My mom moved to the same city as my wife and I about 5 years ago. It's always been a bit rocky, but there is probably one theme that comes up the most regularly. To put it simply, her expectations for my involvement in her life are simply not possible for me in my phase of life. Regarding my "phase" of life:
- I have 5 kids (including 2 that are under 3 years) that keep me very busy.
- More immediately, our youngest is 3 months old, and little people certainly make life that much more busy.
- To add to things, my wife has been dealing with PPD, so life has definitely been busy in the past half year or so.
Those are just the major pointers in recent history, but the overall reality is that my life is very busy literally every day. Currently we usually text occasionally during the week, and then we usually see her in person 1-3 times a month (she usually comes over during the weekends for half a day). Regarding her expectations (just a couple examples that come to mind):
- Sometime a few months she expressed frustration that I don't reach out to her regularly during the week
- She often gets hurt if I don't text her back quickly enough (she texted me last night around 7pm to see how I was doing, and when I hadn't responded, texted me again at 8am this morning to ask "Are you still alive?"). Normally I text back quickly, but it doesn't always happen.
- When she does visit she sometimes makes comments about how "We don't get to chat often" (usually I spend a good chunk of the weekend catching up on chores/errands, so when she does come over she spends more time with my kids than with me)
During the former (frustrated that I don't reach out more during the week) I apologized and told her that I would try to do better, but explained that because life is crazy (the points at top), I simply might not be able to reach out to her as much as she likes.
Similarly, the texting thing has come up before. This isn't the first time she's followed up a text with a sarcastic text because I took to long to respond. I aim to get back to her quickly and usually do, but this time she got me in the middle of bedtime and I wasn't able to respond until the next morning. In general I like text messages because they don't require an immediate response, but my mom obviously feels differently. In this case I responded the same way I did the last time this happened - something like "Sorry mom, life is busy and I don't always have a chance to respond immediately".
I'm not trying to make up excuses here - most days it's wake up, get ready for the day, feed kids breakfast, work, eat dinner, start putting kids to bed (little people go to bed early), put wife to bed (she goes to bed early because of baby), sleep, repeat. I understand her frustration, especially because I know she doesn't really have any friends, but spare time is missing in my life right now, and probably will be for another couple years.
I feel like she and I have touched on this topic a few times now, with me explaining that as life is just crazy and I can't always respond/reach out as quickly/often as she would like. We seem to move on for a while and then it inevitably comes up again, in one way or another. I feel like there is a larger issue here that I might be missing which causes things like this to keep popping up.
Might there be anything I can do to help my mom accept the way things are right now, and stop getting frustrated when I don't give her as much "attention" as she wants?