How to reconcile my mother's need for social interaction and my brother's need for quiet while studying?
(Get ready for a long read…)
Being Central Asian in origin, my mother’s extended family is very close and tight-knit. Due to many circumstances that would take too long to describe here, my mother’s apartment has been a “clubhouse” for many years, with her relatives gathering and meeting there for formal holidays and casual drop-ins all the time (to give you an idea: my mother’s sister drops by weekly, her aunt almost daily, and her aunt’s children and grandchildren at least 3 times a week).
While it was great for myself and my brothers when we were younger to have people around to help out (my parents have been divorced for nearly 20 years), as we got older, it became a problem. We were always much more studious and serious about school than our relatives and the constant noise and movement in the house made it difficult to study. It was still manageable in high school, when the work was easier, but it became more of a problem in college, as the amount of concentration and time required to do college work increased.
The current situation is that two of my brothers have moved out. Visits home have become rarer and rarer as my brothers have sampled a life of privacy and quiet and prefer it to the (sometimes) raucousness of home. This really upsets my mother, who has a strong desire to spend time with all the people she loves.
My youngest brother is studying for his MCAT and he needs huge chunks of quiet time. My brothers and I have spoken to my mother about reducing the number of guests received at home, but as far as I can tell, the habit is too strong to be broken. Our relatives are so used to coming over all the time that even asking them explicitly not to come over so often has had little to no effect on the frequency of their visits. (My mother, being of limited mobility, doesn’t get out much and has no means of transportation)
At this point, my brothers are upset with my mother for not enforcing their request. My mother, being very traditional, feels she cannot just kick people out of her house, especially beloved relatives. Being of poor health and somewhat shy, they are her primary source of social interaction.
In a nutshell, my mother’s two worlds are clashing. Moving out is not an option for my youngest brother, as he can’t support himself, but home is not a great study environment. My mother greatly fears that addressing her relatives directly will result in the breaking of close ties and loss of social interaction, but she still wants her son to do well in his studies.
For my part, I had this clash with my mother years ago. I came to realize that as long as I am in her house, her rules apply. For the most part, I’ve given up the fight, waiting for the day when I can support myself and move out.
So I guess the problem is: when you love your mother very much but cannot stand her lifestyle, what do you do? Her lifestyle works very well for her, it’s just not compatible with the way her sons want to live (namely, with quiet and privacy). When this point is brought up to her, she becomes very upset. How can you broach this subject with an emotional person who can’t seem to handle this incompatibility?
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