Pushing back on Boundary Pushers

I have established some boundaries and ground rules to protect myself from my mom. She can be emotionally abusive and exudes this negative energy that can be hard to not let yourself get drawn into. A while back I realized she had been my main social contact for years while I was raising my babies, and had lost connection with Hubby.

Her main form of pushing boundaries these days is through email. She does not have a long distance plan, so I am generally safe from phone calls, and she hates driving, so living 2 hours away protects me from any “drop-ins”. This sounds terrible, as I read that last sentence, to avoid my mom. So I will illustrate our latest battle.

I used to respond immediately, and guiltily, and thoroughly to every email from my mom, which could be up to 10  a day. I stopped that, and read each one, and answer them all at once either in the evening or the next morning, at my convenience. I ignore the baited comments and simply answer as neatly as I can, without offering fuel for the future. Every detail can and will be used against me at some point to prove how wonderful a mom she is, and how I have failed in my daughterly duties.

So this was going well, her emails were slowing down and less blaming was going on, and overall I felt more peaceful – so I knew I was on the right track at reducing her toxic exposure to me. And then I went on a business trip and reopened some doors. My mom lives next to the airport, so I usually park at her house and have my brother (the one that lives with her because his schizophrenia forces him to need her care – though I can’t think too hard about the quality of care he gets since that opens a flood gate of guilt for me not being able to care for him) drive me to the airport. I arranged this time to have only a 10 minute visit before heading to the airport, since it had been months since I had seen her, and nearly a year since I had been to her house. I figured she couldn’t do much damage in a short visit.

Well, she didn’t do any damage in that visit, but seeing me reminded her of how we used to talk and email, so I got a dozen emails daily my entire week away. Here’s how they go:

-Good Morning. (Yes she sends an email with only good morning in it. Meaning are you thinking of me? Oh, well, Now you have to)

-I bet you are super busy. (This one is brilliant. I laughed out loud at this one. It implies my fault at not responding to the previous one and gives her an excuse why I’m not paying attention to her, while demanding I pay attention to her even though she knows I’m busy)

-My vision is still blurry and I’m bummed out about how long it is taking to heal. (She had cataract surgery 4 days before I left for my trip)

-My feet don’t hurt so much since I’m not working (Her main desire in life is to not have to work. She would remarry my monstrous dad if it meant not working, I am sure. She has been trying to prove disability in various forms, and is actually actively jealous of my brother with schizophrenia, because he does not have to work. She thinks her arthritis is worse than anyone else’s. )

-Your brother asked me to go to dinner with him (This was the 3rd brother of mine, the one that is separated – meaning his wife moved out but he never filed for divorce, and he let my dad move in with him. She had to let me know that he is good son, and visits her and spends money on her.)

-I’d like to make you a special dinner when you come back from the airport. What would you like? (OK, multi-levels here again. She needs to point out that good and caring people offer dinner to others, unlike me. And then if I ask her to make something, she’d be telling everyone how she slaved all day to struggle and make me dinner while recovering from surgery)

-I wish you didn’t have to work so hard. You must be exhausted. (She does not understand my goals or ambition, or that I like to work and achieve. She is also pointing out that I have not responded to any of her emails yet, so I must be working too hard without a break)

-Did you know your nephew is color-blind? (Actually I did not know this, which further proves how terrible I am, I don’t know anything about them. My other thought was wow, that nephew is nearly 8 yrs old, why didn’t any of them notice until now? That nephew is from the 1st brother, that has a freakishly huge family and most kids are not exactly neglected, but not exactly noticed either)

-I hope you can sleep tonight (wow – what a powerful line that is. It looks like she is caring, but also feeding my anxiety, and guilt for not answering her yet)

[Next day we start again]

-I didn’t sleep at all last night. Not even 5 minutes.

-I wonder if my new blood pressure med is keeping me awake?

-I’m so tired. I’m going to call the doctor about reducing my bp meds (she thinks the bp meds make her fat and always cuts back or claims an allergic reaction when she gets to an effective dose. I wonder if she wants a stroke – her top bp is over 200, and she is likely 80 pounds over weight, but she won’t tell her weight to anyone)

-The doctor says that is not a possible side effect. This doctor never listens to me. Guess my body is just wired different. And I looked online and trouble sleeping was listed as a side effect. (she always knows better than her doctors)

-Can you create a menu for me so I know what to eat each day and I can lose weight? Maybe then the bp will go down and I can stop these meds and feel better (are you laughing yet? This last one had me rolling at the absurdity. She is 65. If she has not figured out how to eat by now, I can not help her. And I certainly would never assume I know her needs, or give her a chance to blame ME for being fat because she followed MY diet. OMG. I also am not doing so well at losing weight, so I’m certainly not an expert. Hell, if I could create a simple weight loss menu, I’d be rich! )


My single response to all those emails:

-I am sorry you are having trouble sleeping and not feeling well. Be patient as your body needs time to heal from surgery. I don’t feel like I can ask you to make me something special for dinner while you are recovering, but thank you for thinking of me.

I can not create a menu for you, but I can share that I have learned to never eat carbs alone, even fruit and veggies should be eaten with some protein to balance your blood sugar. And eat smaller meals more often, don’t starve yourself all day. And drink LOTS of water.

You are right, I am super busy with work and looking forward to learning more and meeting new challenges there. I hope you feel better soon.

See you in a few days


Skipping a few days of emails – When my brother got me from the airport and took me to her house, she had made mashed potatoes, chicken in gravy, mixed veggies. The gravy was campbell’s soup, and the veggies were drowned in butter. She had picked up a casata cake from a bakery, saying she knew I like them and had wanted to get me one for my last birthday, but since I didn’t come to her house that day she got it now. And she got pizelle cookies and cream soda, things I liked in grade school. She hat a full plate of food, 2 huge slices of the cake, and half the cookies. I had some dinner and a sliver of cake, and denied the rest, as I do watch my sugar now to avoid crashes. I thanked her and tried to hurry home, and as I get up to go, she starts apologizing for having to work, so my kids know the other grandma more, and it makes her so sad she doesn’t know my kids. Yes, well, umm, gotta go mom. Love ya, but I just gotta get away from this twilight zone world you create for us. That was about a week ago, and her emails are still pouring in.

13 thoughts on “Pushing back on Boundary Pushers

  1. “This sounds terrible, as I read that last sentence, to avoid my mom.” It only sounds terrible if you don’t have a narcissistic parent.

    I love your response! You are doing great!

  2. Holy cow. I’m wondering if your mom writes the emails my mom sends to me. They could be carbon copies. Right down to how she doesn’t feel well and knows better than the doctors and is suffering side effects. It’s amazing how little statements, that seem so harmless to an average reader, can be so laced with such a deeper meaning and a thousand little daggers. My mom also projects her feelings onto me about something she feels I must dislike, because she dislikes it. Those comments, in particular, drive me up the wall.
    I’ve also found that if I open the door again, the emails (and texts) start pouring in, baiting me at every turn to answer. And I also have always felt an urge to respond immediately and with full disclosure. So, I too, make all attempts to avoid my mother. It sounds terrible to me to say this, only because I wish so badly that I had a mother whom I looked forward to seeing. Like friends of mine, who comment how excited they are to see their mother, how they feel safe and protected with her, and are sad when she leaves. I’m sad when my mom comes and excited when she leaves. Like a kid on the first day of summer vacation, I know I’ll get a reprieve for awhile.
    I like your response too. I’m going to have to reread it and memorize it for future use with my mother. Thanks for the post.

    • Welcome! So glad you commented here, but sorry you have a similar situation with your mom, as it sure is not easy. We have to protect ourselves, and yes I feel that joy of release when she just leaves me alone. And yes, I do long for a mom like I have heard others have. For whatever reason, I was not meant to have true parents, and my path has been a solitary journey of trying to grow up without guidance.

  3. I know how hard it is to not self-blame when our mother’s ask so much from us and we chose not to do it. You are better off with distance from her neediness. Good for you that you have boundaries up.

  4. Love your answer. The distance seems totally reasonable to me. Also appreciate the tip on remembering to eat protein with my fruits. I am thankful now for how little my mom writes. However there was a time when she was my main social contact and she fed my fears, pushed buttons, projected her emotions to me so many of those emails sound just like what she would say to me. Uncanny how people from totally different places can sound so much a like. I always felt like separating from my mother was like trying to get released from an octopus. You get one part detached and another arm grabs you or they shoot darkness around you to confuse.

    • Yes it mind-boggling that the same words and actions can come from so many different parents and have the result of emotionally crippling the children. The octopus is a perfect image. And no wonder i used to have so many trapped and smothering nightmares. I used to be depressed and confused, and I now sadly realize my mom actually designed her relationship with me to keep me that way, so I would always NEED her, and she would get the attention she craves. So now I am learning what is a safe distance to keep those tentacles from trapping me. I might get still get stung, but not trapped now.

  5. It can be so difficult managing those parental relationships. My mom is a master passive-aggressive, guilt tripping, emotional manipulator who is also a very nice, kind, lady. How she manages that is beyond me! I moved about 30 hours away and still get sucked in on a regular basis.

    • Yes, sounds like my mom too, not all bad, just too much to handle at times, so I need some distance. Sometimes physical distance is not enough if you don’t have the relationship well defined. 30 hours, wow! We’re still learning.

  6. Pingback: Life Would be Easier if I Weren’t Nice | Roots to Blossom

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