FAITH: Focus on the family- Caring for elderly mother
Question: My elderly mother has not been doing well, and we’re considering taking her into our home rather than placing her in a care facility. But we still have three children living with us. How do you think this might impact our family dynamics?
Jim: No doubt it will be a big impact — and you should be prepared for blessings as well as challenges. On the plus side, you’ll have the emotional and practical support of the whole family participating in meeting your mother’s needs. There’s the potential of experiencing a strong sense of family unity and cohesiveness as you share in the care-giving responsibilities.
There are also the potential benefits for your children as they experience firsthand the importance of sacrifice and service in the interest of others. Plus, it’s an opportunity for them to develop a special relationship with their grandparent.
On the other side, your family’s regular routines will undoubtedly be affected. Your children’s social lives will probably be disrupted, and their personal freedom may be restricted in some ways. At times, you and your spouse will be caught between the competing needs of your kids and your mother, while your own frequently take a back seat. This is what people have in mind when they talk about the “sandwich generation.”
There’s obviously a lot here to pray about as you consider the equally legitimate questions of your responsibility to your mom and your family’s well-being. In short, there are no simple solutions to the challenges you’ll face if you take her in. It will involve a delicate balancing act and place you in a position where you will have no choice except to rely on the grace and wisdom of the Lord from one moment to the next. And that’s a good place to be.
Question: My fiancé and I are really looking forward to our wedding. But my parents divorced when I was young, and we’re nervous that one or both of them might cause problems on our big day. What can we do?
Dr. Greg Smalley, vice president, Marriage & Family Formation: Unfortunately, many engaged couples face this type of situation. The good news is that it presents an opportunity for you to grow together as you work through this challenge. It can even equip you in dealing with similar conflicts your own marriage may encounter in the future.
My first recommendation is to find a good marriage therapist and set up a series of counseling sessions (call us at 855-771-4357 if you need a local referral). A key to this process is to define and establish your identity as a couple. This will place you in a better position to set appropriate boundaries with your parents.
At some point, of course, you’ll need to address this with your mom and dad. Be honest about your fears and frustrations. At the same time, make it clear that your wedding day can be a positive experience if everyone is willing to cooperate and keep the focus on the significance of the occasion. It’s YOUR day, so take proactive control of the situation. Tell each parent precisely how you’d like them to participate in the wedding ceremony. Don’t leave this open-ended, or you may open the door to further conflict.
If they’re resistant, try again with the support of a trusted family member, pastor or counselor. But if they’re still uncooperative, you might need to respectfully invite them not to participate in the wedding. This may dictate some drastic changes in your plans, especially if your parents are helping to foot the bill. But it’s best in the long run if it helps you and your fiancé preserve your integrity as a couple.
Jim Daly is a husband and father, an author, and president of Focus on the Family and host of the Focus on the Family radio program. Catch up with him at www.jimdalyblog.com or at www.facebook.com/DalyFocus.