Q I’ve chosen to be estranged from mother for the last 10 years, since my dad died. My mother is really mean and nasty, and from reading the literature I can see now that she has what’s called a narcissistic personality disorder. The only way I could cope was to ‘divorce’ her years ago.
I’ve now heard from an elderly aunt (her sister) that my mother wants to have contact with my two kids (aged 8 and 6), because she’s ill and wants to have a relationship with her only grandchildren before she dies.
I don’t know whether to believe this or not. My fear is that if we let her into our lives she’ll take over, play the victim and manipulate everyone into giving in to her demands.
My husband and kids have no idea how toxic she really is and when I mentioned my aunt’s ‘phone call my husband sided with her, and thinks I should give my mum one last chance.
I’m feeling emotionally manipulated – again! All I want to do is protect my kids from her nastiness, tricks, lies and games. I know it sounds mean but I wish she already was dead. Should I let her back in to my life?
A Only you can make that decision. It must have been a dig decision for you to have no contact with her years ago and your reasons must have been right for you at that time.
Let’s focus on what is of most benefit to your children. If they haven’t had a relationship with her so far they may not see any point in starting one now. They will also be picking up your feelings about it and this will confuse them too.
What do you fear most from having contact with her again? Are you better able to hold your boundaries with her now, than you were in the past?
Resuming contact with a toxic parent HAS to feel right for you. If it does go wrong you’ll need to be strong and determined enough to pick up the pieces after having ‘given it a go’ and allowed your mother her ‘last chance’.
If you did decide to go ahead with contact, then perhaps you could stay in the mid-ground to begin with. Find out from your aunt what exactly your mother has in mind and whether that suits you, or not.
If you are willing to speak to your mother yourself (which will be a big step that you must feel comfortable with), then you might set up, with your aunt’s help, a telephone (or even a Skype) conversation with your mother.
If so, please be well prepared and have the points you want to emphasise written down. When our emotions are triggered it’s hard to stay objective and focused, and not get pulled back into a compliant or rebellious child way of reacting emotionally (from your wounded inner child place).
As a narcissist, your mother might want (and need) to poison your children’s minds and try to get them to feel sorry for her. That would make you the ‘bad guy’ and the one with ‘the problem’. So be clear before hand that this won’t be tolerated.
Then if you feel OK set up a supervised Skype or ‘phone call between her and your children (assuming they want this of course).
When your mother knows that you will be supervising any calls (or even physical contact if it came to that) she will know that she must behave in a way that ensures the contact can continue (that’s not easy for a self-centred narcissist to do!)
If there was any inkling of verbal or emotional abuse (I’d have your husband present as a witness too, for validation) then you have the choice to immediately pull the plug and end the call – or any further contact.
IF you do decide to let her back in to your lives then make sure that you tell your husband and children that you have mixed feelings but you’re willing to give it a go and see what happens.
Also make it clear that any contact is conditional upon your mother behaving nicely – and if she doesn’t then you’ll end the contact for their sakes.
Saying this might well put them off wanting to have contact with her in the first place – which will then solve this dilemma for you!
Maxine Harley (MSc Psychotherapy)
www.maxineharley.com – where you’ll find a page of FREE RESOURCES including HOW TO S.H.I.E.L.D. Yourself From A Toxic Mother (and Father)