Meddling Moms: Debbie and Amy

"Amy is my daughter. She's currently living with her four children here with my husband, David, and me," says Debbie. "I watch the kids seven days a week."


Amy, 24, is separated from her husband and has children who range in age from 2 months to 3 years old. She doesn't appreciate her mother's intervention. "I get no respect, no privacy. She has to know what's going on every minute of every second of every day," Amy complains. "She just tries to control me."


"A typical morning at my house is like a zoo. About 7:30, I will have a tap on my door. It's one of the two girls. I have to get breakfast for them because Amy is still asleep," Debbie recounts. "Usually by the time I leave here about 9:00 a.m., I'm still calling Amy to get up off the sofa to take care of the kids."


"I'm not a morning person. I'm a groggy, miserable person in the morning, and she can't stand that," Amy says with a smile.


Debbie admits that she's enabling her daughter but doesn't know how to stop the handouts.

David is tired of supporting his stepdaughter financially. "In the last two and a half years, we've probably put out about $70,000 to $80,000 to sustain Amy and her family's life. They've never paid rent, utilities, nothing," he reveals. 

"The last time I've had a job was October 2002," Amy says.

"Amy's husband left for the third time about two months ago. Since he's been gone, there has only been one payment from him for about $200," Debbie discloses. "Three times, my husband, David, and I set Amy and her husband up in homes. We've ended up getting a bill for nearly
$10,000 in damages. Those damages ranged from stains on the rugs, burn marks on floors, holes in doors, trash piled up all over the place."

David has issued an ultimatum to his stepdaughter: she and her children need to be out of his house by the end of the month. "Debbie and I need our home back; we need our life back," he explains.

Addressing Amy, Dr. Phil says, "Tell me why you agreed to be here today."


"I'm not opposed to having someone else look in and say, 'Things can be better,' and getting the help," she replies.


"Do you watch this show, or does it come on before you get up?" Dr. Phil quips. "You've got to know that I've got some hard questions for you. Are you willing to answer those questions?"


"Sure," Amy replies.


"They tell me that you tend to throw tantrums and take off."


"No, I tend to freeze up because if I feel like I'm being attacked, and I ask, 'Can you back off me for a little bit, and let me breathe?' nobody knows how to back off me and let me breathe," explains Amy.


Pointing out that Amy is only 24, Dr. Phil says, "You have no job, no place to live. Why do you have four children?"


"I have four children because I love my children. I was married. My husband and I were deeply in love, but things change. He started to treat me poorly," she tells Dr. Phil.


"He treated her worse than poorly," Debbie adds.

Debbie has her daughter's best interests at heart, but Amy's mooching ways are taking their toll. "She says that you refuse to get a job, that you won't look for an apartment, that you won't even fill out the paperwork to get assistance for you and the children, that you, virtually, are willing to do nothing to help yourself. Is that true or false?" he asks Amy.


"That's false, and I am fuming right now, trying not to go off," Amy replies. "I have taken steps towards getting a job."


"Just recently you've taken steps to get a job," Debbie interjects.


"Bull! Bull, bull, bull," snaps Amy. "You don't sit there with me at night on the computer and see what I'm doing, do you?"


"Do you sleep until 4:30 in the afternoon?" Dr. Phil asks her.


"No!" Amy exclaims. "I just don't answer the phone for her because I don't want to hear her."


Dr. Phil expresses doubt. "When we came to shoot with you, we had an interview scheduled for 9:30. What time did you get up that day?" he asks.


"I couldn't tell you," Amy replies.


Dr. Phil helps jog her memory. "My crew says you got up at 4:30," he says.


"I came out of the room at 4:30. That doesn't mean that's when I was awake or not," Amy argues.

Video depicts what really happens when a Dr. Phil crew arrives at Amy's house. "The producers from your show arrived at 9:00 a.m. this morning to interview Amy," Debbie recounts. Standing over her napping daughter, she says, "Get up, please. These people are here; they want to sit down and talk to me."


"Whatever you like, Your Majesty," Amy says sarcastically, rising groggily from the couch. "You don't mind the fact that my back is absolutely, positively, killing me."


Amy snatches her blanket and pillow and plops down on the living room floor. "It's 12:40. Amy is asleep. She's been asleep since last night," Debbie narrates. "This is how I start my day, every day, before I go to work."


At 2:12 p.m., Amy is still in Slumberland. "The crew has been here since 9:00, and I still can't get Amy out of bed," Debbie complains. "This is a normal day in my life."


At 4:30, Amy emerges from her room with an attitude. "When are you going to grasp the concept that I'm an adult, and you can't make me do things I don't want to do?" she snaps at her mom.


Tearfully, Debbie tells a producer, "I'm sorry that I've wasted your time. She just thinks I'm out to get her, I'm out to bury her, and I'm not. I love her more than anything in this world."

When Dr. Phil asks Amy for her reaction to the video clip, she says, "When she brings things to me, it's not like, 'OK, let's sit down and talk about this.' It's like, 'Let's go into attack mode.'"


"That's not true," Debbie says.


"That is true, and you've always been that way," Amy shoots back.


"No, I haven't."


"Oh, my God, Mom. You are a liar!" Amy says, raising her voice.


Mother and daughter bicker back and forth. "For four years now, I have been controlled. I have been told how to live. I have been told what I can and cannot wear," she says.


"Well, he's an idiot!" Debbie says, referring to Amy's husband.


"I understand that, but I have to find my own way now, and I've only been out of [my relationship] for two months," she says. "And I'm taking care of four kids."


"Are you taking care of four kids?" Dr. Phil probes.


"Yes, I'm doing the best I can," Amy insists. When the audience makes a derisive sound, Amy breaks down and rushes offstage.

David shares his thoughts on Amy's daily routine. "She is up between 10:00 and 12:00; the kids are up at 7:00," he says. "This is the average day. She needs about two or three hours to wake up and get moving."


"That's fine if you are a child. She is a mother of four, and that's what's driving you crazy, right?" Dr. Phil asks.


"Yeah, and we're taking care of the kids," David says.


Debbie is heartbroken. "I love my daughter. I want her to know that," she says, through tears.


"Are you going to sit here and go into a guilt spiral because she just threw a tantrum and stormed off the stage?" Dr. Phil asks. "She is playing you like a fiddle, Mom."


"I can't do it anymore," Debbie says. "What frightens me is what you saw, and that I'll never see my grandchildren again. Amy can be the most loving, giving child, but then she can turn around and be so spiteful and mean. I don't want to lose my only child."

"Here's the reality. What I want to do is say that you really need to play hardball with her, and you need to get her out of the house, and get her on her own. But let's talk about the reality of the situation," Dr. Phil tells Debbie. "There are four innocent children under 4 years of age here, and you are the victim of emotional extortion. She holds those children hostage, and says, 'If you don't do what I want you to do, I will take my four children, and you'll never see them again, you rotten *****.'"


Debbie needs to use some tough love with her daughter. "You can walk on eggshells because you don't want to hurt her feelings, but she is not being a fit mother here," Dr. Phil observes.


"She loves those kids," Debbie says. "And she does take care of them " when she's awake. She takes good care of them."


"Answer the question," David prompts his wife.


"I've defended her and made excuses for her all her life, and I'm still doing it," Debbie admits.


"How's that working for you?" Dr. Phil asks. "You truly, truly are going to have to quit making excuses for her. You're going to have to stop defending her, and she's going to have to agree to a program of intervention."


Dr. Phil promises to get Amy professional help and career counseling.