Overprotective Moms: Dana and Diane

Overprotective Moms: Dana and Diane

"My mother is ridiculously overprotective. I'm a 43-year-old mother, and she treats me like a 14-year-old. She drives me crazy telling me how to dress, how to dress my son," says Dana. "I cannot go any place without my mother knowing where I am, when I'm going to be there. When I'm leaving there, when I'll be home. She calls me every day to make sure I get home from work."

Diane doesn't think her behavior is out of the ordinary. "I don't think I'm overprotective. I worry about things any ordinary mother would worry about," she says. "I'm critical of Dana only when I feel I really need to be."

Dana says her mom also criticizes her weight and that she doesn't have a man in her life. "My mom does not think I can do anything right," she complains. "My mother wants to be in control of my life."

Diane says this isn't the case. "I love my daughter to pieces, and I wish we had a good relationship," she says.

Turning to Diane, Dr. Phil says, "Don't you think that when you're calling a full-grown daughter with a professional career and everything that she does on her own in this world, and you're calling her and reminding her that she needs to be nice to clients on the phone, that that's a little too involved?"

"No, not if you knew the whole situation," she protests.

"Do you think it's over the top?" he asks Dana.

"Yes, I do. I get frustrated. I just try to go ‘OK, OK,' and get off the phone. You either have to agree with her or get into a big argument. I think it's her insecurity and her fear." She sees similarities between herself and Ashlee. "I think [my mom] has the same kind of fear that Teresa has. If she's not watching me or telling me things, then something is going to happen to me ... My life was just like Ashlee's when I was 14, and it's that way when I'm 43. I have to call when I get there. I have to call when I leave. I wasn't allowed to go anywhere or to my friend's house … They're us. We're them 30 years from now."

"Didn't you have a tremendous trauma when she was 5-years-old?" Dr. Phil asks Diane. "Wasn't there a tremendous threat and worry in your life? What happened?" 

She explains, "I was out of my house for five minutes. The only time I didn't lock the door. I had gone down three flights of steps " we lived in a third floor apartment. I put her in the nursery bus … I came back up the three flights of stairs. There was a man with a stocking pulled over his face and a knife in his hand, hiding in my bathroom. And he proceeded to cut me up."

Dr. Phil sympathizes, saying, "It was a terrible ordeal for you, scared the bejeebers out of you. And that changed you. It made you see a dark side of the world, and you became very, very protective." He also points out that Diane's own mother was undemonstrative with her feelings, and that her husband left when Dana was young. "That's made you fearful and insecure about abandonment, and making absolute sure that you don't have the kind of relationship that you had with your mom."

"I never looked at it that way," Diane muses. "I'm just different from my mother. She just was not an affectionate person, and I just am. My point of view is, if you have a child, if you just love it, that it will grow up to be basically alright. I just wanted her to grow up and not feel what it feels like to not have love from a mother."

Addressing Dana, Dr. Phil asks, "Do you doubt for one second that your mom loves you?"

"Oh, not a bit. My mom loves me more than anything in the world. And I love her," she says emphatically.

"What you're concerned with is the manner in which that love is being expressed, which is control," Dr. Phil points out. "You spent some significant periods of your life in what could best be described as rebellious."

Dana laughs nervously. "Yes, true."

"You've been on a bit of a roller coaster about this, and you really resist people getting close and controlling because there's a trust issue there," Dr. Phil says.


To Diane, he says, "Everybody brings baggage into a relationship. I think you have anxieties and stresses that have nothing to do with Dana, but you express them because she's your significant other in your life right now. She's handy. She's a good place to express those. I think your attempts to control her really don't have anything to do with whether she's a good mother and a full free-thinking adult; it has to do with your need to hang on, because when you don't, things seem to get away from you."

Both women need to look at how their pasts are contaminating their present relationship. If they can get some resolution on their personal issues, they can say, '"‘I'm so glad you're back' … I want to have you resolve some things individually, and then see if that changes how you related."

Both women say they are willing to seek professional help.