Long ramble/rant re elderly parents, just need to offload(4 Posts)
Apologies in advance, this will definitely get long. I'm sitting here feeling like I could scream, but simultaneously feeling like an unpleasant, bad person. DH and I are a year into living with my parents (my mum's in her 70s and my dad's just turned 80) after reaching an agreement last year to all sell up and buy a large house which (in theory) has enough room for everyone to have their own living space with just the kitchen/dining/room/garden being shared. This has come about because, although my parents are mainly healthy, there are some health and mobility issues which are only going to get worse as time goes on. I'm an only child, they used to live more than 150 miles away, and this was causing some anxiety about the future, especially as they said my mum wouldn't be able to afford to carry on living in their house if my dad died before her. My mum used to sit and cry over not wanting to end up in a home one day, stuff like that which I totally sympathised with and understood, but naturally it couldn’t help but make me feel pressured. Hence the decision, which I had a lot of misgivings about at the time, but I could see it has some positives and it was what everyone else wanted so I went with it, thinking I was just having 'cold feet' and it would probably work out OK and if I’d said no I’d have hated to deprive us all of the opportunity (although I do have to say I feel my parents, and DH, rushed/pressured me over the decision because they wanted the house and I can't help feeling some resentment over that now.)
Just lately there's not a day goes by when I don't feel that, in terms of my own wellbeing, I've made a huge mistake agreeing to this. Everyone else is happy here and loves the house (it's a beautiful old Victorian house/garden which seems to mean no one understands why I would have any negative feelings at all about living here.) However, I feel I am the main one taking the 'strain' of integrating the households and I feel trapped and suffocated a lot of the time.
I feel like a bad person for feeling this way, and there are obviously quite a number of pluses to their being here - their health and wellbeing seems to have improved, we have (willing) help in the garden because they love gardening, the financial restructuring from 2 house sales has benefited all 4 of us financially, and my parents help us look after the cats and things like that, all of which is hugely appreciated and I make sure they know it. I also realise how lucky I am that both of them are still alive, in reasonable health, and that I am able to see them every day. No dementia, nothing like that so far, thank goodness... and heck knows I know everyone has personal quirks and foibles and that these tend to deepen as people get older (and I also know DH and I are far from perfect ourselves). But if I tell you some of the issues I'm encountering (mostly with my dad, as you'll see - my mum is more like me personality-wise and doesn't expect or need us all to be permanently 'interconnected’) I think you might see why I’m struggling...
- The main biggie for me, the thing which is causing me to feel suffocated and trapped, is my dad expects all 4 of us in the house to tell each other where we are going, what we are doing and when we are going to be back, all the time. (I'm 47 and DH is 49, by the way.) I don’t just mean outside the house, BTW, I mean within the house too. (We’re talking here about someone who stands up and tells everyone when he is going to the toilet, to give you an idea, and he’s always done that, it’s not age-related. He and my mum ’narrate’ their every move, everything they have just done, everything they are about to do, and seem puzzled we don’t do the same. They have been like this ever since I was a small child. The fact that I don’t do it leads to regular accusations of ‘you never tell us anything’.) I've had several conversations with my dad lately where I have quite bluntly told him we are adults and this constant expected ‘briefing’ will not be happening (that is to say, DH/I will usually mention it anyway if we are going out, in case we can run any errands for them that they need done - BUT neither DH nor I is willing to feel duty-bound to always come and tell them we are going somewhere - heck, we're quite an independent couple and don't always even tell each other when we are going somewhere ) and on the face of things my dad says he accepts this, but he is clearly hurt and I feel very guilty. All I keep getting is statements about how 'you never stop worrying about your children' even though I keep pointing out that I used to be 150 miles away and they never knew where I was at any given point in the day. (Heck, when I was travelling they didn’t always know what country I was in! - I’ve pointed this out too but it seemed to cut no ice). I'm being made to feel that I am being strange and unreasonable for not being willing to 'just pop my head in the door' and tell them where I am going/what I am doing every minute of the day. DH and I both get little critical ‘asides’ made to us here and there about our ‘dashing out the door and I had no idea where you were going’. We’re middle-aged people FGS, not teenagers!!
(An important point here: before the move we were promised this would not happen. I would never have agreed to this move if I had known how comprehensively the promise would end up being broken.)
- This pattern of wanting to know our every move also plays out within the house. I'm constantly finding that if my dad walks into the kitchen and I'm in there it's 'Oh! Hello, love, I didn't know you were in here/I didn't hear your feet on the stairs' (well no, that would be because I feel obliged to wear slippers all the time after complaints about the sound of my shoes on the wood floor over his head...) Might sound petty, but it's CONSTANT and after a year I'm losing patience. At weekends my DH likes to sit and read in the conservatory a lot, but if he's ever not there I get questions like 'Where's DH? Did you two have an argument? Is he sulking because his football team lost?' etc etc... my dad doesn't seem to realise that even I don't know where DH a lot of the time (and vice versa) because we don't keep tabs on each other that way. In a similar vein, he’s constantly asking where my mum is if he doesn’t happen to know where she is at a given moment. (This is his idea of a healthy and correct way to be in a marriage, and he thinks my marriage to DH is dysfunctional because we are not the same.) Again, this hasn’t only just recently come about because he is old - he’s always done it - but it’s probably fair to say it’s worse now he is older.
- Interference in how DH and I run our lives. Comments that we don't eat properly/correctly, that because we don't bank together we don't understand how to be married, that I should just live off DH and not worry about paying my own way in life (excuse me??!!!) that DH doesn't go to the doctor often enough over his diabetes (absolutely true, but what’s the point in my dad going on at me about it every five minutes?), little hints dropped that it’s felt DH and I don't spend enough time together just because we're not joined at the hip, that I spend too much time socialising outside the home/away from DH (at things DH has chosen not to attend with me, I might add, he’s not being excluded). Nagging at me to get my flu injection and similar stuff. Fussing every time I get a cold because my asthma kicks in, even though my dad as a fellow asthmatic should KNOW this is just how asthma rolls. I've had to stop telling them if I have a doctor's appointment because I'm expected to tell them what it's for and debrief on 'how I got on' when I get back (part of the reason I’ve had to start refusing to say I will always tell them where I’m going).
- I'm self-employed working from home and my dad, despite being politely asked not to, has a habit of calling up the stairs during the work day when he wants to say something, admittedly not too often, but this morning he disrupted an important work call over something that could have waited. It's far from being the first time. Neither he nor my mum (despite assertions to the contrary) have ever really managed to properly grasp that I WORK from home, as opposed to being a housewife who does a few hours’ work here and there, and if I ever need to go downstairs during the work day (e.g. to get a drink from the kitchen), I get bombarded with a ton of information/requests/questions/pointless chat which are almost all things that could have waited till I’d finished work. I keep asking them, if something isn't urgent, to wait until I have finished work (and to write things down if they are worried about forgetting in the meantime, rather than keep distracting me from the things I need to be doing), but to no avail. They keep saying they respect my work and accept it is ‘real’ work and I need to work undisturbed, but this isn’t borne out in the way they behave. Basically, if they can see me, they talk to me, no matter how I try to ‘re-educate’ them on this. I've had accusations of 'we never see you' in spite of the fact that they now see me daily, and prior to this move which I largely undertook to please THEM, they sometimes had to wait months in the past between my visits to them. I feel like nothing I do is good enough for them sometimes.
- If there is a difference in opinion and my mum gets upset as a result, she speaks to me like I am a silly child who doesn't know anything. She seemed to have stopped doing this years ago, but it's my belief that now she isn't worrying about ending up in a home, it's now seen as OK to speak to me however she likes again. (She could be very unfeeling and hurtful when I was a child, and it's only because I have felt treated with more respect since I've been an adult that I ever felt this move could be workable.)
This actually isn’t everything(!), but it is the main gist. I know I sound like a heartless cow saying all this, but half the reason for my frustration is actually that I like to make people happy and hate to disappoint them and I am sick of seeing my dad looking like a whipped puppy simply because I am (politely and kindly - not the way I am expressing myself here, lol) insisting on having the space I deserve as an independent adult, both for myself and for my marriage. I’m sick of feeling like a nasty person just for wanting what I feel I am entitled to and asserting myself politely. I also realise I am not perfect to live with, and they are free to express it if DH or I frustrate them, but they keep insisting ‘everything’s fine’ and then going on to engage in all this controlling behaviour anyway. I don't think they are missing having their own house (amazingly) - they say they aren't, anyway, and I know money worries were weighing heavy before they sold up, so I think I believe them. DH and I give them all the space in the world, unlike what we get from them, so I don't think they would be feeling the loss of their own house too heavily. The thing is, we AGREED (supposedly) before the move to live essentially separate lives that just happened to be within the same building. Specific promises were made and have been comprehensively broken. Realistically I feel in hindsight that this is because this was never a workable set-up in the first place, but as I say, I felt rushed/pressured into agreeing to the decision, I honestly felt from visits home as an adult that they would TREAT DH and myself as adults, and it hasn’t worked out that way at all. As a result I now feel so trapped and some days regret it bitterly, because there really is no way out now. Just to make things harder, I’m not even sure any more that my marriage is going to last the distance (for reasons unconnected to this move), and I don’t even like to think about how the practicalities would work if DH and I ever needed to separate or the amount of pain this would cause my parents.
I'm sorry this is so whiny and has got so long, and there probably isn't even anything anyone can advise, because I really am well and truly stuck, but some days it just weighs so heavily on me. Today is one of those days and I just needed to vent. Despite how it may sound, I love my parents, realise how lucky I am that they are both still alive, and just want us all to enjoy each other’s company while that is still the case, not drive each other crazy. And it’s just not working out that way.
I can totally understand how you must feel. I can imagine the scenario being pretty similar if my DM lived with us (she has dementia though so other problems too). Even before the dementia it would have been unbearable even though I love her. My DM cannot be in the same room without talking to you. Obviously when you are living in the same house there is not always something to say, so it means just repeating the same old things or asking pointless questions (what's dh doing? etc.)
DH and I have discussed the idea if having her or his dm live in our house buy having a bit of downstairs made into a sitting room and bedroom for their private use. I know it wouldn't work. My dm would nit understand why I might want to watch TV in my own lounge why she is in hers - why wouldn't we watch together?(And have her talk over all the best bits about irrelevant trivia).
Yep I sound like a cow too! I'm really not - I do pretty much everything for my mum, but I Won't Do That!
I am racking my brains trying to think of a solution for you. The only one I can think of is to perhaps convert the house into 2 flats? Maybe yours could be upstairs so they'd have the benefit of being on the ground floor as they get older and less able, and you'd have a bit more privacy.
I totally get this. Especially the bit about agreeing parameters beforehand and then them being disregarded. It happened to me.
Unfortunately my partner and I addressed it too late and my Mother had already had dementia. As your parent are still mentally OK (just old, and I get that problem too) you could sit them down and remind them of what you agreed. Firmly just refresh their memories?
You have a lot of different issues going on in this post, but the one that really sounds to me is needing your privacy and space.
Practically, are there any ways you can increase this? E.g. - an office at the bottom of the garden? An office (or desk in communal office) not in your home that you can leave and go to too? A small utility kitchen in the corner of a different room so that during the day you can make tea/coffee etc without disturbing your parents (and them disturbing you)? Clear rules as to how you are to be communicated with during the day if you are at home (eg email/telephone, not shouting up the stairs)? It is not the same as but is a bit like when I work at home and my kids if at home that day need to be firmly told that my study is off-bounds (which they know as a general rule, but if I'm at home, it is more exciting).
Some of them sound like some issues you could get some family mediation/counselling with, e.g. your parents not seeking to micromanage what you and your DH do. Some of those I think may be also about all living in a small space? Others I think are part of living with people as a family - my DH and I have a joint calendar.
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