powered by SignMyGuestbook.com

Language Log

Saturday, Jan. 02, 2021 - 5:47 p.m.

I need to find a way to set boundaries with my mother. I don’t know how to phrase them. I feel setting them will cause conflict. But the essence of it all is that she wants me to do emotional labor that I am not willing to do.

When I was taking anthropology and African studies classes one theme that kept arising was that in western societies we don’t take care of our elders well. Lacking the social safety net that affects so many of those who need support. But nursing homes were criticized, etc. And of course I always admired mom for taking care of dad. I believe it’s the right thing to do, in the absence of other sorts of social support. People with younger parents can say “cut them out of your life” more easily (and I’m not referring to you, wordy, it’s a piece of advice I have received elsewhere and also seen others receive/talk about how they feel that is an option), but I feel that when the parent is beginning to need support, and there are grandchildren she deserves to be able to see (albeit with supervision), it’s wrong to just cut them out unless they are frequently baldly abusive.

So anyway people have made me question my sense of moral obligation. At the very least I feel one can and should distinguish between the types of labor that one has a duty to and the ones that are often taken for granted but not the same. I feel I owe her communication about obtaining groceries since otherwise she would have to expose herself to the virus to get them. But do I owe her emotional labor? Socializing? Surely it’s not owed.

If not owed then maybe it’s compassionate to provide it when I am able. Which is what I have been doing. But what I am able to do is clearly not enough to satisfy her.

I ask myself, if she were in any relation to me other than mother, how would I want to handle this. And the answer is that I would not be her friend apart from brief polite greetings and ritual exchanges of food. But here I am called upon to listen to her tell me everyone’s business, give me her opinions about my life, and complain that I don’t natter on mindlessly about garbage to pass the time the same way she does.

previous next

Leave a note