I am 37, married with 3 kids. Left home when i was 25 and have always had a strong relationship with my mother. I am her 2ned/youngest child and have always been the one she calls on when she needs anything done. My elder brother has a good relationship with her too – but he has always been more distant.
Since getting married the dynamic between myself, my mum and my wife has been good most of the time – they are not close, very different in personality, but kind and respectful to each other.
We have 3 kids, my wife works 2 days a week and had the main role with the home and kids. I work full time in my own business.
Dad passed away 3 years ago and mum is becoming increasingly in need of help with life generally.
She mentioned to me that she would like to move in with us rather than go into any sort of care or assisted living in the years to come.
I didnt know what to say.
There is no way we can do that – my children are still young, in primary school, my wife could not have my mum in the house full time, to be honest nor could I.
I feel terrible about this – like i am being selfish, unkind, disrespectful – and I haven’t even communicated this to her – or my wife (i am scared to tell her what mum said because i know it will make her worried too).
How do i go about this without hurting mums feelings or saying yes and seriously disrupting our family and possibly risking divorce – joking but also a bit serious – it would certainly put pressure on our marriage.
First of all, great question. So many of us in this or will be at some stage!
Bad news first, you can not control how she feels in any conversation with her, that is her business.
We spend a lot of time delaying action thinking about how we can control how that action is received by others
It is a form of fear and procrastination
It gets us nowhere and leaves lots of space of catastrophising, guilt, shame and a sense of being selfish, which is where you are at.
You can only control how you think, feel and act.
At the moment you have given me options a and b
Don’t move in
Is there any grey area here?
Is there an option for her to stay some nights of the week?
Spend a holiday with you each year?
Something in between?
I want you to spend some time looking at all of the possible options you can think of as your mum becomes more dependant
Then with your wife decide what if any you will consider for your family
Practically what can you do
Your older brother, talk to him, what is he willing or able to do?
Then before sitting down with your mum decide:
What are your values that you want to move through this process with held high? Honesty, integrity and love?
How do you want to feel as you go through this conversation?
Kindness, compassion, confidence, practicality, warmth?
How do you need to think in order to feel this way?
This is all you can control my friend
She maybe upset, sad, relieved, worried, practical, open, compromising…or something completely different
You can no control her response
The alternative is to go about in her and your wife’s business – trying to control their relationship, how they individually feel, trying to make everyone else feel good…
This tends to leave what we need out
This results in you living in a situation that is unsustainable
Your mum may feel good the first week she moves in
But slowly the disconnect will build
Your dishonesty will become obvious
Resentment, impatience, avoidance…
Now that is what you really dont want
Difficult conversations are difficult – but if we dont have them, we end up in far more difficult circumstances!
How do you want to think, feel and act?
What are the values you want to hold onto as you go through this process?
Decide ahead of time
Keep them front of mind
Show up as your best self
That is the best you can do.