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If you are suffering from emotional pain or relationship problems in any area of your life, we can help you. You may feel stuck and out of choices, but you don’t have to live with your pain for the rest of your life. We offer a safe, private and comfortable environment where a meaningful and effective therapeutic process can develop.

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3 months 3 weeks ago
Author: Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

From the U.S.: My daughter’s friend’s Mother is acting strangely. I found out that she wants my adult daughter to call her “Mom”. She takes my daughter’s side when my daughter and I argue, and has since my daughter was a teenager. She competes with me. An example of this right now is that my husband and I are taking my daughter on a 3 week trip this summer. I found out today that she has planned a trip now for this summer for her 2 daughters and mine. My daughter does not tell me these things. I have learned about this through the grapevine.

My daughter has told me that this woman has been going to a psychiatrist for 12 years. When her own first daughter was born, she switched careers and became an international flight attendant. She is home 2 weeks a month. I have always been generous to her daughter and many times took care of her because her Mom was not around. There has never been a thank you from her for anything. She actually does not ever make any effort to communicate with me. She calls my daughter “her daughter”.

Her own daughter is a room mate of my daughter’s. She is passive aggressive and she always wants to come with my daughter to visit me. I live 5 hours away from my daughter. She has been known to withhold my mail from my daughter and has opened packages that I sent to my daughter. I do not understand what this is about?

What a tangled situation. You characterize the woman’s behavior as competition with you. I think it is far more complicated than that. On the one hand, she decided to be a rather absent mother and made no objection to you doing things that a mother usually would for her daughter. If she struggles with mental illness, she may have thought it was the best way to love her daughter at the time. On the other hand, she may feel some sadness, guilt or shame about having done so. I’m guessing that maybe she is trying to make up for lost time with her own daughter by planning the vacation. She may also be attempting to balance her daughter’s relationship with you by attempting to be closer to your daughter.

It makes sense to me as well that the other girl wants to visit you with your daughter and does things like opening the mail you send. After having been a part of your family for years, she may not be able to understand or respect a new boundary.

This may be going on at a very unconscious level. It could well be that neither the mother nor the daughter are being purposeful in what looks like hurtful behavior. They may not know how to have a more usual and closer mother-daughter relationship when you’ve been in the mothering role for so long. The daughter may not know how to ask you to continue being a surrogate mother without feeling like she is betraying her biological mom.

One challenge now is for you to find a way to move out of the mothering role without making the girl feel abandoned. Another challenge is to not take offense at the other woman’s efforts to “adopt” your daughter. Arguing with her will only stress you and it is unlikely to change her.

Your daughter knows who her mother is. It’s fine to remind your daughter that it isn’t helpful to recruit the other mother into any disagreements the two of you have. Shifting your relationship to a more adult — adult one now that she is a young adult means working things out directly with each other, not pulling someone else into problems.

Because this is so complicated, you might find it helpful to talk to a family therapist about how you can shift your relationship with the other family and affirm your relationship with your own daughter. An experienced family therapist will be able to give more informed guidance and support than I can.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie