General Etiquette > Family and Children

How to talk to my mother, and his mother.

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Setsu:
Okay. I have a boyfriend. I live with him and my mother, stepfather, and half-brother. We moved from CA across the country to NC to live here. Overall everything is wonderful but there are a handful of things that we would love to address, and neither of us are quite sure how.

We'll start with MY mother.
The main issue is that my boyfriend (we'll call him Erik) works a part-time job. I have not found employment yet, though as per my agreement with my mother, as soon as the paperwork comes in the mail for my being added to the car insurance, I will change my license from CA to NC and then apply to the local community college for classes. My mom runs a home business, owning an appliance repair company that Stepdad and Babybro are the technicians for, so she is often busy and loath to leave the house for errands. I do not mind running errands for her, she does not mind letting me use her vehicle to run them, I am a licensed driver, all is well. The problem is twofold: The errands that need run are all in Rtown, which is a 30 minute drive from Ltown, where we live. So it is a minimum of an hour to go run an errand for her, plus however long each errand takes to complete.
The other part of the issues is that she never asks me to run these errands alone, on Erik's work days. She usually asks Erik and I go together on his days off. Almost every day off we are sent on errands that cumulatively end up taking 4-5 hours, where we pull out of the driveway around 11am and pull back into the driveway around 3 or 4 pm. This gets kind of exhausting for Erik, who is beginning to feel as if he does not have any days off at all.
And when I say "run" errands, I mean "run." As in, she will come knock on the door to wake us up at 10 in the morning (She knows that I have clinical depression as well as a sleep disorder, making me literally unable to function at the moment when woken before about 9am) and say "Okay Setsu get up get breakfast take your pills get dressed so you guys can go into town for me I'd like you out the door by no later than 11!" and we are then rushrushrushed to get awake, eat, dress, much sighing during tooth brushing and restroom breaks, and sometimes we are rushed out the door so much that we have to promptly return because we forgot something!
I'm wondering, is there any way to bring up that we'd like to maybe have a day every once in a while to just sit at home and relax (not that I won't cook or clean or do laundry) a day where we don't really have to go out and do things, without making it seem like we are not appreciative of the fact that she lets us stay in her house rent-free for the time being? These errands began as a request, "Hey guys if you don't mind could you go to town and do X, Y, and Z for me?" but now it's more like "Oh Erik you're off today? Cool! Here's the list for X, take these to Y, drop this off at Z, and here's some cash to pick us all up some lunch while you're out. Bye and drive safe!" So there's really not much room for saying "I really was hoping to stay home today" Should we just suck it up and take it as our "rent" to run these errands on his days off?

The other issue with my mother is, Erik has a strong distaste for onions, or onion-like foods (leeks, shallots, chives, all right out. He likes garlic, though.) He doesn't like to call it an allergy, but the smell and taste make him a bit queasy. My mother's cooking can be summed up with "put onion in everything that I don't put sugar in" so this is a problem for her. She's adjusting okay to not putting onion in things, but we are sure to hear about it. When she cooks dinner, sometimes she'll put "just a little bit" of onion "for a little flavor" which is frustrating, because the "flavor" is the part he doesn't like!
Other times she'll leave the onions out altogether, but we hear about it all night, throughout the dinner. Sitting at the table we hear "And not a single onion to be seen in this dinner!" or "Gee it's tasty but I bet it would have tasted better if I could have put an onion in it!" Which is quite embarrassing for poor Erik, who then feels bad because she is making it sound as though not putting onion in it has ruined dinner, or he is called out for picking the big bits of onion out of dinner. "Oh you don't like it? Oh no he's just picking out the onion" followed by a heavy sigh. How do we handle this? She doesn't seem to understand that he really cannot stand the onions, and takes it as personal victory if she can manage to get him to eat something she's put an onion in. On a few occasions she'll watch him take the first bite expectantly, and then ask "Do you like it?" and if he nods or says it's okay, she goes "Hah! There's onion in it! Just a little, but there's onion!" We're not sure what to do. We explained before he ever got here, before we even packed our things to come, that he could not, would not, eat onions, couldn't stand them. And she said that that was fine, and she would manage.


Now for HIS mother.
Erik is an only child. His mother is having a lot of difficulty in accepting that he has moved across the country. We understand that, and he is doing his best to reassure her that he's not run away forever and he has no plans to cut her from his life. He calls her almost every day, if she doesn't call him first. They text back and forth every single day, almost all day with the exception of when he is working, as he does not even have his phone on him at work, it stays in his locked locker.
The main issue comes from her going through these incredibly sad phases, where she will do nothing but text him how sad she is, how it's his fault he left her, how X or Y thing won't work and it's his fault because he's not there to fix it. She even will say "Your dog is sad and misses you he was in your room today." It really seems as though her whole goal is to make him feel bad because he left. And it's working. Generally he doesn't know how to respond to these things.. he'll tell her he feels bad that she is sad, or that the thing isn't working, but what is he supposed to do or say to her? "Oh, okay, I'll be right back ASAP" seems to be the answer she's looking for. Sometimes she'll even ask when he's "coming home." We'd love advice on how to deal with her when she's being like this.
The other problem is that she asks about money CONSTANTLY. She asks if I have a job yet at least once a week. She asks how much he has in the bank. She asks how much his paycheck was, or will interrogate him about his exact hours in an attempt to math up his paycheck herself. She asks if he wants her to put money in his bank account. He will tell her that he's okay on money, and she'll ask how much he wants. He'll tell her "If you want to give me money, however much you'd like to give me" and she'll put however much and stipulate "No spending it on Setsu okay? This is for YOU." We really have no idea what to do about that..

Any advice from anyone on any one of these would be amazingly appreciated. Even if the advice is to grin and bear it.

Lynda_34:
As far as the onions, call it a sensitivity.That is the latest thing and he has to state that it makes him feel nauseated.  Just a little bit of onion can make him feel queasy.  Skip dessert or wait an hour or two before dessert.  He can start drinking tea to calm his stomach.  Maybe if she sees concrete proof she'll be more understanding.

Errands.  Let your mother know what days he has off and tell her this is the day you can do errands, the other day he has off is for the two of you to spend on your relationship.  Then get out of the house from say 11 am to about 1 pm.  Go to the local fast food restaurant. They probably have Wifi or the local library.  Just get out and go somewhere.  In warm weather the park and just sit.  Be gone about two hours, you're just hanging out and being a couple. 

Even consider a movie.  One of the area cinemas where I live has every Tuesday $5 a person and you get  free refills on the popcorn, even as you're walking out of the theater to go home.  I love movie popcorn and always buy the large and get a refill. Matinees are also cheaper than the evening show.

His mother is a tough one. I know nothing about my daughter's finances however I managed my son's for a couple of years because he was just terrible at it.
I don't ask my daughter anything about her money,however I do occasionally just write her a check and tell her that evens up what my son has been given.  My son is still a work in progress but he is getting better at managing his money so eventually I'll be out of that loop.

Vague answers are good, "I'm doing ok, she's still looking, got a few leads, was lucky I had enough in saving to do "something" to the car, help her mother since I don't pay rent etc.

If she offers him money, he can thank her, maybe send her a note to tell her how he spent it, even if it was on you. (He can send the note especially if she spent it on you or with you.) Also you can send her the note and tell her how he spent it on himself and enjoyed whatever it was he did.

Good luck with all of it.

Deetee:
If I understand correctly, you and your BF are living in your mother's house rent free and not paying for groceries and she cooks for you?

With that I have a really, really hard time getting together a lot of sympathy for the 4 hours of errand running starting at 11:00 you need to do on his days off. (It sounds like you still have all other days off). That said here are my suggestions:

1) Proactively offer to run errands on the days Eric is working. Show up dressed and ready to go and ask your mom what she needs for that day, so you don't run errands.

2) Plan things out of the house on his days off. It sounds like you are at home all the time when you are not out on errands and your mom may want her house to herself for a bit.

3) Plan things outside of the house on days he is working. This ties in with the errands. Say you are going out and can you pick up anything. Find some comfy places outside of the home.

4) Cook (don't just offer. Show up with a menu and a plan and cook for the entire family and leave out the onions)

5) Move out.

6) Eric does not need to eat anything that makes him ill. He can make himself a sandwich for dinner.

Non rent paying members of the household simply do not have the same rights as rent paying members (before anyone jumps on me, this does not apply to spouses etc...)

I have no suggestions for his mother. Let him deal with it.

Luci:
What is your mother doing while you are running these errands? If she is working or must be on call at the home office, I think you have no complaints about relieving here of some of her pressures. It is the least you can do. Consider it your 'job' to help her and pay the 'rent'. Most people have a schedule which includes taking care of personal needs, working 8 hours (not 4) plus commute Tome, then coming home to duties of taking care of cleaning and laundry and cooking. There is a short down time. There are rare 'days off' because of errands and other duties during days of no work. No sympathy from here.

You are running some of these errands together. That counts as quality time with your husband. You may need other time, but this counts.

You can do more of the cooking yourself, or buy food and prepare it for the two of you.

Ignore his mother's whining. It can be done. Just change the subject. Don't react to it.

You have been dealt a tough hand right now, but you need to play it with a little more grace and appreciation for the help you are getting. It might even help your depression. Being productive helps me. No promises there. That is between your doctor and you, so it is a thought, not medical advice.

Move out, but that sounds cost-prohibitive now. So I think you should develop a better attitude about pitching in and doing your share, which includes the cleaning and laundry you say you are doing.

zyrs:
It is very awesome of your mother to let you stay there rent-free, but I can definitely see where the days your mother chooses to have you run errands could be taking a bit of a toll.

After all, how can either of you find a full-time job if every one of his days off is scheduled for errands? 

It would be best if you were proactive as Deetee mentioned and went to ask your mother what errands she needed run each morning while Eric was working. As you both look for full-time employment make sure she knows ahead of time the days he has interviews so there isn't a scheduling conflict with an interview.

The easiest way to stop your mother's PA comments about the onions would be to slowly take over the cooking duties while you are home.  Then at the add onions step, just split off a portion for Eric that you do not add onions to.  This way, your mom gets her onions, Eric doesn't get something that nauseates him, and you get to practice all your family recipes for when you and Eric are out on your own.

I don't have any thoughts on how to help Eric handle his mother, but I do feel for him.  His mom on the one hand wanting him to come 'home' and trying to make him feel guilty about leaving, your mother trying at ever meal to make him feel guilty about onions, not having time to seriously find a better job on his days off.  I bet he is frustrated.

I do not like 'dried grapes' (raisins) but have no problem with fresh grapes or other dried fruit. 

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