General Question

emjay's avatar

How can I get my mom to have some ambition and show her that she's ruining my siblings lives?

Asked by emjay (668 points ) September 12th, 2011

A few months ago, my dad died. He was 51. He left behind 8 kids, myself being the second oldest, and the only one that doesn’t live at home. The kids that are still at home are 20, 18, 13, 11, 9, 7, and 5. They are all (with the exception of the 20 and 18 year olds) homeschooled. Since dad’s death, my mom has decided that she is not going to work, but expects the community to support her. My older brother moved back home after dad died, and pretty much just mooches off the generosity of anyone that tries to help my mom. My 13 year old brother believes that he is going to end up getting an education that is… shall we say… less than fulfilling. (His exact words were “I’m going to end up retarded”) My mom does not leave her room durring the day. She stays on facebook and craigslist nearly all the time. And while there is nothing wrong with either of those sites, you can’t sit surfing the web when you have seven children at home who still need your help growing up. When I stop by, the house is always a mess. The 13 and 18 year old tell me that they try to keep the house up, but mom always tells the younger siblings they don’t need to help. When she comes out of her room, she screams, cries, and runs back to her bed. I understand she’s depressed because she doesn’t have my dad anymore. I’m still sad about it, myself. But the fact of the matter is that she now has a family to support. She’s not disabled, she’s not elderly (she’s 40), I think she needs to stop waiting for the world to take care of her and figure it out. I’m 19 and I have two full time jobs. I don’t have anyone to support, but I’m starting to feel like I’m going to have to take care of my mom and siblings if my mom doesn’t get it together. How can I show her she is hurting herself and my siblings by neglecting them in the way she does? All of my siblings tell me they fall asleep crying because of her. It’s breaking my heart and I don’t know how I can help them!

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52 Answers

JLeslie's avatar

So are the children still being home schooled? I have nothing against homeschooling, in fact I am very positive about it, but I think the younger kids should be put in school for now. Your mom is overwhelmed and depressed. Understandable. It will not pass quickly, it will probably take months for her to get some normalcy. If the young children are in school it will be one less thing she has to deal with is what I am thinking.

I never support the idea of older children having to parent their younger siblings, but this is a unique circumstance having had your father pass away, and for a year more or less the older siblings probably do need to pull together and handle the needs of the family. If I lost my husband I would be inconsolable.

Did your mom have outside work before, or was she always a mom and homemaker? If she has never had a job it would all be terrifiying for her. She must feel paralyzed.

With so many children and home schooling I am going to assume, I know always bad to assume, that possibly your family is part of a religious community that will be helpful during this difficult time? Let people help your family. Your mom needs some therapy probably to work through her grief.

Your mom already knows she is not being productive, she just can’t get herself out of it probably. It’s difficult.

Neizvestnaya's avatar

Call upon her friends and relatives to give her emotional support and help her research resources and opportunities. She’s grieving heavily right now and probably won’t budge for several more months, I don’t think she’s unusual in that.

As for you, get the hell out of there and distance yourself from whatever is pulling your strings to support her and your siblings. I’m telling you from experience that you’ll probably always have that twinge to step in and try to make their lives better but in order to that positively, you need to fortify yourself.

Talk to your siblings and tell them you can’t do all that you might and it’s up to them to help themselves as much as possible. You all can’t wait on your mom to come around, start your siblings off now to doing for themselves as much as possible. There are plenty of you to secure things up and keep going forward.

Are you able to talk to the school counselors for the younger kids? I would. I would let them know the situation as it is right now and ask what supports or assistance the kids could get while your mom goes through this tough time. I’m sure they will also counsel you not to wear yourself too thin trying to help everyone at once.

Good luck. This is so sad when you question whether or not your mother can come through. Not everyone is so resilient and persevering as you’re trying to be.

JLeslie's avatar

Also, see if any aunts and uncles can help. Or, if you have young grandparents on your maternal side. Go to adults in the family who can step in and take over for a while.

@Neizvestnaya How is he going to tell a 5 year old your on your own figure it out for yourself?

emjay's avatar

@JLeslie , My mom worked when I was younger, but after she had my little brother (the 13 year old) she didn’t continue to work. She has been going to grief share, and “making appearances” at several churches in her area (I live in a different town, about half an hour away). I’m hoping she does put the kids into school. A christian school near thier house offered all the kids scholarships and my mom a job teaching, but she didn’t take it (I personally think that was a mistake, but it’s not my decision….) My little brother and I were talking last night about having him move in with me and him going to public school in my town.

@Neizvestnaya , I only see them all about twice a month, but I try to talk to them on the phone as much as possible, because I know they still need me. (Having an 11 year old beg you to get her out of your mom’s house for her sanity is only ignorable for so long…) I hadn’t thought of talking to school counselors, I’ll look into that.

@JLeslie , My mom’s mom thinks that my mom is all fine and dandy. She stays with the family every couple of weeks and tries to help out but I dont think it does much for the kids mentaly. My family has always been rather distant from our relatives for whatever reason. So I don’t know how much help they would be.

SpatzieLover's avatar

It’s time to enroll troops to help. Your mom is still grieving and needs time to take care of herself. Do you have any adult relatives that would assist with the homeschooling for a few months?

If your mom or dad has a sibling, maybe you could talk to them and see if they could take a few of the kids for a couple of weeks to give your mom some alone time. She needs to pull herself together and is most likely feeling overwhelmed with grief and with her household.

emjay's avatar

@SpatzieLover , Several of them have offered, but mom doesn’t like the kids to leave the house much. She doesn’t even like me to take them for a couple hours most of the time.

SpatzieLover's avatar

@emjay It may be time for a relative to know the truth. Mom is spending too much time alone in bed. Someone needs to help out here on a larger scale. She may not like it, but it seems necessary. Her kids need to live their lives.

JLeslie's avatar

@emjay When you speak to the school counselor they will likely call social services if they feel the children are being neglected. I am not saying you shouldn’t I just don’t want you to be surprised. I really think the young children should all be in school, public or private.

mazingerz88's avatar

Simply put, you’re a great kid. There’s always one in a big family you know? One who sees things the way they are, doesn’t judge and steps in to take responsibilities. Rarer still is one who actually comes up with a plan that proves to be effective. So far, there are great advises that were posted and I suggest write them down in bullet points and if you think it would work in your case, work on it one by one. Revise if you need to. See, the simple act of doing something about it gives one some sense of peace, not to mention it’s a real solid step towards the right direction. You’re on your way.

Just always remember that things won’t always turn out the way you want. When that happens the first thing you do is not lose hope. Sometimes, thinking that things could have ended up worse helps. You are working, doing your part of helping yourself so you got to protect that. If you’re unstable, you are in no position to help anybody. Right now, I envision you to be a real pillar of strength. I’m the eldest son in my family and I did a lot of things too for my siblings and their kids that some friends say is just too much.

But no one else would have done it. In your case, you’re the thinker. You understand. The mere fact that you are self-supporting tells me you would figure this out patiently and eventually weather this debilitating storm in your family. It too shall pass. Just keep bracing with all the love you have and stay smart.

emjay's avatar

@JLeslie, if I do talk to a school counselor, I’ll try to filter the neglect info a bit. But you’re right, I will have to be careful with that.

JLeslie's avatar

You don’t know how much help your relatives will be until you ask. The distance could be something in the generation above you, but the relatives might care very deeply about the well being of you and your siblings. I think you should reach out to a few. They can say no, but they might say yes.

Neizvestnaya's avatar

@emjay: I really feel for you! Keep asking the the older ones to help with the younger until outside help can do more. Definitely ask the school counselors for phone number or websites you can contact to get temporary aid for your family. Has your mom signed up for anything yet? Is she just getting by on what relatives and friends can offer?

Ask the 20yr old to help you get what’s needed for your mom to get on some sort of assistance for your siblings. There might even be grief counseling available for her. Right now she might act like she doesn’t want to be bothered but at least push her to get aid that will help the others.

@JLeslie: I was thinking more along the lines of what the kids can do in the home to help each other rather than suggesting they all go and “knock on the mineworks door”.

SpatzieLover's avatar

What school counselors will she talk to? The kids are homeschooled. No, I would not enlist the public school governement unless absolutely necessary.

Whatever reasons your parents chose to homeschool @emjay, I would honor that for now, especially while your mom is still grieving.

JLeslie's avatar

@emjay Why is your mom against the young ones going to school?

JLeslie's avatar

@SpatzieLover The OP mentioned the local Christian school offered scholarships to all the children.

SpatzieLover's avatar

@JLeslie And her mom turned them down. For now, I would honor that. Mom needs time and possibly therapy. The kids need time, most likely away from their mom so mom can get it back together.

emjay's avatar

@Neizvestnaya , they are on social security, and have a few other lines of assistance.
@SpatzieLover , there are homeschool counselors. They go through a state program for homeschooling. I know my parents had reasons for homeschooling us, but if they aren’t doing their schooling its not helping anyone. My 20 year old brother is, to say it nicely, an idiot. He doesnt help with anything, he can’t hold a job, and he doesn’t know what he’s doing with his life. He’s pretty much of no help whatsoever, and he doesn’t want to be. My sister—the 18 year old—is about in the same boat that I am.
@JLeslie , I’m not entirely sure. I think she believes it will be too much change for them at once.

JLeslie's avatar

@SpatzieLover I agree mom needs time to grieve, I have great empathy for her. The children have said things like they are afraid they will wind up retarded and another wants to live with the OP and go to public school. To me it sounds like the children crave a learning environment and structure. Homeschooling is fine when it is a learning environment, but I do not get the feeling everyone is on grade level.

SpatzieLover's avatar

@JLeslie Most homeschoolers have periods of time off during death…it’s quite normal. 13 yr olds have a tendency towards dramatics and hormones.

@emjay Do the homeschool counselors have access to any virtual school programs. The kids would each get a laptop and have schedules to adhere to. This could be utilized during this difficult transition and could be done even if they were to go to a relatives home for a bit.

emjay's avatar

@SpatzieLover , Dad died in June. How much time off is normal? The 13 year old is the only one thinking about his education. And I think he’s right to be worried, he hasn’t finished seventh grade yet and should be starting eighth. Virtual programs could be a good idea, but the homeschool place only gives each family one computer, which is the one my mom does her web-surfing on.

JLeslie's avatar

@SpatzieLover My fear is mom will not allow school to lighten her load, because she had decided long ago homeschool is the best option for her children. I have empathy for how difficult these decisions are for parents, even when there is not a major disruption like the death of a parent. A very close girlfriend of mine just moved her oldest child from Catholic school to public (I have two other friends who have done this) she said she burst into tears when they finally made the decision and enrolled her daughter. She had always been sure a Catholic education was the best thing for her children, and the decision to switch to public terrifies her I think.

I also admit that your suggestion is plausible as well. No great harm in the children taking a break from studies for a couple of months, they certainly can study anytime throughout the year if they are educated at home. But, it does not sound like the homeschooling was being optimally effective to begin with? Not sure. And, again, the children don’t seem to be asking for a break from their studies, but the opposite. I realize you probably identify with the mother, but I don’t think your situation is the same.

JLeslie's avatar

@emjay I would say minimum 4 months to be able to get out of bed in the morning, a year to feel sort of “normal” again. Longer for everything to feel a new normal.

SpatzieLover's avatar

@emjay A few months off in this case would be quite normal. I’m not the only homeschooling mom on here. I’m going to PM this to another mom.

May I ask what type of curriculum your family did follow when they were active?

JLeslie's avatar

@SpatzieLover Also, I am all for treating each child as an individual, some do best in home school, some in private, some in public. I think it best to for the child.

JLeslie's avatar

@SpatzieLover Did you send to yarnlady? I was just about to send the Q to her.

JLeslie's avatar

@SpatzieLover Good idea. I thought of yarn because she lost two husbands and helps homeschool her grandkids.

JLeslie's avatar

@emjay What state/province are you in?

emjay's avatar

@SpatzieLover , we used ACE and a little spritzing of extracurricular activities and workbooks.
The curriculum is not so much the issue here, as accesibility. My brother said mom hasn’t even ordered the next grade for him, so he has no work to do.
Also, having lived in that house durring my own homeschooling days, I know it can be really hard to get any work done. There are a bunch of people in a tiny, cluttered space. I say “Not a lot of room to think.” I’d love to just spend a day cleaning and organizing, but my mom is practically one of the people from “Hoarders” (or however you spell it). She doesn’t like things moved, she doesn’t like people to see how she lives, but she doesn’t want to take care of it herself either. It’s very difficult. Honestly, I feel bad putting it on here even, but I’m not sure what to do and I figure it’s better than talking to someone I know for now, because my mom would probably get mad.

My mom has admited that she’s crazy without my dad. And I dont want to be disrespectful, but I agree. Since he died, she’s been less than sane. I understand it’s hard, but like I said, there are kids that need to be taken care of. People want to help her, but she seems to push everyone away and then wonder where they are.

emjay's avatar

@JLeslie , I’m in Alaska

tranquilsea's avatar

I was home schooling my 3 children when my mom died. This was catastrophic for us because my head injured sister lived with my mother and had to come and live with us. Plus I had to deal with an abusive drunkard of a BIL who injured my youngest son in an alcoholic rage just three days after my mother passed. I was dealing with an unbelievable amount of stress and nearly buckled. I spent many afternoons sobbing into my kitchen sink while construction workers finished off our basement for my sister.

It took about a year for all this mess to be sorted out. All throughout that time the kids unschooled themselves. I worried about it but it turned out that even at the end of that time they were still at least a year ahead of their peers in school.

Your mom needs to seek out some grief counselling. Perhaps the whole family needs it. She clearly needs more time to grieve. Try to gather together people who can help her. Try to make her understand that it’s ok for other people to help with schooling your brothers and sisters.

It’s only been a few months. Try to support her as much as you can without overwhelming yourself.

emjay's avatar

@tranquilsea , she has been going to “grief share” at a church in another town, do you think she may need more than that?

SpatzieLover's avatar

@emjay Yes, I think she needs private counseling. Maybe one of you could check into something for her, and suggest you go with her to one or two sessions so you can fill the therapist in to her current behavior (hoarding, excessive lounging, etc).

emjay's avatar

@SpatzieLover , I think I know a place that might be good for her. Maybe I’ll give them a call this week and see what they charge and if they may be able to help her…

SpatzieLover's avatar

@emjay It would be a good start for your family to get back on track. It sounds like your mom is blinded by her grief.

CWOTUS's avatar

Welcome to Fluther.

I’m sorry for your loss, and sorry to hear about your mother’s depression.

If there are no other family members that are able and willing to help out – by which I mean uncles, aunts and grandparents – “other adults”, that is – then I suggest you contact your state or county Department of Family and Children’s Services. They won’t necessarily “break up” your family and put the children in foster care, but it is a possibility if your mother is determined to be “unfit”. —Anyone can be temporarily unfit due to accident, disease or other reason for incapacity, and in those cases your DCFS / DFS / DCS – or whatever it’s called in your area – will attempt to provide temporary assistance until your mother can deal with things again.

But the condition you’ve described is intolerable, and even your older sibling is not yet a “legal adult” who would be legally capable of taking on this duty. You seem like the only capable adult in the family right now, so it falls on you to ask for help.

Good luck you you and your family.

tranquilsea's avatar

The loss of your father is very recent. She needs an opportunity to grieve in her own time. I wouldn’t judge her harshly during this time nor would I call state services on her.

I would try to get her to accept the help that is being offered. It will ease her worries and give her time to grieve.

I am a firm believer in families helping one another out. It’s the reason why my head injured sister lives with me. It is the reason my family has always helped one another out when things have gone off the rails.

When my mother struggled when I was a child we all pulled together. We made lots of mistakes but in the end we supported one another.

emjay's avatar

@tranquilsea, I agree with that. My mom would never speak to me again if I called social services. That is NOT my goal.
I want to help my siblings do what needs to get done, not create problems.

tranquilsea's avatar

I don’t think she necessarily needs more help. I think she needs more time. Help her buy that time.

Have you asked her what she feels she needs to help her through this time? If she has a hard time answering float some suggestions.

You’re a good daughter. Your family will make it through this and be stronger for it.

CWOTUS's avatar

With 7 siblings, including an older one who’s essentially proven to be a freeloader, and you not living at home, this is not something that you’re going to manage by pulling together. That’s a fantasy.

If you don’t want to make the call, then talk to someone else who will recognize the need to make it and make it. That’s one reason why I suggested another adult relative; that would be someone who could legitimately step in, fill the needed adult role in the family (and be accepted by your mother) and realistically manage the “pull together” thing – including getting your older sibling off his ass.

Thinking that you can do this on your own is… Dickensian. You may actually manage to survive, but the results will be godawful ugly. I’d be calling a trusted aunt or uncle – and I would have made sure they were called a week after the funeral.

JLeslie's avatar

@tranquilsea I got the impression she was hoarding before the death. There may some underlying issues, plus the loss loaded on top. It is a lot to deal with.

Plus, I fear they are going into many months of very limited sunlight which could make it all even worse.

emjay's avatar

@CWOTUS , mom wasn’t like this right after the funeral. She was still high on the attention. She’s just recently started to go down hill. I don’t expect to do anything on my own. I have seven siblings that damn well better expect to help themselves if they expect me to help them. As I said before, my family isn’t particularly close with any other relatives. We talk to them, yes, but we’re not like “come have dinner” kind of people. I think the large family size is overwhelming to them. My step grandma is really the only person I would trust to help with this, because she would agree with my point of view. While it may be an option to call social services, it’s an unknown to me. And I don’t willingly put myself—or anyone I care about—into a situation I can’t forsee the outcome of. There are too many other options I can see that I’d have to try first.
@JLeslie , yes, the hoarding is long-lasting and deep-rooted. I think it’s gotten worse now that she’s financially unstable.

emjay's avatar

Oh, and the reason I would only trust my step grandma, is because my mom’s whole family is quite similar to her. They have financial issues and don’t know how to be decisive. They are reactionary people that thrive on crisis. The kids in my family are more like my dad’s side. We’re quiet. We like peaceful and productive, not intense and stagnant.
My dad’s parents are retired and don’t drive. They want to help, but my mom doesn’t think they like her, and doesn’t want to have any of the kids stay there. My step grandma is both clear-headed and mobile. She thinks like I do, and is a go-getter. She wouldn’t be okay with this situation if she knew everything that was going on. My mom also trusts her, because she has dropped everything to come help, even when my mom didn’t ask. Aunts and Uncles… I have none that would be willing to help. But my step Grandma, I’m trying to get ahold of her right now. Hopefully I can explain everything to her and come to some sort of resolve that will last a couple of months.

emjay's avatar

@JLeslie , don’t remind me winter’s coming! Uggggh.

JLeslie's avatar

@emjay Good luck. Let us know what happens. Be prepared that your mom might lash out at you, but I really think you are doing the right thing. You obviously respect your moms wishes, but also worry about your siblings, plus you are very young yourself. It would be a lot for an older adult to handle and sort through, let alone someone your age. Plus you have had a difficult loss yourself. Don’t worry if whatever you try is imperfect or if you need to reevaluate a week or two from now. Each little step you will learn and get you to a better decision and place in the end.

mrrich724's avatar

As others have said, I highly recommend reaching out to family members for help, and utilizing other forms of education.

Your mom isn’t going to get over this in weeks or even months, and children can’t be neglected for months.

BeccaBoo's avatar

I think your mother also needs to be reminded that you and your siblings have just lost your father too! She needs to be told that not only does she need help but so do you guys, that’s what us parents are for no matter what. Spending time with you all will eventually help her realise that she needs to keep going for all of you. Your all raw and still grieving and it seems a little unfair that she gets all the sympathy from your community and your siblings needs are being ignored. Honey you either talk to her or get your grand mother to do it! After all if she is there for your mum, then by rights your mum should be there for your siblings and their grief.

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

All of my siblings tell me they fall asleep crying because of her. It’s breaking my heart and I don’t know how I can help them! If they see you as the natural leader, rally the troops and get their lazy asses in gear. Go there and delegate, tell this one you do the laundry, and point to another and tell them they are helping. Tell another he is in charge of getting the clutter out, and keeping the mess down. Another vacuums, and a team tackles the year. If your mother has sisters or brothers get their help into talking to her. If FB is where she spends most of her time, have the family send her a group message via FB. You seem like the smart one, get creative, think outside-the-box.

snowberry's avatar

I kind of like @Hypocrisy_Central‘s answer above. If you allow things to continue as they are, you are inadvertantly feeding the problem. It’s better to try to resolve it at home first.

JLeslie's avatar

I’m liking @Hypocrisy_Central‘s answer too. The kids are craving some structure. Structure it so it takes some burden off of you, and they have some of their own responsibilities. Let each one be in charge of what they naturally gravitate too. Maybe let them be in on the decision making on who is responsible for what, so they don’t feel ordered around, and they will take ownership of the tasks and responsibilities. This is a lesson in management for you, and group dynamics for everyone. So, have a pow wow, tell them the plan, let them come up with some decisions, and promise to have another meeting in a week or two to review how things are going and make changes where necessary. Everyone is allowed to participate including the 5 year old. Give them positive reinforcement for doing a good job, and encourage everyone to do the same for everyone else when someone is doing something productive and positive.

YARNLADY's avatar

I almost missed this one because I was out of town, sorry for coming in so late.

I am really sorry for your loss. As stated above, I lost two husbands, but I had my own parents to fall back on. I felt just like a zombie, going through my daily routine because I had a child to care for.

I wonder if the church might have some family counseling service you could rely on? It sounds to me like yours is a religious family, as was the family I was raised in. The church minister was always there for people in need.

snowberry's avatar

Yep, @YARNLADY is right on cue. This is a good time to call in non-judgemental help from the church. You need to know you will be getting help from safe people, who have a good handle on the situation going into it.

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