Dear Thelma: I’m an adult but my mum still wants to control my life

  • Family
  • Sunday, 29 Sep 2019

Letter No.1

I am 21. My parents divorced when I was a few months old, and my mum has looked after me since. Then my mum went abroad to work when I was one-year-old, so I lived with my grandma and aunt’s family. When I attended college, I moved out; at the time, mum agreed to it. But now, whatever I want to do, I have to ask permission from mum although I can think for myself what is good or bad. She won’t give me the right to make my own decisions. She wants to plan my life. I don’t want to live like this. She doesn’t know the real me. She just wants me to stay the way she chooses. I don’t know what to do.


Letter No.2

I’m having a difficult time with my mother. She is very fierce and always scolds me. She cares more for my older sister than me. I feel I’m not her daughter anymore. I’m scared of her and I feel like running away from her. She called me a troublemaker. She doesn’t want me anymore. She hits me several times, and also in my dreams. I feel like I’m not the perfect daughter and am so scared of her. I tried to argue with her. When I do wrong things, she will hit me. Am I mummy’s real daughter? I want to cry but I cannot cry. What should I do?

Adopted Daughter

Dear Harassed and Adopted Daughter,

Mums are human and that means they’re not always perfect.

Harassed, I can’t tell what kind of plans you are talking about. Do you mean you have to study what mum decides? Or do you want to get a particular kind of job and she’s disagreeing? Or are you saying you need to ask her about even little things like making friends?

For simplicity’s sake, I’m going to assume that you are arguing about all of that. I’m also going to assume that you’re sensible and you’re not planning to take a Degree in Surfing so that you can spend the next five years trying to make it into the Guinness Book Of Records!

Technically you are an adult, so you could walk away and make your own life. But I don’t recommend it because your mum sounds like a good woman. She’s worked hard all of her life, far away from home, to give you everything you need. That is a wonderful, generous, loving gift.

I suspect what’s behind her bossiness is fear. She was married, had a kid, and was left to parent alone.

That’s very scary and I think that she may be trying to protect you from being placed in the same position. It’s not logical because you are two different people, but it’s human.

If she’s afraid for you, then the best way to address it is for you to sit down and map out what you want in terms of life and career for the next five years. Not vague stuff like, “I want to be happy” but really achievable goals as in, “I want to be an auditor in a local bank earning XYZ” with a step-by-step plan on how you’ll get there.

Take that to your mum and ask if she can sit down with you and advise you. Once you talk about practical stuff like how you will pay your bills, she’ll be much more open about discussing the things that will make you happy.

As for little things, have a heart to heart with her. “Mum, I love you, but I’m 21 and I have to learn to be an adult.” And then come to a reasonable compromise where your mum starts letting go.

Maybe it means you call her once a day when you travel, or perhaps it’s meeting your friends for a coffee. Try and draw a line between adult independence and understanding that mums who know how nasty the world is, tend to be a bit over-protective.

As you make these changes, look to the advice for the Adopted Daughter and gather in your supporters to help you too.

My dear Adopted Daughter, I’m so sorry. Like I said, mums are human and they’re not always very good at being mums. However, there is never an excuse for hitting others!

Could you please do the following two things? First, as your mother is violent to the point where you are thinking of running away, please call 15999 Childline, the helpline for troubled children in Malaysia. The people there will listen to you and they will help you.

Next, write a list of the people you know and trust. Maybe you have an aunt, grandmother, uncle or schoolteacher you like. Or perhaps more than one person? That is your support group. You need to talk to them and tell them what is happening. Together, you can work out a better way for you to live.

I’m a little puzzled about your mum hitting you in dreams. Do you mean she strikes you when you are asleep or do you have nightmares? If you have nightmares, that may be stress. When we’re afraid during the day, that anxiety comes out in our dreams sometimes. It hurt your sleep quality and that can make you depressed. When you talk to Childline, ask for a counsellor so they can talk you through it, OK?

Finally, please don’t run away. I understand that you’re afraid of your mother but living on the streets is extremely dangerous.

There are people who target frightened, lonely, young women. If you are scared of being beaten up, run to a relative, teacher, neighbour or priest/pastor/imam. And then call Childline immediately.

Is something bothering you? Do you need a listening ear or a shoulder to lean on? Thelma is here to help.  Email or write to Dear Thelma, c/o StarLifestyle, Menara Star, 15, Jalan 16/11, 46350 Petaling Jaya, Selangor. PLEASE INCLUDE YOUR FULL NAME AND ADDRESS, AND A PSEUDONYM. No private correspondence will be entertained. The Star does not give any warranty on accuracy, completeness, usefulness, fitness for any particular purpose or other assurances as to the opinions and views expressed in this column. The Star disclaims all responsibility for any losses suffered directly or indirectly arising from reliance on such opinions and views. 

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