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I set a boundary today, and am overwhelmed with anxiety and guilt for it

Community Member

Hi everyone,

Hope you are all having a good day so far.

A bit of background - I moved overseas 4 years ago, much to the upset of both parents but especially my mom. Ever since moving she has had this need for almost constant contact, which, as an introvert trying to build a life in new country, is extremely overwhelming. It wasn't bad to begin with, but it got a point where if I didn't reply, I'd get a message from my dad, and if I didn't reply to that I'd get a panicked text message at what would have been a time for them they definitely should be sleeping (think 2am). It started to stress me out knowing they were 'worried' even though they heard from me 2-3 days earlier and nothing untoward was happening. It's taken me a really long time, but finally, today my mom was complaining about her own mother and how she called their house several times in the afternoon the other day when they were out and claimed she was worried and my mom feels like she is 3 years old still. I took this as my opportunity to hold up a mirror for my mom to see her own behaviour and I feel the same as she does with her mom's behaviour. I was as gentle as possible and told her if they don't hear from me it's not a reason to worry, I like breaks from my phone as too much interaction with the world gets exhausting. Since sending that email, I feel overwhelmed with anxiety and some guilt, as I didn't say anything for so long so I didn't hurt or upset her, but when would I have got another opportunity to point out the behaviour she is complaining about is exactly what she does? She hasn't responded so no doubt is crying/upset talking to my dad or brother but I really needed to say it before permanent resentment set in. I don't really know what I am looking for by posting this here, maybe any similar experiences/advice for combating guilt for setting a boundary that I had to set for my own wellbeing... Thank you anyone who reads this and reaches out, and merry christmas!

9 Replies 9

Blue Voices Member
Blue Voices Member

Hi Buzzy.

its quite common for a parent to be like that. Sometimes the parent is controlling, sometimes they are lonely, sometimes in denial that their little baby has grown up.

setting a boundary is often daunting, because we dont want to hurt any one, but sometimes it has to be done. If it is affecting your life then that is a good indication.

what you may be able to do is reach out to your mother and set a weekly chat.

one piece of advice i was given was that our children will grow and want to leave the nest, and as a parent it is importAnt to let them. We want them to be safe, but we cant watch them 24/7. How else will they learn, and grow? We just need to be there for them when they need us.

It sounds like you have done the right thing. Just follow up with her.

Not Batman

Community Champion
Community Champion


thanks for your interesting post.

I think of that saying Do as I say not as I do.
Your mum sees you as her child so she needs to be in contact a lot and her mum still sees your mum as a child but I think your mum would not see how the behaviour of her mum she complains about is the same behaviour she does to you.

sorry for that complex sentence.

Let us know what reply you get to your email.

Take care

Valued Contributor
Valued Contributor

Hi buzzybees,

I just wanted to say that you did the right thing 🙂 that was the perfect opportunity to let her know how you are feeling and to hold a mirror up for her to realise the effect her incessant calling is having on you. She may be a bit hurt by it now, some people are easily wounded when something like that is pointed out to them, but she will get over it. I think that she means well and is probably quite afraid and fearful having her daughter overseas and away from her, and is worried that something will happen to you. But the reality is that bad things can happen anywhere and you are in no more danger than usual. But it’s a feeling of you being “far away”, that she doesn’t know what’s going on, the loss of a feeling of control. I think it’s good that you let her know how you feel before resentment kicks in. You also don’t want to be tied to the phone while overseas in a new country trying to live your life and establish yourself. But also just try and remember that it’s a bit hard for her too and to be patient. Hopefully she will take it on board in the spirit that it was intended and make an effort to be better.

Community Champion
Community Champion

Hello Dear Buzzybee,

I have grown up children 40+ and 30+...and I still worry about them...I think it’s something that starts when they are born and through the years it increases they older our children get....It’s like an inbuilt need to know that our children are safe....

Maybe if you could set a time..maybe a certain day and time each week that you and your mum can chat for a around an hour..more or less to have a catch up on what’s going on in your lives and reassure her that you are safe and everything is going good for you.....That way you can relax knowing that your mum won’t be ringing you every other day....It’s really so very hard for a mum....to not be a mum and be concerned for their children..

Setting boundary’s is a good thing to do....but can be very hard on each other....Maybe if you could ring her and gently explain to her that although you love her very much and still need her in your life...you also need to find your own way in the world.....

My kind thoughts dear Buzzybees,,


Thank you everyone for your responses. I understand it's probably hard for her, but I hope that, now that I've pointed it out to her, she realises she is giving me the same feeling her mom gives her and the panicking if they don't get a response is way too much and needs to stop. I still have no response from her and I don't know if at this point it is a tactic to make me feel bad about what I said and apologize, I didn't mean it etc, or if she is angry that I dared to place a boundary or what. I feel that I will get a call from my brother at some point who I never hear from soon, to be put back in line and told I was rude or whatever, I only ever hear from him when he wants to interfere in my life in some way. It's the only time he remembers phones work both ways it seems!

I have always suffered with bad anxiety and they are both aware of it, although it was branded as attention seeking for a very long time growing up and I never got any help until I was independent in my early 20s. But when I started travelling alone in my early 20s they always tried to put me off going for one reason or another, I think I listened once then got annoyed that I let them change my mind and did what I wanted to do from then on.

Then when I permanently moved overseas, mom decided the day I was leaving was a good time to tell me that she has cried every time I have gone away (we are talking less than a month in some cases) and when I said she was making me feel guilty she said 'Oh no, you go and be happy' and I don't know if that was a way to make me feel bad for 'abandoning' her. She was always made to feel guilty by her own mom for being independent as she got older so I don't know if this is a learnt behaviour or why she, knowingly or not, has to make me feel bad for living my life and actually chasing what I want to do.

When the pandemic started she asked if I was going home when I had no reason to, and often tells me of other people's grown up kids 'surprising' their parents with a visit home as if she is hinting that I should be a good daughter and do the same, which I have not done because if I left I wouldn't get back into the country for a while with covid and she knows that, and I have to work and study full time. I feel like I am kind of expected to put her needs before my own in this sense and it is pretty infuriating.

I know it's long, but thank you for reading and for your responses!

Hey there,

That's a lot of pressure you're being put under.. But I want to echo the other replies by saying you've done the right thing, and not just for yourself, but for your mother as well. Our parents are people too and they are way from perfect.. While you're learning the ropes of living the life you want to live and chasing your dreams, it seems she needs to learn how to be less overbearing, worried and dependent on you all the time.

She doesn't have any other choice but to adapt and eventually come to terms with the fact her worries are irrational, and that it's completely natural to not be in contact with you all the time.

I do get the impression that her not replying and telling you to "go and be happy" is some sort of tactic.. Your gut is right about that. But I hope you can have empathy for the fact it comes from a place of missing you (however definitely far in excess and probably unhealthy)..

The idea of setting a scheduled chat does sound like a lovely idea.. You can agree on a time frame that suits you

It's amazing you've moved overseas and you're studying and working full time! That's an incredible achievement and I'm glad you're chasing the things that you want to. It's a shame that your family has tried to make you feel guilt for that and it's natural that would interfere with your happiness, and leave you feeling guilty and incredibly anxious..

I'm glad you can recognise the behaviour for what it is and you don't deserve to feel guilt for chasing the things you want to by any means. They're grown adults at the end of the day.. You haven't done anything to betray them.. Living your life is not a betrayal, and it's unhealthy for your mother to make you feel like that regardless of where it comes from. And you're absolutely right - her needs do not come before yours.

I hope you're taking care of yourself as best as you can 🙂 Having struggled with anxiety for most of your life, instances and confrontations like these become all the more powerful and impactful on your mental health.. And I hope some time soon that subsides and you can fully take peace in the fact that you've done nothing wrong here.. And the relationship between you and your mom will be okay.

I hope you're using your own supports as best as possible to care for your mental health while juggling everything. Feel free to chat if you want to, we're all here to lend an ear and kind words 🙂

Take care ❤️

Thank you for your lovely reply, it definitely feels better reading that people agree I have done the right thing, however hard it was for me to say and for my mom to hear it. Still no response so I do feel that it is an attempt at making me feel bad, but I decided earlier that I'm not going to be made to feel guilty and like a bad daughter for pointing out the behaviour she hates from her own mother. I have been as kind as possible and have put up with it for 4 years before I even said anything!

I sent a Christmas card so that will either be acknowledged or not, as with the rest of my family who didn't acknowledge my Christmas cards sent the first year I moved here, if they don't even say they received it, I won't make the effort again. Honestly I have almost moved past the guilt and anxiety phase of setting this boundary and realised she will either recognise her behaviour and come around, or she will continue with the silent treatment and that's how it will be, either way I will be fine, they lose out on alot more than I will by behaving this way as they hope to come over for a holiday to visit one day when covid leaves us alone, can't make plans if they won't talk to me!

If only they knew how much I have kept from them as a result of their behaviours, they have no idea about my amazing partner or the pets he and I have adopted together, all because I don't want to hear their opinions of why I shouldn't be living with my partner after a mistake I made over 10 years ago moving in with a toxic ex, or how my pets are a burden (they aren't, they have been an amazing addition and helped alot with my mental wellbeing and they have a happy home with us forever)

I have had a big self care day today 🙂 healthy food, homemade juices, naps, cat cuddles and I'm going to walk on the beach later then I am getting takeout just because! Thank you all so much, it is so nice to have a community I can reach out to and talk about this free of being judged or 'how could I be so... that's your mother!'

Will keep you updated if I receive a response! I hope everyone is having a lovely Saturday and being kind to themselves ❤

Community Member
Wow guys - only just received a reply, no mention of what I said at all, asking how work is, covid news from home and good luck tomorrow for a new volunteer position. Literally ZERO acknowledgement of what I said! Just... unreal.

I'm glad to hear you're treating yourself kindly and had a self care day! Please give your pets lots of cuddles from me ❤️

It's a shame that she didn't acknowledge what you said.. Based on her behaviour I suppose maybe that was predictable.. I guess it's a good thing she reached out to you though instead of continuing the silent treatment..

I'm glad that you recognise that you can't take responsibility for their behaviour, and of course they're the ones missing out for acting out that way.

I hope that in any case maybe she'll take on what you say by not reaching out as often, actions do speak louder.. In that case your efforts weren't wasteful at all and you said what you needed to say, even if it's hard for you to say and for her to hear. Most important things that need to be put out there aren't easy to say or hear.. I hope maybe she'll come to a place where she can acknowledge it because you are definitely owed that respect. Her ignoring it is an action in itself that isn't fair.

Keep us updated if anything happens 😕