When does a mother butting into her grown child’s business cross the line between unconditional love and pure nosiness? When is it appropriate to tell your mother to simply butt out of your business? Is it ever appropriate?
Growing up is hard to do, and for many mothers with grown children letting go and allowing them to live their life on their terms is a difficult thing to do. Regardless of the fact that their child is now grown with children of his or her own, they have hard time keeping their big mouths shut and their noses in their own business. This can be troubling, and the according to Psychology Today, can actually inhibit an adult child’s ability to learn, grow and feel confident in their own life as a partner and a parent.
Whether it’s the mom or the mother in law, telling her “This is NONE of your business mom,” is never an easy thing to do. Firstly, you know that at some level, it is going to hurt her feelings, and if she is like many people in this world – she will use those words against you in the future. Secondly, setting boundaries – even as an adult, is not an easy task. Most relationship experts recommend that adult children begin setting boundaries with their parents very early on after making major life changes such as landing a new job, living with someone, getting married or having children. Setting boundaries is not about telling your mom what she can or cannot do, but simply about rearranging the rules a bit, so that you can come up with a relationship that works for both of you.
If you haven’t set any boundaries with your mom, then chances are she is a Miss. Buttinski! She will come to your house unannounced, check out everything in your home and ask you about the new things that you have bought. She might ask you how you can afford ‘such and such,’ or question everything that you do with your kids. You might get to the point where you hate to share anything with your mom (or mother in law) because you know that will only open you up to her adding her two cents worth and berating every decision you make. Eventually, this will only hurt the relationship between the two of you. Instead of trying to avoid, or ignore – take proactive steps to set some boundaries and tell her politely to mind her own business. The following are a few tips!
- Start out being nice. Give your mom a hug, and tell her you appreciate that she loves you so much – but that you really want and need to figure some things out on your own. Point out that she raised you to be a smart adult, and that she has to have faith in the fact that you will make the right decisions! This approach assures her that you love and respect her, and gently suggests that you need some space.
- Be an adult, and instead of getting angry or resentful – explain to your nosey parent that they make you feel like a failure. Chances are this is NOT their intention, and knowing that they make you feel this way will help cajole them into changing their overbearing ways.
- Make sure you are armed with a laundry list of all the things your nosy mother does that you appreciate. If you try to set boundaries and limits by degrading or criticizing, chances are you will do nothing but hurt feelings. Then you mom, already overly involved in your life – will revert to the “Oh my gosh, I have done so much for him/her and this is how he/she repays me!” Remember that while you might take offense to being questioned about everything, you do love that she calls you to say good night every evening.
- Be specific! If she is over stepping boundaries, then have very specific examples in mind so that she can truly grasp what you are talking about. If she comes over at dinnertime every evening and disrupts your routine with the kids – then point that out and ask that she come either before or after dinner. If she tends to undermine your parenting, then point that out to her. If you cannot buy a new pair of shoes without her asking you 20 questions about why you bought them, where and how much they were – explain to her that this bothers you.
- Do not be wishy-washy! While you might crave independence and privacy, there might be a part of YOUR behavior that is constantly looking for reassurance. Some adult children will ask their parents for advice when they really don’t need it, or over involve their parents because they feel responsible for the mom’s happiness. If your mom has always needed to be needed – and you oblige her by keeping her ultra involved, you might be causing some of the problems.
- When none of the nice approaches work, be blunt! Say, “Mom, this is really none of your business!” Alternatively, say, “I am not comfortable talking about this!” Sometimes, especially for those that have extremely nosy mothers – this is the most practical approach and sends the clearest message.
- Perhaps the last approach should be avoidance. If your mom is overbearing, nosy and tries to be the navigator of your life – then distance yourself physically for a while.
Letting go of children is difficult to do. The problem is unless a parent is willing to let go, the child will never flourish and bloom into the person they are destined to be. And you deserve to be set free from the parental ties when you reach an age where you are taking care of yourself. For many adult children, they find that with boundaries and firm limits – this can be the time in life when you and your parents actually become the best of friends and truly enjoy one another’s company without the power struggle so common in the parent-child relationship.
Great advice on the Butt-inski mother. My mother took my sister and her daughter in for 4 years, rent free. Now that my sister’s son is back in her life (away at school), my sister needs to find an apt. All she can afford is a small place for the 3 of them. My mother disapproves of the space size. I told her she is crossing boundaries. once she told my sister and niece to leave, the rest is none of her business.
Parenting is raising a future adult. The adult child is the finished product. Do a good job, and then relax, and enjoy your family. Your kids will no doubt make mistakes. Let them learn or even fail at life.
My mother was never a good mother to any of us. Now she is reaping the results. My bother doesn’t talk to her, and is a wealthy a-hole, and my sister is a flake. I’m the white sheep, but was always the outsider, i.e. black sheep. I’m happy to be the abnormal one, in a dysfunctional family.
I agree with you, Susan. My mom wasn’t a good mother either. We are not close and I prefer it that way. My brother and sister tell her everything. They are both in their forties and refuse to grow up. I’m the middle child and I’m the considered the level-headed one in a dysfunctional family. After my father passed away when I was a little girl, the structure of our family just fell apart. He really made a bad decision in marrying her…
bother s/b brother. excuse me
I’ve tried all…. none has worked. I love my mother, she just feels it’s her duty to worry about my bills, life, what I spend on, where I go. I’m 42, own a business for the past 20 years, married, divorced, married again, oh and built a house WITH CASH at 20…
I’ve explained to her as an adult that I do believe I’ve figured this out and if I needed help or assistance with anything I’ll let you know. Then she throws in “oh I wanna be your friend” to my response was…. do you ask your friends these questions, do you make them feel this way, Because I don’t think you do… so don’t do it with me… still hasn’t changed ANYTHING!!
What am I supposed to do!!?!?
I’ve tried the stay away from her but it causes division with the rest of my family. My sister her hubby and kids. This is just beyond me!! Any other suggestions?!?!