DEAR AMY: My mother and I have had a tumultuous and toxic relationship ever since I was a child. It was a mess of bitter resentment, jealousy, explosive fights, abuse and disappointment on both sides. It has taken some time, space and, of course, some therapy (I participated, she did not), but we have gone a year without an incident. Now that I am a mother myself, I have found some understanding, healing and forgiveness. Our relationship is the best that it has ever been, but she has always been disappointing when I need her. Now I have a huge opportunity for us to bond and for her to be there for me like the mother I have always wanted and needed. My second child is due in a month. I always said she would be the last person I’d want with me in the delivery room, but I now think I want her there. Should I give her the chance? She missed helping me with prom, my wedding, the birth of my first son. If it goes well it will strengthen our relationship; if it doesn’t — more therapy, I guess?
DEAR MOMMY: Given the toxic history, I think giving your mother a “huge” opportunity is also offering her a huge way to fail you. This is an extremely stressful and “loaded” situation; while giving birth you might not react to her in the way she would like, and the stress and anxiety might plunge both of you right back into your old dynamic.
And yet — I understand the symbolism for you, as well as why you want this so badly.
Proceed with caution. Ask her if she wants this (she might not). Give her plenty of outs, and make sure you have reliable and companionable backup.
Keep your therapist’s number on speed-dial.
DEAR AMY: I’ve been with my boyfriend for six months. He was living out of state and returned shortly before we started dating. He had dropped out of grad school and moved back in with his mother. He doesn’t have a car, and has significant student loan debt that he claims is preventing him from getting his own apartment or vehicle. He has a job where he makes about the same as me, but I’m able to afford an apartment and car. I look down on him for this. I worked my way through college. If I could do it, he should be able to. He’s almost 30. His monthly student loan payment is about equal my rent, but I’m becoming concerned that there’s more than debt holding him back. He gets offended and says he feels judged or stressed out when I try to push him toward making positive changes. I’m beginning to doubt that I can ever rely on him as a life partner, and sometimes I feel that he is just so incompetent. I also wonder if I’m being too harsh, but it’s embarrassing for me to have to tell my family and friends that he still lives with his mom and doesn’t have a car. I haven’t expressed these feelings to him because he always reacts so sensitively, but I’m thinking about an ultimatum. I don’t want to waste time with someone who can’t get his life together. What do you think?
DEAR FED UP: You say you haven’t expressed your feelings to your boyfriend, but of course you have. He reacts defensively and feels judged, because you are judging him.
If his student loans are equal to your rent and he makes the same as you do, then how would you suggest he secure an apartment and a car?
Despite the fact that he is older than you are, you two are at different life stages. If he is truly “incompetent,” then you — a highly competent and independent person, will never think he is adequate. This imbalance isn’t good for either of you.
An ultimatum would definitely force this issue, but don’t expect him to capitulate or cooperate.
DEAR AMY: “Worried Parents” wondered about intervening with their college-attending daughter for drinking problems. The website collegeparentsmatter.org is designed to help parents communicate more effectively with their college-attending child about alcohol, and was created by public health researchers from the University of Maryland and Johns Hopkins University, using science-based information, and including prompts about how to communicate with their kids.
Amelia M. Arria, Ph.D., University of Maryland
DEAR AMELIA: Parents will find this resource very helpful. Thank you.