Micro-managing mothers

It´s not like I don´t have anything to do other than sitting here writing a blog entry. In fact, there´s plenty of stuff I should be doing. Most prominently writing my thesis, for which I finally found a tutor. Just for once, however, I refuse to believe it is my fault that I cannot get started. This time, it is my mother´s fault.

I mentioned that I am supposed to move out next month. This alone makes it hard to get started with anything while I´m still here, even if it´s just a file on my computer, which I constantly move around anyway. I´d move straight away, but the apartment still needs to be newly painted, and some other things need fixing, too. So I´ll have to wait for about a month (I´ve mentioned as well that my mother won´t let me paint the apartment myself, so we need to wait for the painter). I should be using that month to get started on my thesis, but according to my mother I should be using it to go through my belongings and decide what I want to take with me, and, of course, throw out all the rest along with the trash that´s stacked in my room anyway. Being torn apart between two things I absolutely should be doing, I feel unable to do anything at all.

I´ve said enough about the state my room is in. It is horrible. It´s not like I WANT to live like this! I´ve tried before sorting things out and cleaning up, and it turns out it´s impossible. It´s just too much. I don´t have enough room in my room to take apart one of the big piles of – whatever, books, clothes, newspaper articles – and sort them out, and if I had, I wouldn´t know where to put these things. My cupboard is too small, and my bookshelves are too crowded. It is impossible to keep my room orderly. I simply need more space.
I couldn´t keep any cardboard boxes in my room right now.

There is a very simple way how I can still move. As soon as the apartment is ready, I´ll get my bed over there. Then, there´ll be room where I can put the content of my bookshelves. I´ll leave all the books, get the bookshelves to my apartment, put them up and put all the books in there I currently read a lot. The rest I will put into cardboard boxes and straight into my new basement. Then, I can move even more stuff. I´ll have a whole apartment where I can put whatever I want to keep. I don´t have to sort it out kneeling on a dirty floor between piles of trash and treasures feeling ashamed of the mess I´m in. The whole thing will hardly take longer than two weeks, probably less. Since we haven´t sold our place yet, there isn´t really any hurry other than the unnecessary stress and drama my mother creates.

Will my mother let me do this? No, most likely not. She will never stop angsting about me “really having to start soon”, and “could we talk about your progress with emptying your room again?” I´m not even sure she is doing this out of malice, I think she is just completely compulsive. It´s like a stove-checker needing reassurances that the little lamp sure isn´t blinking. For some reason she cannot rest her head unless she regularly reminds me that I really need to start sorting things out. Even if we agreed on my masterplan (we get the apartment ready, she goes on holiday for two weeks and in the meantime I move), she would keep on bothering me. As a rationale, she uses scares. “It takes longer than you think!” Well, how does she know what I´m thinking? All I´m thinking is that I´m not going to let this take a second longer than it needs to!

These constant reminders make me feel lazy and inadequate. They also make me feel like I am unable to run my life and naive in all things. My family seems to be thinking the same thing. In fact, however, I´m not lazy at all. IF the apartment was ready and I was refusing to start packing my things and moving, then you might (!) accuse me of laziness. Fact is, though, that I´m simply asking my mother to let me cross a bridge when we reach it. There is no reason I absolutely need to waste my time now with thoughts about how to move, when to move, what to move. The moment the apartment is ready, I will grab a screwdriver and take apart my furniture. The act itself is easy. What´s there to think and angst about now?

My mother justifies her behavior with me being unreliable, and unpredictable, and whatnot. That´s actually the worst part. She comes across as incredibly efficient and industrious, while I´m the lazy slacker who lives in a pile of dirt. She´s working overtime at the office, she “needs” to make plans for the other family members, she is carrying the world on her fucking shoulders! I never asked her to do so, but what other choice does she have, with me being so unreliable and apathetic? I think she genuinely believes that. She is so utterly deep in denial about how irrational and pathological her behavior is, and half the time I´m questioning my own sanity for seeing it that way.

I´ve stumbled upon a great term some time ago: Micro-management. It means that a leader will only let you do things exactly the way he wants them done, even if that method doesn´t work for you. You cannot use a method that works, even if the result would be the same or better. The leader will often pay much more attention to little details than to the big picture, which often puts the whole project or business in jeopardy. The result, in extreme cases, is anti-social behavior on part of those micro-managed.

I believe this applies very well to the relationship between me and my mother. Let me spell out the entire saga of the apartment up to this point:

A couple of days ago we had a talk at the dinner table (with my father present) about what needed to be done and how we should proceed. My mother kept on insisting that my father should remove the things he still had in there, while he kept on insisting that she just call “the goddamn painter” so he has a deadline. I find it funny, in retrospect, how my father and I basically want the same thing: A “goddamn deadline”. My mother could set one up, and we get our stuff sorted until that point, but on our own terms. We don´t even demand that we get a say in when deadline day will be. Unfortunately, however, my mother doesn´t want to give us that much freedom or structure. She wavers around the deadline thing, finally saying that her calling the painter depends on when we will be ready, then continuing to urge us to get ready. After an hour of this bullshit we finish the debate with my father saying soothingly: “Well, you call the painter and I get my things ready!” It is quite funny, really, how it is perfectly irrelevant what I have to say about this. Maybe I want pink walls, who knows? Maybe they should ask me, or even ask me to call the painter myself? Maybe the most obvious sign how irrelevant I am is that my mother started to whole conversation before I even arrived.

So, my father has ended the debate without waiting for a reply from my mother, and I ask what exactly the outcome of this conversation is and what I´m supposed to expect. Whatever reply I get, I don´t have the impression that we have agreed on anything at all. Then, today, I have the following phone conversation with my mother:

She: “I´ll cook today, but I don´t know if I will be able to do the shopping because I´m bringing some cardboard boxes for your dad!”

Me: “Uh huh, okay…”

She: “He´s working really hard because he really needs to get his stuff out there, as the painter will be coming in two weeks, and a guy  fixing the toilet, too!”

Me: “Uh huh…and when exactly would you have told me that if we hadn´t accidentally come across this issue?”

No one knows. And I guess the debate we had recently was ambiguous enough for her to justify telling me we had discussed this if I pushed the issue. This unclear communication is making me feel like I´m crazy. I´m starting to wonder if we actually had agreed on this plan. Or at least if she has agreed on it with my dad. Well, maybe some time on the phone, yeah.

It´s like she´s thinking: I need to make a plan, and micro-manage everything my family members have to do to make it work, and if they still don´t do it, I´ll just move things forward without telling them in advance and it´s their own fault if now they are taken by surprise or feel under pressure!

She could just have said: “Alright, I´ll call the painter!”, then everybody would have known where we stand. Let´s see how tonight´s debate will go…





One Response to “Micro-managing mothers”

  1. Are you by any chance having an ASIAN mom? This is a very common scenario that is prevalent among the “tiger mom” set, including the resultant feelings of futility that it inspires in the children.

    I have terrible news for you on the outlook for the future: It does not get any better no matter how old you get. At least it has not for myself and my own friends who faced similar. We find solace in what boundaries we set for ourselves, and they may have to be PHYSICAL ones at that. My own mother and I tried joint counselling with a psychiatrist (me as an attempt at improving our dynamic, and she in an attempt to “fix” me) that ultimately resulted in the doctor coming to the conclusion that two of us should not live together. I remember feeling most comfortable when I was 3000 miles away on the other side of the country for college, as that made it impossible to supervise anything.

    Now that I am back on the same coastline, I am inundated by phone calls and commentary that I could do without. She may call up to 6 times in a single day if I allow it. A friend of mine has hours when her own mother is restricted from calling her so that she knows she will have at least a few hours a day to herself. She was given a key to my house with the express instruction that it was for emergency ONLY, and then the key had to be relocated to a friend of hers so that she would not have access to it immediately since she couldn’t seem to resist the temptation to let herself in if I didn’t answer the phone for a day.

    Of course, this didn’t last long before the key was back in her possession, but she was finally cured of the tendency to use it indiscriminately when she let herself in to find my lover wearing nothing but a cockring while masturbating in the living room. (Oddly enough, this also had the side effect of her now taking his side of every argument that we have even if she hasn’t heard mine.)

    At 42, she still finds the need to be nosing into the minutia of my bank accout, noting with criticism if I should happen to use my debit card to buy a meal at McDonalds, or complain about what a mess my house is. She may even leave micromanagement instructions in her will so that she continue to control from beyond the grave…

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