Guest Post: Marcy Felder
Your mother keeps asking those dreaded questions of, "When are you going to come visit me?" and "Why don't you have time for me?"
You feel that sick sensation in your stomach whenever she speaks those words. You know you should visit more but how do you make the time? You feel bad for disappointing your mom and you also feel guilty that you're not making the time to go see her. You also feel terribly overwhelmed by your current life and all that you're expected to do. You end up feeling like you're letting everyone down.
Is there a way to do
both? Can you spend time with your mother but also keep up with all your
other current demands from work, friends, and your family?
It feels like a huge juggling act but there are ways to accomplish this so no one feels left out.
Between work, spouse, kids, friends, gym, groceries, dinner, laundry, homework and God knows what else, my time was rarely my own. Visiting my mother as often as she deserved, needed, and wanted was just not happening.
The consequence? I felt guilty and my mother felt neglected. Neither were healthy outcomes. Both of us built up a healthy dose of resentment towards one another, and something had to change.
So I decided to come up with a plan to make my mother happy without visiting but also satisfied two other conditions.
First, it couldn’t result in me abdicating my responsibilities. I needed to continue doting on my kids, being focused at work and taking care of my physical and emotional well-being.
Second, it also had to satisfy my responsibility to my mother and put a smile on her face.
She deserved more. She meant the world to me and I meant the world to her. If it weren’t for the circumstances of modern family life, I would have loved to have spent more time with her. We had to figure something out.
That’s when my plan was hatched.
The first call would be in the morning, on my way to work.
The second call would be on my way home from work.
It was perfect. Most of my drive time was spent listening to the radio anyways. I could easily spare 5 - 10 minutes of a 25 minute drive talking with my mother, discussing our plans and happenings for the day.
Note: I use handsfree technology in my car. I'm not using my handheld cellphone as that would just put everyone in danger and is a stupid thing to do.
This wasn't something I'd realized at first but for an elderly person, living on your own can make you feel terribly vulnerable.
Besides getting her a private caregiver, or moving to a retirement home, neither of which were in our budgets, we had to search for an alternative.
While I was nervous they would make her feel “spied” on, it had the complete opposite effect. My mother felt liberated - she felt like she always had someone looking out for her and had access to help whenever she needed it.
I’d pick her up in the morning and she’d come to the kid’s soccer, baseball and hockey games. We’d then head back to the house and have dinner together as a family.
Instead of carving out a sliver of time on a busy Saturday for a visit to her house, we just included her in our existing schedule.
Yes! In fact, it turned out exceptionally well.
I have peace of mind knowing my mother’s safe, secure and happy. But perhaps most importantly, I’ve really enjoyed the growth in our relationship. We’re closer than we’ve ever been and she’s been very appreciative. Neither one of us feels guilty or resentful.
She can’t wait to spend time with her grand kids on Saturdays, and she loves our daily calls. I think she’s also a lot more comfortable living alone with the new gadgets we got her.
She doesn't feel left out or excluded or even unwanted. She knows she's an important member of the family still.
The other benefit is that my kids are getting to know their grandmother on a much deeper level.
All said and done, we've managed to pull it off so far. My plan may not be best for you, but creating a game plan to remain present in your mother’s life, while tackling your own, is well worth the effort and reward!
I realize not everyone is as lucky as I am to live in the same city as their parents.
Living in a different city from your parents can be a real challenge.
The technologies I mentioned in the article, like video doorbell, security cam and a medical alert system can give you some peace of mind. Leveraging other newer services like home delivery from the grocery store, pharmacy or Amazon can make life easier for your parents as well.
Subscription meal prep kits are also getting popular. Getting in touch with local senior resources to arrange transportation or to take care of snow shoveling or lawn care can also be a huge help to an aging parent.
Another useful tool can be video chats with your parents. This way you can make sure you have a visual that they're taking care of themselves i.e. changing clothes, brushing hair, and no visual changes to health.
Something else you might consider is an Amazon Echo / Google voice, so they can use their voice to make calls, get the weather, listen to their favorite music, even control lights, TV, door locks, and whatnot. You might have to find someone to set this up for them but once the set up is taken care of, it should be easy enough for them to use on their own.
You could also send photos of what you're doing. Or if you share an interest, send photos or information on it. For example, if you both like gardening, send photos of your garden. Or if you have kids, send lots of photos of daily life happenings. It's little things like this which can make a difference.
The most important part is making sure your parents are taken care of but also for them to know that you haven't forgotten about them and are thinking about them.
Try to think of ways to include them in your daily life in some way rather than thinking you have to put your life on hold in order to visit in person.
But, also, if you don't live in the same city, do try to make the effort to visit them as much as you can. Remember, they're not always going to be there and you don't want to end up regretting that you didn't make the time to go visit when you had the chance.
So, when life feels overwhelming and your mom asks, "Why don't you come visit?", know that there are options out there which can make both you and your mom feel happy about the situation and it doesn't have to involve you visiting.
Be creative, think about how to include your parents in your life.
The most important thing to remember is that your parents want what anyone wants. They want to feel valued, appreciated, and to feel like they're important. Figure out ways to make that happen and you'll both experience a more rewarding relationship.
Focus On Solutions
A great trick when you're dealing with obstacles is to focus on the solutions. Here's how you do that.