Relationships 101

Dear Dr. Mark,

I moved away from home for the first time to go to college in early September. My mother is happy that I’m happy, but tends to miss me a lot. If I’m not in when she calls, she has a ‘tone’ in her answering machine message and when she finally talks to me, she practically asks me what I’ve been doing every minute since the last time we spoke. It’s getting to be very annoying. I feel sorry for her and guilty about how resentful I’m becoming. What should I do?

MY MOM WON’T LET GO at University of Massachusetts

Dear MY MOM,

Your mother is probably missing you and has not yet figured out a way to deal with her ’empty nest’ problem, now that you’re out. Arrange a set time to call her, or if she can afford it, to have her call you. If you’re proactive and take the initiative, you won’t be reactive and as frustrated by her. You should also encourage her to go out and do things, perhaps as a volunteer, where she can feel useful and needed. One of the worst parts of growing older is how useless a person like your mom can feel.

If she doesn’t get the message, you may need to confront her. The best way to stand up to her is from your hurt or frustration, rather than from your anger. If you get angry or defensive, you’ll only trigger anger and defensiveness in her and it will go nowhere. Tell her that you love her, but you’re becoming dangerously close to not looking forward to her telephone calls and even starting to dread them a little. Tell her that you don’t have control over these feelings, that you don’t want to start avoiding her, and that you need her help with this. When she asks what she can do to help, tell her you’d like to set up a regular time when you talk so you can look forward to speaking with her.

Another angle is to encourage her to connect with your dad more, or if she’s divorced, to start dating guys. Falling in and being in love is not just for the young. And just as it can give a boost to your life, it can do the same for your mom.