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Are You My Mother?

Are You My Mother?

By Amalah

Hi Amy,

Congrats on the new baby on the way! Also, I love the advice you give to others, so now I’m gonna step up for my turn. I suppose this one falls into the “being pregnant means people think you’re public property” category, but I’ll warn you, circumstances make my problem is Complicated with a capital C.

Advice Smackdown ArchivesI’m about 34 weeks pregnant with my first baby. When I was just entering my second trimester this summer, my mother suddenly developed a severe infection related to a chronic condition she had and a month later, passed away. Now, my mother and I had a very complicated relationship, and though I loved her a whole lot, she was also one of the largest sources of stress in my life- she was very demanding, negative, judgmental, and worst, illogical, which made it very hard to make her happy. I miss her all the time, but at the same time…well…I’m actually a lot more relaxed now, honestly. I’ve started seeing a therapist to help me sort out my feelings, and that’s helped me a lot to focus on the positive aspects of things. I also have a great support network, including both a mother-in-law and a stepmother who I get along with wonderfully and am very close to, so I’m not really feeling like a poor, motherless pregnant woman in a Lifetime made-for-TV-movie like I could be.

My so problem is not about my mother, per se, but about fallout since her funeral. My mom had a whole heap of wonderful friends that came out of the woodwork to share their condolences…but she also had a couple of, well, awful, toxic friends. One, in particular, who I’ve actually disliked my whole life, because she seemed to bring out the worst in my mother- and the kicker is, my mother would complain to me all the time about what terrible people she thought this woman was! Many of my mother’s friends have checked in on me, once or twice, since the funeral, to make sure I’m okay, and I appreciate that. But this awful friend is emailing me, sending me messages on facebook (yes, she added me on facebook right after the funeral, and I felt it would be impolite to decline *sigh*), calling me, calling my brother and leaving messages inquiring about me, dropping by my brother’s house (thank DOG I live away from my hometown!) at least once every couple weeks. It seems my pregnancy combined with my mother’s death have given her licence to, well, try to be my mom.

Most of her messages (even the phone ones) are lengthy, detailed, and ask lots of very personal questions, giving advice about problems I didn’t know I had (and certainly hadn’t discussed with her!), and usually also contain invitations to dinner, visits, etc. She seems to know A LOT about my life- my mom apparently didn’t skimp on details when sharing with this friend- so when she probes and offers advice, it really cuts to the quick. My replies are always short, and I only answer the questions I consider basic pleasantries (Yes I’m doing fine) or information she is entitled to pertaining directly to my mother (we scattered the ashes at X), and I just ignore the invitations. Now, I don’t want to be a jerk, because despite my dislike for this woman, I know she’s mourning the loss of a close friend, but frankly, I’m starting to feel a bit harassed- almost haunted, really. She brings up a lot of negative feelings and memories that I had towards my mother, which I’ve been trying very hard to let go of so I can move on with my life. I feel really rude just ignoring her messages, but I’m getting sick of carefully crafting minimal polite responses, because she’s not getting the hint. Sometimes, I wish I was still a teenager so I could just be rude and blunt and not feel guilty about it.

So what should I do? Stay the course and hope she gets bored after the baby’s born? Just ignore her entirely? Allow my inner teenager to have its way and tell her to F off? Start screaming “YOU ARE NOT MY MOTHER!!!” next time she calls?

Sincerely,
In a delicate condition

PS: your pregnancy calendar has really helped me keep a sense of humour through my pregnancy, and believe me, I’ve needed that, thanks!!!

Holy lack of boundaries, Batman.

I admit I’m not exactly the most confrontational person in the world — in fact, I’m probably one of the least, often at my own expense, even — but I have ZERO patience for people like your mother’s “friend.” Who sounds like a socially clueless leech, at best, and a creepy needy weirdo at worst.

Blunt and to the point: You own this woman nothing. NOTHING. Sure, maybe your mother’s death really shook her up and she really means well. You still do not have an obligation to her to either 1) help HER cope with HER loss, or 2) suffer her good intentions if they are stressing you out or causing you inconvenience or pain.

Maybe she thinks her presence is what you need or what you want, or she feels like she “owes” your mom to look after her pregnant daughter and be a support system for you. Or something. What matters, really, is what you ACTUALLY need or want. Which, as I can clearly tell, is not this woman meddling in your life and bringing up bad memories and making you screen your phone calls.

The word of the season around here at the Smackdown seems to be DISENGAGE. Since she’s proven that she’ll happily keep this one-sided relationship alive with just the slightest exchange of pleasantries on your part, stop replying to her emails. Don’t return phone calls. If you’re feeling daring, de-friend her on Facebook. If she won’t take a hint, STOP HINTING. There’s rudeness…and then there’s justified self-preservation for a 34-week pregnant woman dealing with the loss of her mother in her own way and time.

I’m also going to predict that she won’t “lose interest” after the baby is born. I’d say there’s a real risk of the exact opposite happing — gifts with strings attached, pressure for visits and photos and “can the baby call me Auntie So-and-So,” unsolicited parenting advice, etc. Ugh. And even if she isn’t quite that determined, you really have enough on your plate without having to play defense against an onslaught of unwanted “friendship.”

Tell your brother that this woman is being entirely too intrusive and that you’ll be making a concentrated effort to cease contact with her, so if he could stop passing along updates and messages as much as possible, you’d appreciate it. “Oh, yeah, she really isn’t using Facebook much anymore, I dunno what’s up with her account but really, we’re all fine, thank you for your concern.”

Tell your therapist about her too, if you haven’t already. Therapy can be a wonderful place to re-discover your backbone and can validate your feelings and reasons for cutting this wanna-be-surrogate mother loose.

********


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Amalah
About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch

Amalah

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Ama...

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it’s pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to amyadvice@gmail.com.

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.

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