WT 071: How Do I Handle My Aging Parents?

A weird thing happens in motherhood, as we begin to get a handle on our new roles as moms, suddenly we realize that our parents aren't the same age they used to be. Handling your own family at home and your aging parents can feel like an avalanche of busy, but you are strong enough to walk through hard seasons... and know that you aren't alone!

Question 1: I am a busy mom with two under two and my husband and I work full time. We love spending time with our young family but often find ourselves drawn away to parent our own parents. How can we love our aging parents but still put our family first?

Karen's Answer: This is hard to be sure! I don’t think there is a quick answer to this question.  I believe it is a balancing act and one that you will have to asses on a weekly basis.  You can set up boundaries with your parents. For instance, you can say, “Mom/Dad I will check in with you daily to see how you are doing, but unless there is an emergency I can only come by the house on Saturday or Sunday because I am working and have to take care of my family.  Or you could say, “These days work best for me, do you think you could get a friend or another family member to check on you on the days that I can’t be there?”

I’m actually right in the middle of it now with my parents. My mom recently fractured her leg and she’s been out of commission for over a month now.  So, between my sisters we have all taken turns on taking meals, cleaning the house, running errands, Dr appointments, etc.  Me and my sisters met, and I suggested we split up the duties, and work together, we don’t have to all be going over their at the same time.  I was just recently on vacation, so this week I will be pulling more time helping out because my sisters covered for me when I was on vacation.

Realize you can’t do it all. Sometimes you will have to tell your loved ones you just can’t help that day. Do the best you can do.

Question 2:  Karen, as the years go on I can see my mother aging more dramatically each year. She adores her grandchildren and insists on taking care of them when my husband and I go away. But I really don’t feel like it’s the best situation for anyone anymore. They are too much for her to keep up with, but I think her feelings would be hurt if I ever told her that. What should I do?

Karen's Answer: That is hard.  Well, you could word it a little softer and say, “Mom, I know you love watching the children, but I know they are a lot to handle, they can be for me.  So, when we go away for a longer trip, I’m going to hire a sitter, and you can watch them overnight or during the day. I don’t want to wear you out.”

The hardest time will be the first time, and then it should get easier.  It’s hard, but talk to your mom honestly and share from your heart that you are truly thinking of her and what is best for her.

Question 3: What do I do when my parents won’t respect my decisions as a mother? I love them very much, but they treat me like I have no idea how to parent. One example, I am very protective of what my kids eat. It’s a personal decision my husband and I made. When we go out to each as a family I always catch my parents giving my son food I have specifically told them he can’t have. They always answer me with “he was hungry, do you want me to starve my grandchild?” HELP!

Karen's Answer: I would sit down with your parents and share what you are feeling with them. I would tell them that you wish they would respect your decisions, whether they understand them or not.  Tell them, that you are glad they love their grand children and you want to encourage that relationship, but they must respect your decision because it sends mixed messages to your children, which ends up confusing them.

I have experienced it over the years, but I found once I shared my heart to my parents in a calm way, they backed off.  The first conversation is the hardest. Ask God to give you wisdom on what to say, when to say it and ask God to open their hearts so they hear you.

Whether your parents listen or not, remember YOU are your child’s mother and your word needs to be the last word.

Question 4: Karen, my kids are hitting their teen years, my parents are aging and I am going through “the change” all at once. How do I keep my head straight and my heart happy?

Karen's Answer: Woo! This is a lot at once! Just one single thing would be enough to make your heart not happy, but combine them all together and it is a lot. Try to tackle one thing at a time and keep short accounts. Your parents aging,  isn’t directly correlated to your teens hormones, so try to separate the two. :) As far as you going through the change, I’d check with your Dr and see if hormones might help in anyway.  

The teen years and the change are at the same time for sure! I had constantly remind myself, there were a lot of hormones going on and I need to thin before reacting.  A lot of self talk, to be sure.

You may just need to learn the art of walking away to gain your composure, and once you cool down, or process things a bit, re-engage.

Thank you, moms. Have a great day!