I need to know if my boundaries are reasonable when dealing with my legally blind mother. She needs extra help while my dad is in the hospital. My job has mainly been to drive her around and help her with things she can’t see.
I have two things that make that complicated. I’m on antibiotics for a deep cut in my foot and the pills make me dizzy. I also cannot multitask and go crazy when someone “navigates” (backseat drives).
The dizziness means I can’t accompany her on lengthy errands without needing to sit somewhere cool. She’s been extremely dismissive of this.
She is also dismissive of my need to drive without distractions. She ended up walking home yesterday after I stopped the car for the second time that day to tell her to either stop backseat driving or get out.
Maybe I’m a bad driver, but I just cannot deal. It creates a dangerous situation. I think on some level she’s attached to “navigating” because she wants to be independent. Maybe she feels she’s been replaced by the faulty gps on my phone. In my defense, I always get where I’m going. I feel for her, but it’s too much. My siblings and dad just cope better than I do, I guess.
I wrote her a note reiterating my limitations and went out for the morning. I’m here for 6 more days. I predict major guilt-tripping from siblings and dad. Should i just politely reiterate boundaries and be prepared for silence and hostility? Are there any other tools to deal with this situation?
Dear Letter Writer,
“Mom, I can’t drive you while I’m on this medication, sorry. I’m too dizzy. You’ll have to ask someone else,” is a reasonable boundary.
“Mom, I can’t drive you. The way you backseat drive is distracting, and I don’t feel safe with you in the car,” has the advantage of being true. It probably won’t make your case to her, since if she’s behaving that way she doesn’t think it’s a real issue, so it’s up to you if you want to raise the “you’re being a jerk, mom” issue or if you want to blame it on your own medication, i.e. “Nope, too dizzy, can’t operate heavy equipment. ”
“Mom, after the awfulness of (the day I kicked you out of car), I’m just gonna say no to driving you places.” Legit. I would honestly be surprised if she asked you to do it again after that, but one never knows
“Mom! Stop talking! You are distracting me and that is unsafe!” (yell!) or “Stop backseat-driving or I am going to pull the car over and I guess we’ll sit for a while enjoying the scenery of this fine parking lot,” isn’t ideal because she is not likely to get her to be quiet (the opposite, in fact), but have it up your sleeve if you do end up driving her again. I can’t drive with distractions, especially not with someone jabbering at me, so I feel you on how anxiety-making and scary it is to feel like you can’t concentrate. Pulling over until you feel safe is better than the alternative. Speaking of the alternative:
Kicking a blind woman out of the car to walk home is a bridge too far. Like one of those childhood things, “Stop fighting with your sister or you can both walk home/Or I’m turning this car right around and we won’t go to Mount Splashmore” are things parents say, but leaving someone who is vulnerable to walk along the shoulder of a road isn’t something good parents do because it’s absurdly dangerous. Many blind people can and do get around just fine, and your mom can both be legally blind AND be acting like a jerk when she backseat drives, still, I am hoping against hope that y’all live in a place with sidewalks and that she wasn’t that far away from home and it was a familiar route for her. Get her and yourself home safely. Refuse to drive in the future.
If you learn one thing this week, learn that it’s better to say no to driving your mom at all than it is to saying yes to driving her with a bunch of conditions that she won’t respect and that you can’t enforce without danger to her and to yourself. You tried. If this were workable, it would have worked without getting to the point that it did when she walked home. This isn’t about politeness or modeling good boundaries or avoiding guilt trips from family. This is is unworkable, so, stop. Like, maybe-cut-your-trip-short stop.
I don’t know how long your dad is going to be laid up, but looking into what local taxi/transport companies and/or social services that provide transport to elderly and disabled folks are around is something you can do to legitimately help your parents. Friends of theirs. Neighbor college students home from the summer. Anyone but you.