Family Matters
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Balancing a marriage and aging parents

Ive posted before on this very topic but its at the forefront again.  Im newly married, about a year and half.  I relocated 4 hours from my parents to where my husband is from for a variety of reasons- educational, financial, ect.  It was VERY difficult for me to do this but I did it mainly b/c in my heart I knew for our family (my husband, me and whatever children may come into our life down the road) it was the best path.  My father has Parkinson's and while he is doing well my mother is his primary caretaker in the sense he doesn't drive, often forgets his meds (she reminds him) and she really gets him out and about, if it weren't for her he would probably be at home all day doing nothing. 

Our plan, if work allows it, is to move closer to them but my husband reminds me moving is contingent on jobs...and I get that but it scares me to think we could stay in this area.  I hate it.   We have another 3 years here at least before he can get out of a contract with his job.  The move was way more challenging than I thought, I feel guilty about not being able to help my mom, I left a job I really loved and have yet to make any girlfriends that I connected with in my new location.  My husband feels guilty when he sees me so sad but reminds me it was a joint decision, we both agreed I would move and he is right.  I feel like I can be neglectful of him, I def. go home (to my parents) a lot to try and check in on them and still see friends/relatives.  I did this without him for a while b/c he had grad classes on the weekends but he has since graduated so we have weekends back.  I worry so much about my parents...I have a brother that lives in Europe so its really just me that can help them.  I cant seem to get over the hump and accept this is my life for now.  My husband said to me the other day that he and I are a family now and we should be the #1 priority always.  I agree but at the same time, when we are healthy and young and financially ok I feel like the aging parents that need help trump us sometimes.  Are my priorities skewed?  I want to be all things to all people- a great wife to my husband, not the crying one that hates where she lives and feels guilt about not helping her parents...the great daughter than can take dad to a doct appointment or take mom to lunch and give her a break.  Ugh. Anyone else out there feel like this?  Its tough b/c I dont even have kids yet and we do want them..by  then, my dad's illness will be worse and infants and children will make it even harder to drive 4 hours at the drop of a dime if something happens.   

Re: Balancing a marriage and aging parents

  • Have you considering looking into home care? Look at state programs and their insurance or medicare programs. Your mom does need a break but it doesn't always need to be you. There will also come a time when your mom's health dictates her ability to help. 

    I am not currently in your situation but I can see both sides. I can tell you even close by you can't drop everything with kids to go help other people, even family. Sometimes its possible but not always. You can help in other ways. 
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  • Perhaps you could sit down and come up with a game plan. Would once a month weekend visits be agreeable to both of you? Also, what kinds of things warrant an emergency visit home? I don't know much about Parkinsons, but I imagine your dad will be around, just not healthy, for quite a few years if you are talking about moving home in three years. Your mom needs to find a support system outside of you. It is rare that children can be primary caregivers as much as they'd like, because they work full time or have their own kids. DH and I do not have children, but we have already told his mom that she will most likely have to go to a nursing home some day. We both work and can't afford to take time off at the drop of a hat.
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  • I think PPs made some excellent points.  It seems that you are living in this fantasy where if you lived closer, then everything would be fine.  It won't.  There will still be times you would have to tell them no, you can't take your dad to the Dr and no you can't just drop everything to give your mom a break.  Please look into other solutions for them. 

    I just have a feeling that you are sad and lonely in your new town and maybe using your dad's health as an excuse to leave, which is understandable and I get it.  However, your husband also has a point that his livelihood is in this new city and at a certain point, you will simply have to force yourself to make new friends.  You will also have to accept that there are ways to help your parents without you physically being there. 

    Please know, it is not my intent to sound like I am being hard on you.  I know this is a very difficult position to be in right now, but moving isn't a real solution right now so do what you can to make this new city your home. 

  • Could you afford to have someone (care giver/care taker/nurse) come and help out your mom? 

    I'm half Chinese, and I know in China it is tradition for kids to take care of their parents, this usually  means living with them or being neighbors. In return the grandparents babysit the kids while the parents are at work. They are very family oriented. 

    In America, this isn't the case. Children grow up and leave, they hardly take care of their parents and leave them in homes or hire them a caregiver. 

    So I see both sides. On the other hand, my relationship with my parents isn't very strong. I'm grateful for what they did, but I definitely didn't have a great childhood. So I would lean more so to putting them in a home if needed or hiring a care giver. If our relationship had been better, I might have considered living nearby to help, but the exact opposite happened, I wanted to get as far away as I could, so now we live a state away, and honestly, I think our relationship is a lot better with the distance. 
  • Your husband is kinda right. You need to focus on your marriage. I'm sure your parents wouldn't want to come between you and your life, especially if having kids is a priority.

    My dad has a debilitating progressive illness as well. It has been hard, but I'm to the point that I know he doesn't want me sitting here crying and worrying. He has lived his life and it's time for me to live mine. That doesn't mean I don't care or worry, but I have had to let a lot of that go. It doesn't do any good for anyone. 

    As far as emergency trips home, you may need to reevaluate what an emergency is. There isn't much that can happen that you being there is going to change the outcome. 

    There are programs out there that offer respite assistance your mother could use. Have her contact her local area agency on aging. They are a great resource. Good luck!
  • Another piece of advice, really educate yourself about Parkinson's, if you haven't already. It's a difficult thing to come to terms with parents aging and having a progressive illness, but it can help to know what to expect. It can also help put some perspective on what is happening.
  • If you're working and plan to have kids, you don't have tons of time to spend with your parents anyway, right? Pretty much just weekends. And it sounds like you only live 4 hours away, which really isn't that far. You can go for the occasional weekend trip, right? But realistically, you probably aren't going to move in with your folks and become your dad's caregiver, right? So cut yourself some slack here! You can show love and support from a distance, visit when possible, and your parents will find other resources to help them. I also think you do need to focus on your husband and marriage. After all, he is the future, and he'll be around and there for you when your parents aren't. I moved far (3 days drive) from my parents, and I understand that it's sad not to be there, but you do need to make a life for yourself where you are. Try to make some friends, join some clubs or take a class! Good luck!
  • I get that you really want to help your parents.  My parents are older and life is starting to catch up with them.  My dad has an illness, and we recently were told that he probably won't be around too many more years.  A few months ago my mom fell and hurt herself really badly. 

    I was there for any major surgeries, and stayed for a few days to allow both of them to have a break.  I did laundry, cooked, cleaned and helped my mom wash up and do her hair.
    Afterwards I tapered off on visits, but I make sure to visit for one weekend a month, sometimes every other weekend.  4 hours, while not fun is a very do-able drive for one way.  Try to make some memories, help out when you can.

    You're parents hopefully understand you have your own life and want you to live it.

    As for your area, volunteer, go to wine tastings or something you like, art walks, book lectures or speakers, casual kick ball leagues, group gym classes are all great ways to meet people.  I make new friends all the time with people in my neighborhood just by working out in my garden and saying hello.  It honestly sounds like you just need to create a good support group.  

  • It sounds like you never really wanted to move.  I'm surprised no one else sees this side. You left your home, your parents, your friends and the job that you love. No wonder you are sad!  Your husband has to also realize that while you two are a family now, you didn't agree to give up everything else that you love.  And it's not fair for him to ask you to.
  • alot of good replies already. have to agree that it is probably healthier for you and your marriage to set some limits on your caretaking responsibilities with your dad. it sounds like mom is healthy and able to manage okay. if she is feeling overburdened then it might be good to do some research on what resources might be available to her to help out  - depending on your dad's age and their finances - there may be some outside help that is available at a reasonable cost such that mom can hire that help 2-3 days per week for a few hours to get a break. 

    also, it would be nice for you and your parents to be able to stay close - and i agree a once a month visit might be a good starting point - either alone or with your husband - whereby you can get "home" again and also do other enjoyable activities aside from helping out with your dad. it would actually benefit your mom to know that you care about both of them and would enjoy spending some time with your mom one on one - out to lunch or the shopping trip or something - and see if your husband can hang out with dad for that time period. your mom probably misses your tremendously and would enjoy having some time to talk with you about her feelings.  maybe alternate weekends  so one weekend a month you go alone to see mom and dad and the next weekend you go to see the parents together. and there is always skype to keep in touch when you are apart - text and social media etc. 

    good luck with everything . you are such a caring person - your parents are blessed to have you!
  • 1st I am so sorry, that would be so hard, for me anyways, to be that far from my parents.  We, now, live very close to both of our parents.  I am so thankful for that.  I can't imagine living that far, plus having my dad sick.  Your H makes a good point, you and him are now a family, but he also needs to realize that you agreed with him to go with him, as a wife should, and he should be thankful for that.  He also needs to see that they are your parents!  They raised you and you love them and want to spend anytime you can and would love to be able to help. 

    I would talk with him and maybe as others said, doing a once a month weekend trip to your parents. If he goes, awesome!  If no, his choice I guess.  I think its awesome that you want to go help your parents!  Great daughter!  :)  I would want to do the same.  Try to make some sort of compromise! Good luck!!!!  xo

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  • I appreciate all of the feedback, especially the kind words.  We are working through things.  For the record, perhaps my initial post was misleading..but I do in fact have wonderful, understanding and loving husband.  When we discussed who would move it was that- a joint discussion and a joint decision, I was the one that didn't imagine it being this hard.  My parents are appreciative of me and they are both proud of my hubby and I as we are making sacrifices to really build a nest egg and make smart financial decisions by living where we are.  They hope and pray things will change soon but don't give me any grief about it.  Its all my own guilt/worry, its never imposed by others.

    I did get involved with the Michael J Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research...I ran a marathon and raised 7k for the cause...it definitely made me feel like I was doing something for my family, even if it was indirect.  My hubby and I want to start a family and will take things day by day.  My goal is really live in the present moment..not be consumed with worry about what tomorrow may bring.  Thanks for listening.  Its nice to put your thoughts out there to total strangers sometimes!
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