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Mother/Daughter Relationship Problems... HELP!

By July 22, 2010 - 8:49pm
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Hi ladies,

My name is Jessica and I'm 17 years old. I just graduated from high school and plan to attend university this coming September (I'll be moving 3+ hours away from home and living on campus). My parents separated (physically) 2 years ago. My mom and us (2 siblings + me) moved to Canada, where I was raised, while my dad stayed in Florida where we had previously lived for about 4 years. Eventually they separated entirely, until just recently my mom found out my dad is dating someone, which pretty much devastated her to the point where she had a mental and physical breakdown (this includes weeks of constant trips to the doctor/hospital and a lot of tending to on my behalf and on my older brother's). For weeks we hoped she would get better and some days it seemed as though she was, until the next day she'd go back to stage 1. Even before these problems, my mom and I had our occasional fights, usually about my boyfriend and I, although I have to say that 80% of the time they were about silly, meaningless things. Afraid to bother her and trigger any breakdowns, though, I always (and still do) abide by her rules and listen to what she has to say. These rules consist of coming home at a certain time, never spending too much time out, participating with the family, doing my chores, etc. Now I have to admit I'm not very good with keeping up with my chores but never have I stayed out late without her permission nor have I done anything that would result in a loss of trust. My boyfriend is very respectful towards not only myself but my family and he gets along very well with my siblings. However, even though my mom doesn't dislike him (or so she says) I can tell she's never supported our relationship. She has no reason to, though, since my boyfriend doesn't drink, doesn't smoke, doesn't do drugs, doesn't party, and like I said before, is very likable and respectful. I can only assume that because she was hurt by my dad she takes it out on my relationship, thinking that it's going to result as hers did. Not only does she limit by ability to do many things with my boyfriend, which creates problems in our relationship at times, but she has pretty much placed a wall bordering my entire life. I'm not allowed to go shopping/to the movies at the nearest city (20-30 mins away). I'm not allowed out past 11 PM, and if I get home later than 10:30, boy do I get a talking to. She gets extremely angry when I spend "too many hours" with my boyfriend, which means I hang out with him from morning to evening. I have to tell her where I'm going, who I'm going with, what I'm doing, and if that's not enough she texts me constantly every time I go out. I can only handle so much of this and I have to admit that sometimes I get so frustrated with her that I can only think about how much I wish I didn't live here. I feel bad for thinking it, but so much anger builds up inside of me that I can't stop myself from picking out every single flaw in my family and wishing it weren't that way. Wishing she'd do everything differently. I've tried talking to her hundreds of times, but it just never works and I don't know what to do but to face it and hope that one day things will change. Recently my boyfriend's mom invited me to go camping with them and when I asked my mom today, she didn't even wait for details, she gave me an immediate 'no'. Not to mention that she made me cancel a trip to the city where I'm moving to for university (after I had already scheduled an appointment to see a counselor). Because of her my life has become really limited and I can hardly do anything. I'm only thankful that my boyfriend has been able to put up with it without complaining much (we've been together for over a year). Sometimes I even think that the reason I'm going off to university is to move away from her (unfortunately it will also separate my boyfriend and I). I'm not sure what I'm looking for. Any advice or even personal stories will be nice to hear.

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Hi Susan,

It's been quite a while since I last updated. I made a lot of decisions in the past month, and canceled a lot of plans, yet I still feel as though things have remained the same here at home. For starters, I canceled my application to Victoria, so I'm officially not going to school this semester. With hopes of not upsetting my mom too much, I told her I would begin school next semester (January); somewhere closer to home. She was a little more accepting after that but every now and then she still shows her disappointment in me and my decision (comparing me to others who are going to uni, etc.)

I've applied to quite a few areas (work) and even got my license. Unfortunately I haven't been presented with a job interview yet but I'm sure one will come along soon. As for living arrangements, I want to save up as much money as I can so I'd like to just stay at home for now, although more often than not the idea of moving out sounds very appealing. I still haven't decided whether I truly want to begin school in January, but I've applied to the local uni just in case I do decide to go.

I haven't been communicating much with my dad at all - I found out that instead of keeping my e-mails on the down low (from my mom) as I had asked him to, he had been discussing them with her and even encouraging her to ignore my desires of staying here in Canada and leaving to Florida. That really angered me and I guess I've been holding somewhat of a grudge against him for that. He's aware of my new plans of working and eventually going to uni, but all he ever seems to say in regards to that is that he thinks I'm wrong in wanting to stay here in Canada, that there are so many more opportunities in Florida (and then he goes hours and hours talking about this college and that college).

Things with my mom improved a bit more (or so I thought) until we had another fight yesterday. Again, it was about me going out. My boyfriend had just come back from a 5-day camping trip and I wanted to go and see him. When I asked her she said 'no', even though I had done all my chores and even though we had had a nice weekend here at home. I guess she just woke up in a bad mood. So I asked her why and that led into a big argument about how I she never should have let me date him in the first place and how much she regrets it. Then she created new "rules", saying that from now on I'm only allowed out on weekends, and only for 2 hours. I don't even know what to say to her anymore; I've run out of arguments and she seems to be indifferent about everything I do say. It's like she has absolutely no emotion at all!

Again, this is creating problems between my boyfriend and I. We argued about it today; about how I'm not allowed out as much as we both would like. He sets aside time from work, school, and soccer for me and a lot of the time I'm not even able to see him! I definitely understand how that frustrates him - it frustrates me so much!

I continue to feel as though I'm not only physically but just entirely stuck inside 4 walls and I'm not able to get out. I really am just sick and tired of the same situation at home every day and the little understanding and support I get and how nothing I do is ever enough to satisfy or please anyone. I'm extremely frustrated and overwhelmed, yet I still can't figure out how to tackle this problem. Talking over it with my mom has proved never to work, and I don't know how else to try to fix this.

August 25, 2010 - 5:25pm
HERWriter Guide

Hi Jessica

Your mom cannot physically carry you on the plane to Florida but she seems determined to get your there, eh? It does seem like this 'vacation' may be more permanent than she wants you to know.

In about 6 weeks this whole thing will be a moot point so it's all a but silly, isn't it?

You have a few choices at this stage -
-go to Florida and see what happens.
-remain in Canada and look for work
-remain in Canada and head to university.

If you do go to Uni - do your parents plan to help you financially? Will you work while studying?
If you elect to work and skip Uni (for now) - what will you do and where will you live? Are you applying to places? You need to have answers to these questions so that you can show you have thought things through and have a legitimate game plan. Otherwise you'll prove to them that you are not capable of sorting this out without them.

I know you're in a difficult situation right now and I know the last thing you want is to enter into adulthood fighting with your parents. And just because you pass the magic number of 18, doesn't mean you don't need them (or they you). Someone is going to have to compromise somewhere.

Think about your options and figure out where your compromise can be. And then ask your parents where theirs is. Unless you meet in the middle, you'll be at an impasse.

Did you pay that down payment on Monday to your college?

July 28, 2010 - 11:38am

Hi Susan,
Thanks for your update.

I spoke with my mom and told her what my plans are. Not sure if she approves but I intend on following through with them whether she does approve or not. I also sent my dad an e-mail (we usually communicate through e-mail) also telling him my plans and talking to him a little about my situation here at home. I'm waiting on a response.

However I found out today that my mom planned a little family "vacation" without telling us (my siblings and I). Apparently she's planned for us to go Florida this coming week, once again, without even talking to us about it. The thing is, last time we went on vacation it turned out not to be a vacation - we stayed permanently. And I'm more than sure that this is what she's planning since she and my dad have been speaking on the phone more often than usual the past couple of days. Since I'm still only 17, am I even in my right to refuse to go? I mean, I can refuse, but would that even make a difference?

I tried compromising with her - I told her that if she would let me go camping with my boyfriend and his family I would accompany her to Florida in return - solely for vacation. She completely refused my offer, though, and told me that whether I wanted to or not, I'm going to Florida...and not camping.

Look forward to hearing from you.

- Jessica

July 27, 2010 - 11:47pm

Hi Susan,

I tried speaking with my mom today, although it sounded much better in my head than when it actually came out. I told her that I'd like to take at least a semester off of school and work until then. I told her all the reasons why - the distance, how expensive living in Victoria would be, how I wouldn't be able to visit much, and the fact that I'm just taking general classes with really not much direction and it would be smarter to think about it some more and really prepare myself rather than possibly throw a year (and lots of money) to waste. Since day 1 she has always encouraged me to go straight to university after high school, saying that if I take time off, I'd lose focus and direction and would not want to go to university at all in the future. But I completely agree with you - I think I would definitely benefit from taking a year or two off, and I know for a fact that I WANT to go to university, I just think it can wait a bit.

She wasn't too happy with what I told her, again, saying that I would lose focus and not want to come back. I didn't tell her about the fact that I don't want to lose any friendships or my relationship with my boyfriend - she would have probably laughed and told me that relationships aren't important (as she always does). I'm afraid that if I told her, she would think that's the only reason why I don't want to leave. I know she doesn't like the idea of me staying here and working - the way she puts it, I'm going to waste a lot of time doing nothing of significance (going out with friends, doing what teenagers do) and probably spend half of the money I make, which isn't true. I would save as much money as possible and well, of course I'd want to go out and have fun - I'm not just going to sit around at home doing nothing when I'm not working!

I turn 18 the first week of September. I don't think she realizes the fact that once I'm 18 I will want to make my own decisions, without her intervening the way she does now. She most likely thinks everything will remain the same and she'll have the same amount of control over my life as she does now. And to be honest, I'm afraid it will stay that way. I have a pretty hard time standing up to her.

As for the whole Florida/Uni ultimatum... it's pretty silly but she seems to think that Florida is the solution to every problem. We lived there for four years and I clearly remember how she would complain and argue with my dad, saying that moving there was the worst decision we had ever made. Now it's the opposite - now she has this ridiculous obsession with Florida, saying that we should have stayed there. She compares everything here to what it was like there! The people, the climate... even prices! It's almost as if she uses Florida as some sort of a threat - "You either do this or we're leaving". It's absurd, and my brother and I absolutely hate it.

Once again, thanks so much for your help and I hope we can continue to discuss this. I'm still unsure as to what I should do, but I'm definitely leaning towards staying here and working and not just taking a semester off, but a whole year. The only thing is I don't want to face another year of being controlled and told what to do.

July 24, 2010 - 1:51pm
HERWriter Guide (reply to theskyisyours)

Hi again!

Thanks for writing back!

I agree that the whole Uni/Florida thing does seem a bit like a threat/ultimatum and they never work in the long run.

If today didn't work and with Monday fast approaching, it might be time to tell her, rather than ask her, what your plans are.

Write some pointers down and tell her that ultimatums don't work - compromise does. Tell her of your plans and stick to them. I've no doubt your Mom has your best interests at heart at the end of the day but you also have a voice in your life - since it's your life!

Try to approach her toady/tomorrow with your plans - rather than your questions. Do you think you could give that a shot?

July 24, 2010 - 2:33pm
HERWriter Guide

Hi again,

Thank you for the update!

Boy, a lot of your situation reminds me of me back then. When I was 17 I moved to Paris, France by myself. I did ok but now that I have three really young kids of my own, I would NEVER allow them to do that, or if they did, I'd be very involved, on a day to day basis. Nobody even called to make sure I arrived ok, so now that I think back in it, I was a very strong young lady. And I think you are too.

Your Dad - not sure I like his comments that there isn't much he can do to help. He's your Dad, you are still a minor and he should fly up to see you and sort things out. Geography is no excuse - you are his child! But since he won't, we'll have to leave that part alone.

I am totally with you on taking a gap year between school and college. It's something I hope my own kids too - in fact, I'd like them to take two years to travel and work their way through a few countries (with me checking in with them every day!) before they commit to at least 4 years of college. Do you call it a gap year up in Canada too? It's not an American thing to do but Europeans and Australians do it all the time. Adults also take 'sabbaticals' a lot, where they take 6 months-2 years off work to travel and work elsewhere. I think these options are fantastic.

When will you be 18? Then you will have more freedom to decide things for yourself. I don't know why your mom is doing the either/or thing with Uni or Florida. There are so many choices these days that it doesn't need to be so black or white. Maybe you can show her the other options (working, gap years, opportunities for young people to work abroad/au pairing etc).

With a Monday deadline looming, you're in a really tricky situation. I know you are head over heels with your boyfriend but take it from me, so was I and it's not a good idea to base your plans on him. Not at 17. You need to focus on what is best for you in terms of school and your life - meaning the bigger picture.

If I had been you a few months ago, I also would have chosen Victoria - to be as far away as possible! Then, like you, I may have reconsidered because when it comes right down to it, you're losing the stress of life with your mom but you are also losing the close ties with your friends and your boyfriend. It really is a double edged sword.

You have to talk to your mother about this ultimatum she has given you - Uni or Florida. It's unreasonable and almost punitive. Life doesn't come down to two big choices; there are a dozen other options. You are going to have to sit down with her today. Don't plonk a ton of money down on Monday, to lose it all. Is there anyway you can get some kind of extension?

I hope to hear back from you more, I really do get what's going on and I hope you can resolve this as soon as possible. You have a lot of stress on your shoulders - way too much for a 17 year old. I carried the burdens too and they are way too heavy.

July 24, 2010 - 6:37am

I almost forgot... my mother gave me the option of either a) going to university or b) moving away to Florida...which is the last thing I want

This is why I'm finding it so difficult to choose whether I want to stay with my plan of going off to university. I don't want her to control my life for another year, and I don't want to be forced to move so far away. I just wish she would let me make my own decisions and support them.

July 23, 2010 - 10:54pm

Hi Susan,
I can't thank you enough for your response. It feels so good to be able to talk about this with someone who has had a similar experience.

I believe that the reason my mom didn't let me go to Victoria (where I'm going to school) is because she was afraid of my means of transportation. I couldn't find anyone to drive me there (pretty far away) so I told her taking the bus would be fine with me and for some time she agreed. A few days before my appointment, however, she approached me, telling me that she didn't think letting me travel 3+ hours on a bus all by myself was a good idea, and that she wasn't going to let me go. Like I said before, sometimes I don't even bother arguing with her, or even insisting, so what could I do but accept it. I told my dad about her unreasonable behavior, but my parents can't even talk on the phone for 5 minutes without arguing. He told me he wished he could help me, but that there wasn't much he could do. And my relationship with my dad isn't the best, either. Of course I love him and I know for a fact that he understands and supports my decisions much more, but we've never had the kind of relationship where we can openly discuss personal topics, such as these. And as he said, I know he won't be able to do much. Complaining to him would only cause more turmoil between my mom and I since she already becomes infuriated whenever I defend him.

The most difficult thing of all, Susan, is that I'm not even certain that going to university right now is what I want. I don't think I'm ready for it, and to be completely honest I would rather work for a year, save some money, maybe travel someplace, and start university next year. Victoria is so far away from all my friends...from my boyfriend and I'm terrified of throwing away such meaningful relationships. I feel like the real reason why I chose Victoria (as opposed to something closer) in the first place was to get away from my mom--but now I'm scared that the distance is going to be too much of a change, too big of a step.

I know I'm only 17 and there's years and years of life and experience ahead of me, but I've been with my current boyfriend for over a year and what we have is very special to me, and I don't want to just throw it all away.

So I'm in a pretty big mess right now and I have until this Monday to pay a non-refundable deposit towards my university studies. I guess it's pretty much my deadline to make a decision.

As for my mom, she has always more or less been like this. When we lived in Florida, as a whole family, though, it was much less severe. She was so much more reasonable. Everything worsened after my parents split up, and more often than not I feel like I have no one to stand up for me and support me.

July 23, 2010 - 10:48pm
HERWriter Guide

Hi Jessica

Thanks for finding us!

17 is a hard age sometimes, because it's your last year before being a legal adult, yet you're still in high school. It's very much a borderline age.

Your mom may indeed be worried that you and your boyfriend will end up like her and her husband (your Dad) but this isn't logical thinking - you are only 17 and beginning to date! You need to date and spread your wings a little. It's not like you are planning your wedding and picking out nursery furniture!

When I was your age I had a curfew of 9pm, if I were allowed out at all, and absolutely no dating. It was horrible and I had to watch everyone go out to parties or pubs as I stayed home alone. My chore list was very long and bad grades meant a bad physical beating. I hated it, got out at 17 and never looked back! I'm not telling you to leave either but I think University will be a breath of fresh air for you. Many teens with unreasonable parents need to get out of that kind of toxic environment in order to discover who they are without pressure and unrealistic expectations from others. Your mom canceling a visit to your new city where you would have met your counselor is unreasonable behavior; do you think she was afraid to let you talk to a councelor (afraid your home situation would be exposed?) or is she not ready to accept the fact that you are leaving?

Don't feel bad for getting frustrated - you have to right to your feelings and you've earned them.

Your mom may very well be suffering from depression. But at 17, it's not your responsibility or job to get her better but for now, do what you can to keep the lines of communication open and for now, go with the flow as much as you can until you leave for Uni. Your mom is going through a really hard time right now - she lost her husband and is about to 'lose' her little girl to the big world. It's probably triggering behaviors on her that she would normally not have. However, you have gone through some big transitions too and could do with some support yourself, right?

Has your mom always been this way?

Another thing - where is your Dad in all this? (besides Florida)? Does he know what you are going through? Is he involved? He needs to show full support for you and to help you through this. You are his child and he has a duty (and I hope he also wants) to help you! Can you call him and talk this through with him? It seems a bit like your parents split up and you are the one paying the real price. Tell your Dad you need help. Just because he's far away, it doesn't mean he cannot help you. He divorced your mom - not you.

Jessica, you may get through this with you mom and really discover a bond with her or that may come a little later. Right now, I think going to Uni will be your saving grace and you'll be able to breath a little - you sound a little suffocated like I was. Soon you'll be a legal adult and be able to make more decisions for yourself. Try to keep things peaceful and hard as it is, try to ignore your mom's unreasonable behavior. I think you need to explain all this to your Dad and see how he can help. It's not your job to fix your broken family - you need as much help and support as anyone else. Your mom has you, your siblings and lots of counseling for help - your dad has a new girlfriend. Who and what do YOU have?

One thing is that you have us, Jessica! Family life can be horribly complicated at times but you will get through this, I promise. And no doubt your relationship with your mom will improve with time and with more therapy, on her part. She is probably going through turmoil right now and once that cloud is lifted, she will have a whole new perspective on things. Do your best to be supportive. Please come back to Empowher anytime - we have all been 17. It's the best and sometimes hardest age.

Will you please talk to your Dad and let me know how it goes? I'll be looking for your update-

July 23, 2010 - 12:07pm
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