Dear Margo: People Don’t Have To “Get Over” Everything

The history with my mother is a rocky one, how do I tell her she can’t move in? Margo Howard’s advice

People Don’t Have To “Get Over” Everything

Dear Margo: Twenty years ago, I lost my job and couldn’t find another one. My savings ran out, and bit by bit, I hocked everything until I was left with only the clothes on my back. My mother had a three-bedroom house, but she was dating for the first time since my father died, and when I asked if I could stay with her until I was on my feet, she said it wasn’t “a good idea,” as “Ed” sometimes spent the night. I stayed with friends, moving from week to week to avoid wearing out my welcome.

With nowhere to turn, I joined the military. The soonest I could leave for boot camp was four months. To tide me over, I got a job at a fast-food restaurant. I had run through all of my friends’ couches and needed a place to stay for just three days until I got my first paycheck. Mom said that even for that short period of time it wasn’t “convenient” for me to stay with her. For three nights, I slept in a field. On payday, I rented a room where my neighbors were prostitutes, drug addicts and rats.

Today, I have my own home and a good job. Mom now lives in an independent living complex. She is quickly reaching the point where she will no longer be able to live on her own. If her options are moving to a nursing home or living with me, then she’s going into a nursing home. I simply cannot forget our history. What shall I say when she asks why I won’t let her live with me? — Cannot Forget

Dear Can: I would tell her “it’s not convenient” and perhaps she should call Ed. I totally understand where you’re coming from. I have always thought we earn the treatment we get in life. Don’t spend a minute feeling guilty. This is a selfish woman with seemingly no motherly instincts. — Margo, guiltlessly

Write Her Off for the Time Being

Dear Margo: My husband and I had our first child six months ago. I work from home and have a relatively flexible schedule, so I’m able to care for the baby during the week with some help from friends and family. My mother works part time and offered to cover one day a week to help out. However, since she started, she has complained to anyone who will listen about how far of a drive it is. She also has made other negative or snarky comments about the effort she’s making and what other things she could be doing instead. The situation came to a head recently when she claimed that my husband and I did not show enough appreciation.

Needless to say, I suggested we end the once-a-week arrangement. In a mildly “colorful” conversation, I told her it was difficult to bend over backward thanking her when she is constantly complaining, and that I didn’t know what she expected from two new parents trying to adjust to their new lifestyle.

Two weeks later, we drove to my parents’ town for my 30th birthday dinner, and she didn’t show up — only my father did. I’m at a loss as to how to quell the family drama and move forward. — New Mom

Dear New: Sorry to state the obvious, but who’s the baby here: your infant or your mother? As for managing the family drama, you did the right thing by bagging the weekly granny duty. (Her loss; I would give anything to be within a car ride of “my” new baby.) Moaning and groaning certainly detracts from her “gift” and is the polar opposite of “gracious.” Your mother’s childish behavior will either fade into the background — or it won’t. I am guessing you could live without the drama quite nicely. — Margo, acceptingly

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Dear Margo is written by Margo Howard, Ann Landers’ daughter. All letters must be sent via the online form at Due to a high volume of e-mail, not all letters will be answered.


Every Thursday and Friday, you can find “Dear Margo” and her latest words of wisdom on wowOwow

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62 comments so far.

  1. avatar independent says:

    Btw, I am not a therapist.

  2. avatar independent says:

    I wish to say that if people are called whores, sluts, crazy or stupid on this site, I do not wish to be a part of it. I guess I should not be surprised…I watch you tube videos and they can be the most innocent videos possible and someone will launch a random attack about something totally irrelevant. I don’t know about you, but my blood pressure can’t take the level of anger, sadness and and hopelessness everywhere–and how we cannibalize each other emotionally for no reason. Why do we do that? I don’t know. There’s a lot to be angry about in this world and it’s not socially appropriate to do it in real life. I think that must be it. I hope all of you find a site that’s feel good fun, life and self affirming and brings a little joy into your day. It’s up to you, but the anger on this site can dead end if you refuse to engage at all. People will move on to sites, like You Tube, perhaps. Ok, I’m off (before I have a stroke! 😉 ) Take care.

  3. avatar wendykh says:

    I think people are really wishing there weren’t parents like LW1’s mother out there. I cannot think of any reason a parent would not let their child stay home while waiting to go away to boot camp. Ridiculous. Even if they were a strung out drug addict you just don’t do that. Some parents really do basically say “you’re 18 now, it’s all your problem” and no longer give a damn. This woman may be one, especially if she was trying to land a new man… or the LW may be a nasty using freeloading thief… somehow my guess is on the latter.

    I would not let my parent live with  me in that case… but I wouldn’t let my dad either and I love him very much and he’s wonderful.  What I’m saying is no LW1 you do not need to take her in, but you don’t need to be mean about it either. Just say that won’t work for you and she needs more help than you can provide and make other arrangements.

    I’m not inclined to bash on LW2 either. There is nothing worse than when I ask someone to do something and they agree, and then complain about it or make sure I am well aware how much a struggle it is and constantly remind me how much I better kiss their ass for it. If they don’t like it then don’t do me any freaking favours! As for why can’t she and her husband manage… sheesh, they’re both working from home and have a six month old. For some reason people think working from home is easy, more specifically they they’re always available for household tasks since hey, they’re working at home! WRONG. That’s a great way to get no work done and not get any bills paid. My husband was able to help me working from home after our two youngest were born, but having his mom come over and help a couple afternoons a week was a godsend. I could take a nap, and he could get work done. I could wash some dishes, and he could get work done. I could take a shower, and he could get work done. Sometimes there just needs to be some help some people can concentrate and work. Especially if it’s work where you need your hands.

    Sure it’s nice to tell mom she’s appreciated. But haven’t any of you ever dealt with someone who was doing you a favour and constantly making ever so subtle comments about they’re so glad to offer this help to you, like they’re fishing for compliments? Haven’t you ever asked someone to do what would be for them a very, very simple task that would take very little time out of their day (the aforementioned example of driving kids to school) that would make your life infinitely easier and they act like you just asked them to be a gestational surrogate? And then they claim later that they help you so much and don’t be afraid to ask for help because oh they just love helping! And then if you ease off because you get the hint they don’t want to help so much, they bitch they never get to see the kids? That can get exasperating.

    LW2, your mom will get over it. Call her up and say you’re sorry for yelling at her/using foul language/hurting her feelings and you like having her help but you do not want to impose on her so please do not feel obligated, etc. Tell her that when you hear she’s complaining all the time you think this means she doesn’t want to help and you feel like she thinks she’s being used and it upsets you anyone would think that. Tell her if she has a problem with helping or needs time to SAY SO and it’s not a big deal. And then when she bows out when you really, really need her help to do some stuff, suck it up, take a deep breath, and just deal. Trust me, it’s not worth it to get all upset.  

    • avatar wendykh says:

      my guess is on the former, the former. Gah.

      • avatar Briana Baran says:

        You know…I was wondering about that…thanks for the clarification…and the comment about wishful thinking…

    • avatar Briana Baran says:

      wendykh: ” But haven’t any of you ever dealt with someone who was doing you a favour and constantly making ever so subtle comments about they’re so glad to offer this help to you, like they’re fishing for compliments?” and so forth. Yes, I have…and worse. My mother was the sort who made you pay, in spades, for every “favor” she ever did for you. Such as fixing dinner. Giving birth. My middle sister is more the sort that you describe. It gets to, “Yes, thank you, you’re too wonderful, I get it, I should be grateful, I should be guilty for not realizing what a selfless altruist you are. Here’s my wallet, and my first born…I’d give you my life’s blood, but it would be inconvenient”.
      But there is another sort too, the one’s who think you should be wallowing in gratitude for helping them. This would describe a few people I have met…who when you just say “No” after the umpteenth time they generously volunteer you to either cease, or cancel, everything you are doing in order to rescue them from some dire predicament (“I have a hair appointment and Tiffy is a little under the weather. Can you keep her for an hour?” turns into Tiffy having a stomach bug from hell complete with projectile vomiting and explosive diarrhea, with no way to contact mom who disappears for three hours or so) put on a sulky pout and claim that nobody ever has time for them, or does enough for them, or cares enough. This would also describe my sister, sans the bilious toddler. Why wouldn’t you want to be at their beck and call? They’re fabulous people!
      So, in retrospect, I think that L#2 has a combination of the two. Mother/grandmother has a bit of the, “Oy, how I suffer in helping you, and how unappreciative my ungrateful daughter is”, and daughter (LW2) has a touch of the “We’re new parents and we deserve all the attention we can get and who wouldn’t want to drop everything and take care of our precious bundle of drool and poop (remember, I had two such bundles, and loved them dearly…but facts is facts, and babies can be a lot of work…especially for an older person, and dependent on the amount of time that she is entirely responsible for all of the care). Mom’s being such a meanie!”. So, mom kvetched. If her daughter wanted her help, the wisest course was probably not to scream and swear at her and tell her what a jerk she was (that sounds close to right…given her description of the convo as “colorful”…and the aftermath of hurt absence). Probably deeper issues, but then, lots of mothers and daughters have them. Your advice is sound. Hopefully she’ll take it.