parent opinion

So I Can't Tell Anyone But... 'I want to cut my mum out of my life.'

For many families, the parent-child relationship isn't as easy and natural as the movies might have us believe. And when the child becomes an adult, the complexity of this relationship, especially when grandchildren are involved, can get harder to deal with.

But cutting a parent out of your life forever is not an easy decision to make, even if their presence in your life is mostly a toxic one.

This is the dilemma facing one upset mum named Katie who says her mum is a constant critical and controlling presence in her life.

In a post on Netmums, Katie wrote and asked for advice about whether it is time to cut her mum out of her life for good.

"Recently I have realised how much of an impact my mother has on my life," Katie writes.

"She comments on every aspect of my life and insists on making comments until I change things. I have realised I can’t make decisions without her approval. For some reason I can’t do anything that she would disapprove of, it makes me feel so uneasy and on edge."

Watch: Be a 'good mum' with Laura Byrne. Post continues below.

Video via Mamamia.

Katie, who is a pregnant mum in her thirties, says she lives with her partner and her mum's interference in her life is causing problems in her romantic relationship.


"She criticises my life and my relationship and my partner has noticed it but she mostly does it when it’s only me and her, but sometimes she can’t help herself and does it in front of him. For example, she went on and on about my partner's new car for months. She said things like, 'I can’t believe you let him get that', 'I never would have allowed that', 'Why have you not stood your ground', 'Why have you not got a new car yet' etc. 

"She was on at me [about the car] for months and the other day I reacted to my partner and demanded he sell the car to get two more practical cars. Then mum backtracked on what she said and I felt confused and doubted what I was doing."

Katie writes how her mother has "got into her head" and while the car was just one example of their exchanges, she says that it always seems to come at the expense of her relationship with her partner.

"I don’t know why I’m such a people pleaser when it comes to her," she writes. 

"The situation with the car is irrelevant, her interference is the issue. I didn’t see the car as an issue until she kept bringing it up."

Her critical mum also has a lot to say about her parenting of her son and is constantly undermining and criticising her decisions.

"She comments on the way I am bringing up my child. I am trying my best to do everything right by him. She pressured me to put him in nursery too early and I sent him to nursery [daycare] for four months when I didn’t want to. He hated it. He’s autistic, and he wasn’t ready but I felt like I had to. I know I sound pathetic when I write this.


"She tells me I don’t do enough for him and I don’t take him to enough places but I try my best! I’ve just come back from a two-week holiday abroad and now she tells me I shouldn’t have gone on holiday so I could have better spent the money. 

"I always feel like I can’t win. I just want to do nice things for my son, give him love and care and make him happy and she always finds something to critique me on. You’d think she was the world's best parent with the way she is so judgemental and critical of me. Right now we are not talking, I have said I need to stay away from her, and I’m debating whether to remove her from my life completely."

Replies and feedback on the post mostly empathise with Katie's situation and advise the creation of boundaries with her mum in the future.

"I think before you cut her off you need to give her a chance," one comment reads.

"Be blunt and say, 'I am the mum, it's my decision not yours. If I want your opinion I will ask, until then please don’t comment,' in a respectful tone of voice. You are no longer a child, you are an adult and that relinquished her responsibility."

Certified relationship coach Katie O'Donoghue says that this issue with over-involved and highly critical parenting is a difficult one to deal with.

"There's a high level of enmeshment and helicopter parenting going on here and just for clarity: enmeshment refers to a lack of healthy boundaries between people, and it can feel suffocating and emotionally distressing," she tells Mamamia.

"In this particular case, the mother's constant comments and insistence on controlling aspects of her daughter's life are signs of enmeshment. The daughter expresses her inability to make a decision for herself which can often suggest that her autonomy has been stunted, and it's likely this has been the case for a long time (possibly since childhood)." 


"Moreover, the mother's constant criticisms are the reason why her daughter feels a lack of autonomy around her choices and it merely highlights the mother's lack of respect (or love) for her daughter above all else"

Relationship coach Katie says that to move forward and change this highly dysfunctional relationship some self-awareness is required. 

"It's important that the daughter realises that she cannot change her mother but she can change her response to her mother - and that truly healthy and intimate relationships do require boundaries. That said, the daughter needs to highlight what her boundaries are with her mother from what topics of conversation are okay to talk about or not, to how much quality time together is enough if it feels good. 

"If her mother continues to show up in this way, some temporary, intentional distance may be necessary if all else fails. If her mother continues to disrespect her daughter and her newly set boundaries, then the ultimate boundary of cutting complete contact may be what's needed - and that's okay even with a family member given her wellbeing is clearly at risk." 

Katie O'Donoghue is a Relationship Coach and the host of the Self Explained podcast. You can find more about her on Instagram or her website.

Feature Image: Getty.

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