Dear Amy: I’m a daughter of two parents in severely declining health.
I am acting as primary caregiver for both of them. This is not my chosen profession, (I quit a job that I loved to take care of them), but I’ll take it on while I have to.
Once or twice a month, I have the opportunity to go to dinner with friends, which I completely appreciate. I wish to have a good time while we are out.
I don’t know how to say, “I’d rather not talk about what I am doing day to day. I’d rather talk about you.” I have tried it – it fails. I’ve felt incredibly disconnected from my friends since I’ve had to spend so much time isolated with my parents.
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When I’ve told them how bad things are for my parents (and as a result, me) it’s clear that they can’t handle it. I see a lot of facial expressions that tell me that they are sorry they’ve asked. To say, “I’m fine, wonderful, happy” is fraudulent – but to be honest requires that I explain how bad things are and I can see that my friends cannot possibly understand.
Where is the middle ground? I know that they are trying to be kind, and most of them will one day be in my shoes. I just don’t know what to say.
Hurts to tell the Truth
Dear Hurts: Well, I feel you. And most middle-aged people I know are either up to their elbows in elder care or will face it sooner or later.
According to a U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics survey, 16 percent of Americans (40.4 million) age 15 and over provide unpaid elder care. You have surrendered your job and turned your life inside out in order to be with your parents now. You are facing this in an extreme and intensive way.
You are looking for the right words to say, but I also hope you will receive some very deserved support.
Try: “This is a really rough patch for my family. Being out like this is a rare treat. Honestly, I could use a distraction tonight, so tell me what’s up with you?”
If people ask for details, thank them for their interest and tell them you’ll call or text to fill them in later.
Please, seek respite care and support for yourself and your folks. Your local Office on Aging will help connect you with nearby resources. Where I live, college students volunteer to provide company for elders so caregivers can get a break.
Dear Amy: When I first found out that I was pregnant, I was across the country on vacation. I wanted to tell my mother in person, but I was so excited that I wanted to tell someone, so I called my friend (my only friend), and I made her promise to not tell anyone!
The next morning I got a call from my mom. She told me that my friend messaged her and said that I was pregnant. I was enraged and called my friend and started yelling, cussing and calling her rude names.
We have forgiven each other, but our relationship is not as strong. Deep down I am still angry.
This friend has lost a lot of friends by telling other people’s business or by posting it online. I’ve just learned not to tell her anything I don’t want repeated, and now we don’t talk much.
Five years later, I’m pregnant with baby No. 2 and everyone knows – except her.
I’m visibly pregnant now, so if she sees me she’ll know and be hurt that I didn’t tell her. Every time I want to tell her, I get angry again.
Mommy with a Grudge
Dear Mommy: Your friend is living with the real-life consequence of being a disrespectful blabbermouth. When she discovers you are pregnant and has her feelings hurt by your lack of trust in her, you should consider that this is a proportional response to her behavior.
Dear Amy: Another response to “Crier,” who was worried about crying at her son’s wedding: I’m a minister who has officiated at more than 100 weddings. If neither the bride nor the groom cry, I feel like I haven’t done my job well. I hope the mother can give herself permission to cry and have it be OK. That allows her to be her authentic self, and I bet that’s who her son expects her to be.
The Rev. Scott Slater
Dear Rev: Thank you for offering your perspective.
Email Amy Dickinson at firstname.lastname@example.org.