Dear Graham Norton: 'My mother will not allow me to grow up into an adult'

Graham Norton
'She tells me she loves me but I’ve never really felt it' writes Tom Credit: Andrew Crowley,

Dear Graham

Ever since I was young I have been smothered by my mother – she tells me what to wear, where to go, who to like and how to act. I feel like she is ashamed of me, and often when she sees other guys my age she talks of them as if to say “why aren’t you more like them?”. She has no respect for my privacy; she thinks I’m a prude for not wanting to undress with my door open or leave the bathroom door unlocked. She and my father still go around naked in front of me at home. Whenever I try to raise my concerns or act in a way she dislikes she tells me she “didn’t raise me to be that way”.

To complicate things further, she is under the impression that I’m going to be living with her and my dad for the long term, because as their only child I’m going to take over the mortgage.

Every time I stand up to her she dismisses my concerns and I am reduced to tears. I feel so emasculated.

It’s awful because I love my mum but at the same time I absolutely resent her interference in my life

She tells me she loves me but I’ve never really felt it. I’m stuck in this vicious circle where I desperately want to break free, but my confidence is so low I can’t do it – moving out is not an option because she will ask why, she’ll interrogate me.

It’s awful because I love my mum but at the same time I absolutely resent her interference in my life. I have often thought that once she’s dead, I’ll be free – but that is a horrid thought, especially as her own mother died when she was 13 and she is forever going on about how lucky I am to have a mother.

I want to grow up and be a man, but at the moment I’m a scared little boy. Please help me become my own adult person.

Tom, London

Dear Tom

Parents, especially mothers, often find it hard to let go, but what you are describing doesn’t sound very healthy at all. I don’t know how old you are, but even if you are still at school, your mother shouldn’t be making you burst into tears regularly or inhibiting your independence.

Your mother can dress up her behaviour by saying she is trying to protect you or she just wants the best for you, but at its heart this is simply about her desire for control. It is unlikely that she will ever change, so you must. Don’t think of this situation in terms of huge gestures and dramatic declarations. I suggest baby steps. You buy a shirt she doesn’t like, then you continue to wear it. You rearrange the furniture in your room or hang posters she doesn’t approve of. I’m sure she will make her feelings known but it is up to you to not back down.

'The more you spread your wings, the easier you will find it to leave the nest', says Graham Credit: Andrew Crowley

You talk about who your mother wants you to be, but I think it is important to find out who you actually are. With a stronger sense of your own identity will come a greater confidence. What are you interested in, what do you enjoy outside of the home? Try to do things that mean you are out more and preferably socialising with others. Of course your mother will ask questions about where you have been, but simply tell her. Don’t feel you have to apologise or defend yourself.

Your independence won’t come overnight, but the more you spread your wings the easier you will find it to leave the nest.

Remember that having a baby doesn’t come with any qualifications and your mother is attempting to do the job of parent as well as she can. I’m sure she can be intimidating but ultimately you can’t blame your mother for everything that is wrong with your life.

You want things to change, and although it will be difficult, that change must come from you. I wish you strength.

More Agony

Ask Graham

Email[email protected]

Write: Dear Graham, The Daily Telegraph, 111 Buckingham Palace Road, London SW1W 0DT 

When appropriate, the best letter will win a bottle of Champagne Louis Roederer Brut Premier.