Mind Your Business: Carla and Pamela

Backyard Buttinsky

"Dr. Phil, my mom is way too nosy. She needs to mind her own business," says Carla, who lives directly across from her mother, Pamela. "We live way too close. She watches me like a hawk. I'm 31 years old and I can take care of myself."

"We live in such close proximity to each other, I can't help but be involved in her life," says Pamela. "It's natural for me to look out my window and see if Carla's home. It's just something I've always done. I think that it is my nature to be involved. I don't think I'm nosy at all."

"If stuff is not up to par at our house, my mom would definitely let us know. My mother nagged us two weeks straight to cut the hedges, and then we came home and they were just nubs," says Carla. "My mom makes it her business to make sure that my rent is always paid on time. She reads my mail. She insists on knowing every bill that I have," she explains. "If my mom had her way, she'd run a background check on all of my friends, where they live, do they go to church? Do they drink? Do they smoke?"

[AD]Pamela says that since her sister is Carla's landlady, she's just making sure Carla doesn't take advantage of the situation. She admits to reading Carla's mail and wanting to approve of Carla's friends. "As a mother, I want to know whom she's hanging out with. Carla's told me to mind my own business, but I have concerns with her," she says.

"She is watching me. Even when I don't see her, she sees me," says Carla. "If you want to have sex, make sure the door's locked!"

"I know her every move," says Pamela. "She cannot pull the wool over my eyes."

Recently, Carla and her mother got into a fight whaen Carla and her young daughter arrived home at 11:00 p.m. Pamela was outraged at the late hour. "That was unacceptable. By that time, my blood was boiling," she says. "We had a shouting match."

Carla remembers, "My mom comes barreling through the door in her pajamas, threatening to call social services. I told her, 'How dare you
tell me you're going to take away my daughter.' I'm fed up with her being so nosy."

"She'd better be thankful I'm a busy-body. If it weren't for me, this place would go up in flames," says Pamela.

Carla turns to Dr. Phil. "Am I overreacting to my mom's meddling, or is it time for her to butt out of my business?"

 

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"I'm just being a loving mother, trying to do what's best for my daughter," Pamela tells Dr. Phil.

"Let's go over some of your loving behavior. You read her mail?" Dr. Phil asks.

"She has it delivered to my house. She won't pick it up. Somebody's got to read it. She won't pick it up for a week," says Pamela. "A lot of times it's just junk mail, so before I toss it, I just check it out."

Dr. Phil is skeptical. "You're reading it because you want to make sure it's OK to throw away?" he asks. "Do you have any sense of boundary at all?"

"Some," says Pamela.

[AD]"You didn't like her hedges growing, so you went over there and mowed them down?" asks Dr. Phil.

"It looked terrible, and it made it harder for me to see," says Pamela, laughing.

"OK, all right, now that's an honest answer," he says. "You didn't like the way they looked, and they were obstructing your view."

"Yeah," she says.

Dr. Phil brings up the fight that occurred when Carla came home late with her daughter. "Listen, it is your job to love, and it is your job to care. And I'm glad you care, I really am, but do you really think it's your job to come storming in at 11:00 at night and chew her out for keeping her daughter out until 11:00?" he asks.

"It's never been a problem to me," says Pamela.

"You're on the Dr. Phil show!" he exclaims. He turns to Carla, "Why did you write?"

"Because I was tired of her interfering, and watching my every move, and making me feel irresponsible and not capable of taking care of my family," she says.

"It's kind of an insult, isn't it?"

"Yes, yes it is. Very much so," says Carla.

"She comes to me asking for things. She comes to me for advice. She's comes seeking me," defends Pamela.

[AD]"And you have a hard time differentiating between giving advice when you're asked and giving advice when you're not asked?" asks Dr. Phil.


"Obviously," says Pamela. "I just don't mind giving it."

"It makes me feel incompetent," says Carla. "I think that I have become dependent on her, because she has pushed her way into my life so much."

"This is really about communication and boundaries," Dr. Phil tells them both, "because what I don't want to see happen is a lot of moms, when the child puts up the stop sign, then the pendulum swings totally the other way, and they say, 'OK, fine. You don't want to hear from me? I'll just sit here and watch your house burn down.'"

"That's the guilt trip," says Carla.

"And what we're trying to do here is get a healthy balance, because this is crowding you, right? And it really made you mad when she came over and said, 'You're keeping that child out. I'll turn you in.'" Dr. Phil asks Pamela, "What in the world were you thinking?"

"That was probably just a threat," she says.

"That was a threat; that's the problem! You're threatening

your child by turning her into the government," says Dr. Phil. "In retrospect, did it feel like you crossed the line there?"

"After I thought about it later, I thought I may have come down a little hard on her," says Pamela, "but, you know, I'm very protective over my granddaughter as well. You know, not nosy, just protective."

"See?" Carla says to Dr. Phil.

 

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"OK, she's 31. She's not 16 or 17; she's 31," he tells Pamela. If she keeps up her behavior, Dr. Phil warns, she'll end up pushing Carla away.

 

Dr. Phil notes the importance of extended family, but asks, "Do y'all need to live back to back?"

"The reason that we do is because rent is really cheap," says Carla.

"The rent may be cheap, but the cost may be really high," he warns her. "And what you need to do if she doesn't moderate, is you need to move. It's just that simple. You just absolutely need to move."

"Y'all need to moderate this and respect some boundaries," says Dr. Phil, looking at Pamela. "I'm just talking to myself, aren't I?"

[AD]"That's a big step," she says. 

"Get a hobby. Go do something," he tells her. "They won't put you in the brig for abandoning your post, but I want you to do it before it gets to the point that she just says, 'Mom, I'm moving.' So, think about taking a step back."