"Dear Carol, my mom is making me anxious"
My mom has been a huge source of anxiety for me lately. She's been going through a lot of stress because she and my dad are in a rough patch, and she's been slammed at work. I feel like I have to walk on eggshells around her. Every time I want to be alone in my room, she acts like I'm abandoning my family. She has really high expectations and seems disappointed when I don't exceed them. She has never been abusive in any way, but I just feel nervous around her—like I'm going to be in trouble for breathing the wrong way. She needs therapy, but I don't know how to help her in that way.
- My Mom Is Stressing Me Out
Dear My Mom Is Stressing Me Out,
This is difficult (and you're right that it's not on you to be her therapist), but hear me out: Since she's feeling stressed and sad, instead of tiptoeing around her, maybe consider surprising her with a hug or compliment and thanking her for cooking or doing laundry. A little appreciation can go a long way. You could also say, "Mom, I have a ton of homework so I'm going to go do it, but I just wanted to say thank you because I know you're juggling a lot, too." Maybe you and a family member can do something extra special for Mother's Day (it might make all of you feel better). If necessary, of course, you could also directly explain to your mom as gently as possible that you're not avoiding her, but it's hard when she's so critical.
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