Ask Dr. Giles: How can I lovingly but firmly ask mom to back off?

anonymous writes:

I have cancer and my mother is caring for me. Actually, I hate to sound ungrateful, but she is smothering me. She is not allowing me to breathe. I am a more introverted person and need time alone to marshall my resources against this cancer and she is always tap, tap, tapping at my psychological door. I feel bad complaining, especially since so many have lost parents and would do anything to get them back.

My mom calls me every day at least once, and comes over at least every other day. She comes to my appointments. She stays with me during chemo. I feel guilty for complaining, but I can’t help but feel overwhelmed by her. HELP!

How can I lovingly but firmly ask her to back off? She is driving me nuts!

How fortunate you are to have such a determined mother! Unfortunately, it appears her energies are misplaced and are creating a problem for you. It is likely that your mother is feeling helpless against this disease and is trying to lend her energies to your fight in any way she can.

Rather than telling her what you don’t want her to do, talk to her about the efforts she makes which do help. Explain why those things help you. Also explain how necessary your solitude is to you and how helpful it is to you when she lets you have it. In the words of Lee Canter, the classroom management expert, “Catch her doing good,” and tell her about it.

She will be grateful for the guidance you provide.