Mothers & Daughters: When Roles Get Reversed - @GalTime


Mothers & Daughters: When Roles Get Reversed


Dear Dr. G.,

I'm asking for some insight on a reverse topic than you usually deal with, but my mother is driving everyone up the walls. This isn't anything new, but now my mother is getting worse. For as long as I can remember, she's been relying on me- consulting me on all sorts of topics, managing expenses, and she's raised me on the ideal that she may never wake up in the morning, or return home, so I need to learn to be self sufficient. Yet, when I am as she raised me, she throws a fit. She complains about everything, she tries to have full conversations on the phone with me when I'm not at home, and when I respond to her cries for attention she drives me away by starting a fight. She reminds me a lot of a bratty teenager.

I'm very frustrated and confused. By the way, I'm heading off to college in the fall.

A Daughter

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Dear Daughter,

I am very happy that you wrote to me. You really do need some clarity and validation about the issues with which you are dealing.

I do not know your mother, but I will speculate about what may be going on based on your descriptions. It seems to me that there is a great deal of role reversal going on here. In many ways your mother has treated you as if you are her mother. This is really a shame because this is your turn to be parented. Your mom also seems to have given you, and continues to be giving you, many mixed signals and messages. On the one hand, she is saying grow up and become independent. On the other hand, she appears to resent your independence. It is quite likely that she is having a hard time now because you are going off to college.

I must tell you that going off to college will be a liberating experience for you. Be clear that I am not saying that your mother is a bad person. I am saying, instead, that she is confused about her role. Ideally, mothers should nurture and support their kids and then let them become independent. Sadly, there are many mothers who turn their kids, or try to turn their kids, into parental figures.

I am not sure if there is another adult in the home to whom you can speak. Someone needs to suggest that your mother speak to a therapist. It seems to me, according to your account, that she is in conflict.

Now, go off to college and work on being just that- a college student who is independent and tries to make good decisions. I'm rooting for you.

Good Luck,


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