My mother-in-law is the type of person that compulsively OFFERS. It’s past good manners and etiquette and bordering on harassment. And it’s thoughtless but not really. Offering a diabetic pie and ice cream and knowing full well they shouldn’t have it and their issues with self-discipline. Relentlessly offering someone on a diet food after being asked not to repeatedly. She sees your legs are bare and offers you the very blanket she’s using, yet you said nothing about feeling chilled, and you’re an adult, fifty years old, not a child. Is there a word for someone who does this type of thing? No, she doesn’t have dementia or OCD. It’s like she sees herself as the solver, or the person that will make it better, but there is nothing wrong, nothing to make better, and eventually you just want to get away from her because it’s so RELENTLESS. She makes things up to “make better.” You can be asleep and she’ll wake you up to see if you need anything or if you needed to be woken up. (I’ve put so much detail because there was a similar question that didn’t get the right word provided, and I’d really like a word, so I can stop using all the other nasty words that are crowding my head!)

  • Interfering is a hypernym/synonym, but not close enough to give as an answer, I judge. An interfering busybody. Jan 17, 2020 at 14:24
  • Interfering is great word, but one thing that’s good about her is she doesn’t get involved with my business. She can’t see in other people that her contributions and pushiness aren’t being well received. There’s no empathy there. Edwin: “officious meddler” maybe?
    – Hasyl
    Jan 19, 2020 at 0:15
  • I don't think having a specific word is going to help your real problem, which is with your mother in law, not with language. Consider asking a professional for coping strategies.
    – CJ Dennis
    Jan 19, 2020 at 1:09
  • Having the words helps me have empathy for her compulsive issue. Compulsive caretaking is a real thing. I found it on the internet psych boards (thank you, Spagirl). I'm just happy my spouse isn't as bad as his mother, but on the other hand, if he was, I wouldn't be with him! Anyway, my solution is not to be left alone with her. When other people are about, she can't focus on me, and based on how I react to her smothering, there's more in it for her to go after an easier target.
    – Hasyl
    Jan 20, 2020 at 20:21

3 Answers 3


The most appropriate terms seem to be found in the world of psychology and attachment disorders. I am not a psychologist or otherwise trained and am not diagnosing your family member.

So, caveats being given, an appropriate term would seem to be

Compulsive caretaker

This section in 'Addiction as an Attachment Disorder' uses the term and includes the following:

Lewis and colleagues (2000) define love as simultaneous mutual regulation. To prevent love from being confused with what Bowlby and attachment theory defines as compulsive caretaking and the twelve-step community describes as co-dependency, it is necessary to distinguish between healthy mutuality and the chronic sacrifice of self in order to maintain an attachment.


The care they bestow may amount almost to an obsession; and it is given whether it is welcomed, which it may be, or not.

  • Compulsive mothering (caretaking) otherwise known as “smothering.” The chronic sacrifice of self I understand, being raised in a Catholic family; s/he who suffers most for others is best. This woman takes it to a whole new level. However, compulsive caretaking resonates with me; there it’s no healthy mutuality going on. Just me trying not to be left alone with her, so she doesn’t offer me her socks. Again!
    – Hasyl
    Jan 19, 2020 at 0:27

Your description is great. Very colourful. I don't think a single word can do it justice.

Fusspot is weak and rather childish.

The only expression I can think of with any teeth is mother hen. There's an accompanying pseudo-scientific 'mother hen syndrome'.

Maybe the reason we don't have a truly venomous name for such people is that they probably can't help themselves; and they always mean well. Or do they?

  • +1 for the mixed metaphor - hens' teeth! Jan 17, 2020 at 14:31
  • That’s just it! Meaning well has to involve some empathy, yet she doesn’t care that she’s crossing your boundaries, is being invasive, and doesn’t care how you feel. And she doesn’t realize that this behaviour doesn’t make her look like a good person, it makes her look foolish and irritating.
    – Hasyl
    Jan 19, 2020 at 0:09

What about fussing over someone? Although it doesn't quite capture all of the examples you have given.

Here is another definition of the same, which includes more examples.

  • This term applies to the behaviour, but the OP is asking for a term to describe the person who behaves that way.
    – nnnnnn
    Jan 18, 2020 at 0:19
  • Maybe “affected chronic fusser”? It’s some form of control issue. It’s like her “contribution” NEEDS to be accepted, or her world isn’t aligned. And it’s an affectation that she puts on; it’s not really her. When she drops the act/habit and behaves spontaneously, she’s fun to be around. I see it in her children too. They all make missionaries look lazy. But sincerity is lacking in their gestures of generosity. It’s like they were trained to be like this. Between that and their chronic silver linings, psychology needs more words of description. “Obsequious do-gooders”?
    – Hasyl
    Jan 19, 2020 at 0:01

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