Hey Jude – ‘I always find it hard to be at home for so long’

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Hey Jude,

I’m in university, and will be spending most of Christmas and January at home with my mother. I don’t mind going home usually but I always find it hard to be at home for so long. My parents are separated and because my dad isn’t around much, my mam expects me to spend all my Christmas time with her. We get on pretty well and I do like to hang out with her, but I don’t want to spend all my time off with her. I know I’ll end up cancelling plans I’ve made with my friends because she will expect us to be together and then I’ll feel guilty to tell her I already had plans. It makes me dread going home as it’s just the two of us.

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Thanks,

Alison.

 

Hi Alison,

CHRISTMAS can be a really challenging time, and for many reasons. It is a time that routine and schedule go out the window and suddenly we can have so much more free time than we’re used to. While it is important to have free time now and then and not be stuck to a schedule all the time, it does tend to throw us off guard and rattle us a bit. So this is where tradition comes into play. When we have free time and no routine, we find a way to sneak it in which can come in the form of traditions. We begin, or carry on traditions for a lot of reasons, but a large part of it is to create some sense of routine and familiarity to help us get through this period of time. So we know what we’re doing today, tomorrow, etc… because this is what we do every year. Is it possible that your mother relies on you to share her time with because it’s always been that way at Christmas time? If so, then it can be a challenge to break this, however it is doable.

From what you’ve written, there seems to be an expectation on you to fill the void of a partner to your mother perhaps. Of course, Christmas is ideally a time with family, however when it is just two people, that can feel like a lot of pressure. Your mother needs to realise that while you enjoy spending time with her, you need to concentrate on your own life too, and she in turn. So how can you do this sensitively? Well, first off I think you need to talk to her and tell her how you feel. You don’t need to tell her that it’s making you dread going home but you can tell her that you would like to spend more time with your friends this year.

Do this tentatively. Yes, she may get upset, that might not be able to be avoided but that’s OK too. If you can do this from a place of love, then even if she does get upset, she will understand. If you keep this in and continue as you are, eventually you may begin to resent her and a chasm may build between you both until you either verbally lash out and tell her in anger or you may start to avoid coming home as much. It needs to be dealt with head on, but with kindness.

I don’t know what is going on for your mother, you probably don’t either. She may be lonely and feel a bit isolated, or she may just love spending all the time she can with you. Either way, you need to make your feelings clear with her so it doesn’t begin to damage the relationship you have together. You may not be able to spend this much time with her always, you might decide to have a family of your own one day and she will need to have her own life and not rely on you to all the time.

This will allow her to focus on her life too and building it with new friends, hobbies, interests etc. Use this time to encourage her to seek out new interests. If you make plans, tell her as early as possible, don’t wait until she has plans and then feel like you’re letting her down.

You are not responsible for her so when you’re feeling guilty, remember this. If you can deal with this in a loving and honest way, it will bring the opportunity to strengthen your relationship and communication will be open again.