“I love my Mom, but sometimes I feel like I’m the grown-up. – Being the Adult Child

I often hear things like this:

“I love my mom, but it’s hard for us both as the years go on. It’s hard, being the adult child of your parent.

“I want to help her, but it’s overwhelming. She tells me ‘I’m just fine, don’t worry’, but then she asks me to help with a million things, from trying to log into her bank account to helping her out of her chair to finding her that spice that nobody even sells anymore.  
She tried to call five times yesterday.  I was busy at work, so I when I finally could, I called back, alarmed that there was an emergency. It turns out, she just wanted to know if I was at work or not, because she needed help remembering where she put her canned veggies. it’s just hard. I have two teenagers, one with his own health issues, one who is active and needs me to be there for her.  
I feel like these issues are a floating satellite, and I have no idea when and how they are going to crash.  With a sudden illness, or a crisis with her house, or something else.   Then I feel guilty, because she did so much for me my whole life.  Even when I was mad at her, she was the adult.
“I never imagined that I’d be so responsible for so much. I’m not even sure where to start with how to talk to her, or how or when to set some limits. Sometimes she gets mad and goes on these tirades about how no one gets what is like to be getting older and ill. I feel like I have to be careful what I say, because I just don’t want to get into it. She’ll just get more upset and berate me more. And she was often critical of me while I was growing up, but she can’t hear it back, now. It’s like she’s a child herself, and I’m the mom. I hate that. Part of me wishes I could help her, but part of me wants to RUN AWAY.”
You are not alone if you are feeling this way.  It’s not uncommon with caregiver stress.  Often the stress of coping with parents’ needs can go hand-in-hand with parenting children, be they very young, teenagers, or young adults.  Now that you are a “full adult”, yes, life with your parents has its tender moments, but it can also be frustrating. You feel like you need to walk on eggshells, even as you want to explode.  Some days are harder than others.  But when mom (or Dad) starts to get wrapped up in her own anger, sadness, and frustration, you wish you had something you could do or say.

But there are steps you can take to help you grow compassion even as you both face challenges.  They actually start with one simple step.

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Author: Irene

Irene Ilachinski is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker working as a psychotherapist in private practice in Fairfax, Virginia.

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