how I need to be treated and what I'm willing to do for others.


My mom treats me worse than anyone I have ever known and I'm having a hard time trying to figure out which boundaries to put up and how to nurture myself properly so that I can stay here and help and also be a good mom! My mom has always been extremely intolerant of imperfection and it's caused a lot of stress and anxiety. I've done a lot of self work to heal and I'm 27 now. She still jumps at me for the slightest mistake and I am constantly on my toes with her.


My grandma needs me. My mom is only here making sure she's alive, but she doesn't care about my grandma the way a caregiver should. My grandma and my daughter and I have always been very close and I used to come over every weekend just to sit and hang out, talk, have a good time with her. She loves my daughter. My mom, on the other hand never had much of a relationship with my grandma at all. She's happier if grandma's not trying to do anything that gets in her way, like talking too much or being otherwise happy to be up and about, doing whatever (sometimes silly) thing my grandma does (like putting things in the wrong places). Until my daughter and I moved in, my grandma slept most of the day. Since we've been here she's been awake more (sometimes in the middle of the night). And my mom hates it. It's a lot easier for her when my grandma is sleeping.


Is there a better place to put this?

post #2 of 12

<hug> That sounds like a rough situation... I think this kind of thread could probably go in the main Parenting forum. I think TAO tends to be heavier on fluff threads or things that have nothing to do with the challenges of parenting.

post #3 of 12

IDK, Id probably just keep it here at TAO. There has been a request put in a long time ago for people who want to see a forum for people who are taking care of their elders. I think it was denied, but there might be a tribe somewhere?


It sounds to me like you've signed up for taking care of a lot of people. Your grandma needs you help as a caregiver, you are going to end up using a lot of energy to take care of your mom/defend yourself, and it seems pretty likely to me that Jake is not being parented very well and you will likely take a more parental role to your little brother as well. 


Have you read Toxic Parents by Susan Forward? It has a lot of good suggestions for how to use boundaries to defend yourself, as well as what expectations you can reasonably have for people who struggle with addiction. It sounds like the major problem here is your mom- I'm sorry you have to deal with that. 

post #4 of 12
It sounds to me like you are trying to be too many things for too many people. You have to put yourself first and then your daughter. I personally could not live under those circumstances and would get my own place quick. I don't do well walking on eggshells and I need major space away from my Mom.

You can still help from your Grandma from a distance in order to protect your emotional health.
post #5 of 12
Thread Starter 

thank you! It helps just to have someone listen.


I've studied the concept of toxic parents a little. I think it's time for me to join a group like Al-Anon, if I can. 


My daughter and I were living in a homeless shelter before this, so even this seems better than that and I actually feel very blessed to be able to do this, generally. I know that I can help my grandma and even my brother and my daughter, but you're right, my mom is the challenge. She's very defensive, so I tried writing her a letter. It was just very honest about my intentions here and my feelings of care for everyone. I did my best to just put very positive, understanding, encouraging, and meaningful things in the letter. I knew that if I tried to have a conversation with her about it, she would get defensive about something she thought I was saying and I wouldn't even get the chance to say the real things underneath it all. So I hope she's read that. I haven't heard a word.


I'm also afraid of her kicking me out. But I have a feeling that although she gets stressed out about me, she is also happy to have the help.


Last night my grandma stayed up til midnight and my mom was having problems with pain in her shoulders and back (I honestly am concerned about her heart at this point, but she won't listen). So I took the night shift so my mom could relax and she wouldn't have that kind of help otherwise. 


You're right about my brother, also. My mom has spoiled him like crazy. He doesn't have to help with grandma at all. She does way too much for him and buys all the latest gadgets for gaming so that he spends most of his days after school and on weekends just playing video games all day long. And it's been that way since he was very young. He's 16 and yet the only chore he has to do is take the garbage out and my mom makes all the meals. Sometimes she defends him when I, respectfully, ask him simple requests out of courtesy, like when it comes to a disagreement between him and my daughter. It's kinda crazy. She feels like she screwed up with me and my 25 year old brother and she's hoping to not do the same to Jake. I feel like even though me and my other brother went through hell when we were kids, we weren't pampered like Jake and we know how to handle stress in life. My little brother, however, seems like he's gonna depend on my mom forever. He should be learning to drive, in my opinion, but he's not. And no need for work or a job. I remember the day I turned old enough to work I found a job cuz I wanted money. I think that's healthy. He doesn't have to earn anything he gets.


I don't feel overwhelmed though because there is a lot of positivity in my life and now that I'm 27 I've learned not to take my mom's reaction to me personally because it's obvious that her problems with me have mostly just do with herself. I just want to figure out a good boundary making system with her that makes her feel understood and respected (not defensive) and still gets my point across.

Edited by Tmaynard1 - 10/30/12 at 9:00am
post #6 of 12
Thread Starter 

I can't find my own place because I can't afford it.


I'm going to school and just living off my student loans since I can stay here rent free, and like the past post said, I was homeless for three months before now. 


School is the most important thing to me now. I know what I want to do and getting there will come faster the harder I work at school. I just can't do school plus work plus taking care of my daughter because I don't have the support I need to be like that on my own. I've tried. I tried for 4 years in a big town 45 minutes away. I was doing alright until the stress of my life really kicked in and I started needing therapy for support from abusive upbringing and the stress of not having one person to rely on in hard times. So I started therapy at a great place for women and children victims of domestic violence and got into school so that I could start filling my cup instead of constantly pouring myself out. 


My strong point is my heart for others. I am caring to a default. So now that I've taken a break from work (output) and started school (input) I'm doing so much better emotionally. And parenting my daughter has become more fun and easy to do because I actually have time to think about why I love being a mom and I have more time to really take care of myself by doing yoga and exercise and therapy.


I've got to do it this way to keep my sanity since I am the only one who really supports my daughter. Her dad has her on weekends but until now he hasn't been supportive. Now that we live in the same town as he does he and his mom want to help out a little bit more.


I can handle the challenge of my mom because being alone and without support is nothing compared to this. Here, my basic needs are met and I can finish school faster. Not to mention more support for my daughter.

post #7 of 12
This quote and the poem below help me keep everything in perspective: "Everyone is responsible for their own happiness."

Woman With Flower
I wouldn't coax the plant if I were you.
Such watchful nurturing may do it harm.
Let the soil rest from so much digging.
And wait until it's dry before you water it.
The leaf's inclined to find its own direction;
Give it a chance to seek the sunlight for itself.

Much growth is stunted by too much prodding,
Too eager tenderness.
The things we love we have to learn to leave alone.

--Naomi Long Madgett
post #8 of 12

Okay, sorry you are going through this.  Eldercare issues + family issues + raising your child in a less-than-ideal environment is NOT easy. 


Why have you mived into this situation?  Are you to become the primary caregiver to your grandmother?  Does the house belong to her?


If you Mom is so upset with caring for her own Mother, why is she doing so?  Does Mom not have a place to live?


You have stepped into an area where you will no longer be the granddaughter, you are leaving that and becoming a caregiver, and this will change the enitre family dynamic.  Your daughter will become secondary to a lot, if you do this.  Unless you can find and secure back-up/respite care, it will all fall on you.


Are there any Alz assisted living residences nearby?  Even ones that offer respite care?  What senior services are available in your area?  Have you spoken with your grandmother's physician about the situation?


What is the financial situation here? Is your Mom working outside the home?  I see you are homeschooling, does this mean you are not working outside the home?


With Alz, things are not going to get better.  I am not trying to be cruel here, but I have dealt with eldercare and dementia for the past 10+ years, so I know of what I speak.  It will take a tremendous toll on everyone, especially you, as you are trying to hold everything together in an environment that sounds, at best, tense.  Unless you set-up clear guidelines of "who-does-what" and "what-will-happen-if/when", NOW, you are going to find yourself in deep ykw. 


You need to sit down with your Mom and brother and discuss the hard realities of what is sure to come, especially as regards your own Mom's health.  Your brother is certainly old enough to be a part of this discussion and should be involved in decisions that directly involve his own life and living arrangements.   


If I were in your situation, I wouldn't bring my daughter into this environment, not when it is as bad as you indicate regarding your Mom.


Our 13 year old son has been involved in eldercare issues (with both my late parents and with fil) for 3/4 of his life.  He is a very compassionate child, but, in retrospect, it wasn't fair to do this to him.  He had so many vacations and other events put on hold because of his grandparents.  He saw people that he loved, and had deep relationships with, disappear before his eyes as they retreated into dementia (from strokes).  He saw (and, sees) the stress that it puts dh and I under.  Nope, we wish we'd done things differently.


Dh is an only child and I am the only one of 4 children that gave a damn about our parents.  I did it because I loved my parents, but it also caused a great hatred of my we-don't-want-to-be-involved siblings.  Our parents are both dead now, but the feelings against my siblings caused a permanent split between us.   


Feel free to PM me if you have any questions.


Hugs to all of you, it won't be easy.

post #9 of 12

Edited: I took a very long time to compose my thoughts and see that I cross posted...


I know what you mean about walking on eggshells around your mom. I felt the same way about my dad, though not to the same degree you describe your mom.  4 years ago I started caring for him a few times a week. Even though he's elderly, is in kidney failure and is very fragile, boy, it was like I'm 17 y.o. again, feeling ashamed about...anything and everything, really, and constantly trying to read his mind to know how to do things right. We had these rolls we both knew exactly how to play, him giving orders and criticizing, me jumping and trying and failing to do whatever right. I can tell you, those first months, every time I came home from my dad's I bitched to my dh about how imperious, pushy and obnoxious my dad was.


At least this time I've got some adult insight and I can question what's going on between us. He's old and his health is bad.  Mom had just died. She was the do-er, the one who knew how to get things done. I think he was scared and lonely. 


We've gotten to a much better place, with him treating me decently, instead of like a screw-up.  Frankly I think it's because I pulled back emotionally so his words didn't hurt as much. NOW I've had experience dealing with small children and their irrational tantrums.  And so when he started getting pushy I simply ignored it.  I ignored the tone of voice and tried to figure out what he actually needs. And provide solutions, or a range of solutions.  And I consistently, resolutely enforce boundaries.


She still jumps at me for the slightest mistake and I am constantly on my toes with her.


Are they really mistakes?  Or, with anybody else besides your mom, would they be non-issues (or nearly so)?  Are you apologizing when you don't need to? Does your body language communicate that you're apologizing or otherwise feeling bad?  You are only 27 y.o., and this is prime transition time for women and their parents. You're learning that your mom is limited, perhaps severely.  You might be bumping against unmet expectations -your mom doesn't behave entirely the way a mom should.  Allow yourself to mourn how it should have been, ideally. But let that image of your mom go, and accept her for what she really is. Remember that she was 27 y.o. once and is just a person, like you.  It will make it much easier to know how to respond to her.


I think your mom is in a tough spot, too.  Alzheimers is really difficult.  She's probably tired and resentful.  After all, her mom, her adult daughter and grand daughter are living with her.  That's not how the story is supposed to go. With only a 16 y.o. left, she should be looking at just another 2 years of active parenting. But her difficult mom lives with her and is going to live how much longer? wink1.gif Honestly, having 2 grown women live with me would be difficult. I want things the way I want them. I'm not excusing your mom if she's neglecting her mom, just offering insight from a 44 y.o. mom.


Does she get breaks? Is her mom ever out of the house, completely under someone else's care?  You're wanting to step in and care for your grandmother, but does your mom know?  Can you say, "Mom, I can see how this is stressful for you. It must be very difficult to see your own mom dwindling like this.  I can see you need a break, and I want to help."

Edited by journeymom - 10/30/12 at 9:29am
post #10 of 12
I don't feel overwhelmed though because there is a lot of positivity in my life and now that I'm 27 I've learned not to take my mom's reaction to me personally because it's obvious that her problems with me have mostly just do with herself. I just want to figure out a good boundary making system with her that makes her feel understood and respected (not defensive) and still gets my point across.


This is good, learning not to take her actions personally is a big step. I think it's simply always going to be a difficult situation. Three adults living together under those circumstances would be a little challenging under the best of circumstances. The letter is a good idea.  But know that while you only intend to help, she might perceive your actions as simply interfering.  You sweep in and want to make changes.  Is it possible that's how she perceives your attempts to help? 


Also, how long have you been there? These things do take time. 

post #11 of 12
Thread Starter 

thank you!

post #12 of 12
Thread Starter 

Sorry that thank you was meant to be a reply to a certain post. I didn't know it would't work that way. 


Now I've got some time to respond...


I moved in here two weeks ago because living in the shelter was creating so much stress that I just couldn't handle it after three month. I was beginning to be very angry towards my daughter because of the strict schedule and the fast pace that everything had to be in the shelter. The kids were never allowed to be just kids and the other kids there were pretty mean and angry also. So my daughter had to go through a lot while living there. I'm normally a very patient mom and at the shelter there is just no time for patience. 


And I wasn't doing very well in school because of the strict shelter rules, which meant that I had to study in a room full of people talking, eating, doing whatever, and watch my child at the same time. I tried staying up late but there are just people around all the time and no space for being alone and quiet.


I also don't have a car, only a bike, and absolutely no support. Having a serious lack in support, I'm finding, is a really crippling thing in my life.


So my mom said I could move us in with her and grandma, use her cars, go to school, and she would support me the best she could. I said that would be great and I would help out with grandma and bills and everything. I'd pay for my own gas and food and other personal bills. She said that would be great. That was the agreement when we moved in.


My grandma's house does belong to her. My grandpa died a few years ago and left it to my grandma, but she, of course, can't be responsible for it, so my mom has been in the sluggish legal system in this small town for a long time trying to get guardianship. I believe my grandpa left guardianship to my uncle, Rich, but he hasn't been around and has too many problems mentally to do it anyway. He's been a bum musician for all his life and hasn't been here to help with Grandma at all. He tried for a little while but couldn't take it, so my mom took over and moved in. So she's trying to get guardianship and she says it's just taking a long time. I don't really know all the details cuz she doesn't explain it all. I'm sure she thinks I don't need to know.


My mom is upset with taking responsibility for most of her life. She has these health problems that rule her life and having more responsibility makes things harder for her. She's doing it because there's no one else to do it. I'm hoping that she'll see how much I help and how much me and grandma really get along (mom and grandma don't) and how my attitude about it is a lot more laid back and she'll transfer more responsibility onto me over time. I know she wants to do the best thing.


My mom had an apartment before she moved in here. I don't think it's due to her not having a place to stay. Although, who knows. I don't know how easy it will be for my mom to get a job after this. Her health is just so terrible and she is becoming more and more reclusive.


I have always been a sort of caregiver for my grandma. I've been coming here for years and I've always recognized that she gets along best with me and my daughter and that it's important for her to have meaningful relationships. It's no big deal to me. I can be granddaugther and caregiver just fine.


My daughter and I have separate spaces for just me and her downstairs where we are not even bothered at all by my mom or grandma. My mom respects our needs and it seems to be working out where I can spend the time I need to with my daughter and also help out. My mom needs me most at night when my daughter's already sleeping. And I make sure to spend one on one time with my daughter almost every day. My daughter and I have a really great relationship. She also gets to run around our 1/2 acre of backyard and field, which is great for her! she's never had that before. I don't believe my daughter will come second to my grandma. My mom isn't planning on leaving. She'll stay until grandma dies. So I'm just going to be a partner, not sole caregiver. And I think it will be good for my daughter to see. Right now there are four generations of family in our house and that's a special thing. The house is big enough for all of us. My grandpa built it when they were planning on having lots of kids. They only ended up with two, my mom and my uncle.


My daughter is not feeling in lack of my presence and she is getting to see how you take care of your family when they need you. I think it's an important lesson to learn.


My mom wants to get Grandma into a home of some sort...she's just waiting on all the legal guardianship stuff and in this small town everything takes longer than usual.


The financial situation is this. My grandpa had a lot of money saved up and also invested in stocks, bonds, and other things. It's all in my grandma's name. So my mom uses parts of her savings and parts of grandmas allowance to keep up health and house. My mom doesn't work outside the home because my grandma needs constant care. And my mom doesn't have access yet to the money my grandma has because of the guardianship issue. She just has enough to live right now. 


So no, my mom doesn't get any breaks. That's what I'm going to help with. My mom knows she needs a break and she's already planning to go out some weekend and stay in a hotel just by herself and relax and have me stay here with her. That sounds great to me. So far the past two nights she's gotten a break from staying up late with grandma and putting her to bed too. So she's finally getting the time she needs to relax.


Also, I don't homeschool. I just support it. Abryn goes to the elementary school right down the road. We ride our bikes there every day. :)


I know we need to set specific roles and expecations. We've already set up a date to sit down and do this together.


I think it will be fine to have my daughter here for a little while. I have had a hard life, but that's ok. I believe that it's ok to raise kids in circumstances that aren't perfect, as long as you have a strong, positive, lasting connection with your children, they will learn the best from it. And we have a great relationship. We've been in worse circumstances. She's happy to be here. And so am I.


My mom and uncle have had a bad relationship for years before my grandma needed care. So it's really no change now. Plus, he's not around anyway and doesn't keep in contact. It sucks, but it's normal and nothings going to change.


You're right, I AM treating my mom like a tantruming child. I think that's fine. I'm just trying to figure out what she needs and help her get it. That's the best way to handle my mom I think. It's hard work, but I think it builds character. I've always been very opinionated and now all my opinions are thrown out. It's humbling. I'm ok with it. There are other people I can get my need to be taken seriously fulfilled by. 

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