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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.