My parents raised both my brother and me to be caring and responsible. We are both working adults with families of our own. My father died two years ago, and now, our elderly mother, who lives on her own, needs help.
I speak to her every day and see her at least three to four times a week. I do her shopping, take her to appointments and help with her hygiene. What does my brother do? Nothing! He barely calls, and she’s fine with that, because he is a “busy man.” Her care seems to have landed squarely on my shoulders. In her eyes, I’m the daughter, and it’s expected of me.
How do I rectify this injustice without causing a rift between my brother and me?
Not Woman’s Work
Dear Not Woman’s Work
I don’t think it’s that unusual for people of your mother’s generation to feel that taking care of anything domestic is women’s work and bringing home a paycheque is men’s work, which, to her, absolves your brother from having to help with her care
This explains why she is happy with just a periodic phone call. There’s little point in trying to change your mother’s expectations. The family dynamics have been set, and it’s clear your mom’s relationship with you and your brother are very different.
The problem is lack of communication with your brother. He is going about his life very content that mom is well cared for, and there is no reason he needs to be involved. Perhaps if he realized the physical and emotional burden you are dealing with, he would step up.
It’s your place to get that message across to him, but do it rationally and logically, not when you’re emotional and heated. Have solutions in place to offer as suggestions, such as a schedule or perhaps pooling family money together to get support for caregivers, or, if you can afford it, even a retirement residence where your mother can also enjoy some social time to add quality to her life.
You’ve been a wonderful daughter. Don’t let that turn into resentment. Believe me when I say you will never be sorry for doing all that you can for your mother.
I’m on the road a lot and often find it more convenient to meet with clients in restaurants rather than have them come to my office. I can’t begin to tell you how often my meetings are plagued by the poor behaviour of children and even poorer behaviour of their parents. Sitting in a booth, I can be accosted by a child standing in the booth behind me, yelling, spitting food and making faces at my client. When I ask the accompanying parent politely to handle the situation, I am more often than not snubbed, ignored or told off.
I have asked waiters to help, and if possible, they move me to another table, which is disruptive during a meeting. The offending tot and guardian are the ones who should be moved. Don’t you agree? I don’t get why parents think this behaviour is acceptable in public.
Seen and Not Heard
Dear Seen and Not Heard
The convenience of conducting business in a restaurant nearby can save both you and your client valuable time. However, it is not an office, and you have no control of who will be there. Perhaps do a bit of investigating in the area where you plan to meet and stay away from family-type establishments. Try a coffee shop or neighbourhood bar instead.
For lunch, go to an upscale restaurant and be prepared for a larger tab. The choice is yours. You can only control so much, and if you choose to meet at a family restaurant, you are taking your chances. Not all parents will meet with your approval. Don’t try to change them. The changing in this case rests with you and your choices.
Ella is the author of Hidden Gold – A True Story of the Holocaust. Her advice is not a replacement for medical, legal or any other advice. For serious problems, consult a professional.