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Told from the perspective of mothers who’ve lived it, Difficult focuses on mothering challenging adult children. Difficult brings to life the conflicts that arise for mothers who are confronted with the unexpected, burdensome, and even catastrophic dependencies of their adult children associated with mental illness, substance use, or chronic unemployment. Through real stories of mothers and their challenging adult children, this book offers readable, provocative, and, at times, shocking illustrations of the excruciating maternal dilemma: Which takes precedence—the needs of the mother or of the distressed adult child? Difficult addresses a family situation which too many keep secret. The book allows readers to see that they are not alone. It includes resources for getting help: finding social support, staying safe, engaging in self-care, and helping the adult child. Judith Smith speaks empathically to parents, acknowledging and illuminating the embarrassment, shame, and helplessness that women can feel when their adult children’s problems puncture their own feelings of self-worth. In the absence of sufficient supports and affordable housing for persons with mental illness or substance misuse disorder, mothers feel that they have no choice – “if not me, then who?” Unpaid and unrecognized maternal caregiving work continues to limit women’s quality of life, even, into their later years. Smith addresses this as a societal issue which requires structural solutions. Difficult is for parents, concerned family and friends, health and mental health professionals, and policy makers. The book provides resources for women to find social support, stay safe, and engage in self-care.
Judith R. Smith, PhD, LCSW, is a leader in gerontological research focusing on women’s experiences as they age. She is a senior clinical social worker, psychotherapist, and professor of social work at Fordham University. She lives in New York City with her husband.
Table of Contents
Acknowledgements Author’s Note Part One Intro– Through A Mother’s Eyes Chapter 1: What is a Difficult Adult Child? Chapter 2: Once a Mother, Always a Mother? Chapter 3: Give Me Shelter Chapter 4: Shame and Blame Chapter 5: Torn in Two Chapter 6: Mental Illness in the Family Chapter 7: Who Cares for the Mentally Ill? Chapter 8: Substance Abuse in the Family Chapter 9: Chromic Sorrow Chapter 10: Violence in the Family Chapter 11: Pain of the Past Part Two Intro– Small Steps Chapter 12: Stages of Change Chapter 13: Seeing and Not Seeing Chapter 14: Self-Assessment Part Three Intro– Helping yourself Chapter 15: Social Support Chapter 16: Self-care Chapter 17: Staying Safe Chapter 18: Helping Your Adult Child Get Help Chapter 19: What comes next? Appendix A: Resources for Mothers and Adult Children Appendix B: Research Methodology Appendix C: The Mothers Notes Index About the Author