Is my mom overreacting to this situation?


My younger brother moved to live with my dad when he was 16. They live 4 hours away. Since then he has steadily spent less and less time with my mom, and it has upset her progressively more. He joined the Army National Guard, and was deployed to Iraq for a year. My mom felt like my dad and my brother’s peers ‘brainwashed’ him into choosing that path. She constantly talks about how much better his life would be if he had continued to live with her. He’s 21 right now.

Fast forward to the present. I’m having a casual conversation on the phone with my mom. I see her a couple of times a month. We live in the same city, but I don’t like being guilt-tripped into spending time with anybody (and my mom is big on the guilt game). During the conversation, it inevitably drifts to my brother. See, up until recently my brother had been working as Honor Guard (folding flags during military funerals) but he quit because he had a year of unemployment that he wanted to use to figure out what he wanted to do with his life. He has been kind of waffling back and forth on being a firefighter; he’s not sure. My mom thinks he’s being ‘stupid’ and ‘wasting his time’.

I had learned about him quitting honor guard a month ago. During Thanksgiving I got to BRIEFLY spend time with him (had to work when he was in town on Thanksgiving, but my bus route actually passed by grandma’s house where he was staying, so I called him and we got to hang out for 45 mins. I was :smiley: just to be able to see him). He told me his side of the story- he was tired of doing Honor Guard, and he found out that a lot of his fellow soldiers had used the year of unemployment to readjust back to civilian life. Meanwhile bro was working like a dog, working 6,7 day weeks at the cemetary. He wanted to take a different direction in his life, but he still wasn’t sure what he wanted to do. I encouraged him to use the year to figure that out. Everybody is screaming at him to go to school of course, but I tried to be genuinely helpful to him rather than the ‘helpfulness’ my mom’s side of the family tends to force on him regarding advice.

Personally I think that given what he went through in Iraq its important he is able to adjust to life back in the states. I also remember what its like being 21 and having no idea what I wanted to do. He has a great opportunity to figure that out with the financial resources to be able to live on his own, which is awesome in my opinion.

My mom, on the other hand, thinks he is wasting his life, that he should’ve gone to college all along, etc. I really wonder if my mom is overreacting to this, and simply angry that he’s following a path ‘she’ didn’t choose for him. See I was the one who stayed with her and ended up going to college, etc. I’m happy that she helped me make it happen, but at the same time my brother is an adult and I really wish she would treat him like one. :frowning:

Ultimately, your brother has to be the one happy with his life choices. It’s his life. I think Mom needs to hear this from him, and knock off the manipulative guilt game as soon as possible.

I’m glad that you’re being supportive of him–he has someone in his family he can talk to or trust without reservation. Good on you :slight_smile:

Perfect, right out of the box, first response.

Thanks. One of the reasons I try to be a good big brother is that even though him and I are COMPLETE opposites, we both had the same mom. Since I spent much more of my life living with her than he did I know her quirks and had to adapt to dealing with some of her more annoying tendencies, since I lived with her for a few years out of college.

The thing I’m trying to gently get him to come around on is ‘face time’ with her. She’s much easier to deal with if we spend some time with her every now and then- if she hasn’t seen one of us in a long time she WORRIES and just seems to assume the worst about every little snag we’ve encountered in our lives.

IMHO, yes and no. I mean, yes, she’s overreacting, but that’s a normal level of maternal overreaction. At least in my experience. I’m 43 and my mother is still telling me what I (or my older brothers, for that matters) should do with my (or their) life(s). Every single time I speak with her.

She needs to stop thinking about what makes her happy and start thinking about what makes her son happy.

I second the first and second.

This was what I was going to say.

It sounds like your mother is trying to manipluate your brothers life.

She isn’t over reacting she is putting her nose in were it does not belong.

It is good thing he has you to support him in what ever choice he makes.

I have a 20 year old son and I do not tell him what to do even though there are many times I would like to. He has to make his own choices and if he makes the wrong one then he will hopefully learn the lesson and not make the same mistake again. He is going through a problem right now because of a bad choice he made.

As a mother I will always be there for advice, support and any help I can provide without judgement but he needs to live his own life.

Yup, the first response was indeed perfect.

And I second clairobscur. I’m 46 and my mother still tries to tell me how to run my life. Still pisses me off every time, but after so many years of it, I’ve learned to more or less ignore it and let her feel happy by saying it. The only time it really gets hairy is when she keeps pushing for agreement - you know, repeating it endlessly expecting/demanding that I’ll go along with it. I absolutely hate that in any form because it’s disrespectful of the person you’re talking to.

Your mother is on a path to permanent estrangement from your brother. He won’t want to have anything to do with her because he can never make her happy and she’s always disapproving of what he does; and she’ll be angry with him because he won’t do what she wants and she always disapproves of what he does. Parental approval is a big thing, and she’s trying to be a control freak with someone elses life.

Nodding along here. Many parents will see you as their little, helpless, defenseless, pants-pooping responsibility till the day they die.

You might intercede on his behalf. E.g. when your mom starts in about him, ask her, “What was it like when you came back from the war you fought in? How did you adjust?”

If she’s like my mom, subtlety will never carry the day.