Elderly parents can be a nuisance

Dear Margo: My husband and I are in the classic 50-year-old sandwich generation -- kids in college, 80ish parents who are emotionally demanding, a 30 per cent drop in retirement savings despite having made what we thought were low-risk investment choices, and while we are still both employed, we’ve taken pay cuts and there are storm clouds on the horizon for both of our industries. Just too much fun!

Dear Margo: My husband and I are in the classic 50-year-old sandwich generation — kids in college, 80ish parents who are emotionally demanding, a 30 per cent drop in retirement savings despite having made what we thought were low-risk investment choices, and while we are still both employed, we’ve taken pay cuts and there are storm clouds on the horizon for both of our industries. Just too much fun!

I want advice about my mother. She’s always been fairly “high drama” in terms of being overly emotional, but it’s getting worse.

She “forgets” how often my brothers and sisters and I come to see her (though she has a mind like a steel trap, so the forgetting is a complete fabrication), and my dad is always complaining about how lonely she is. No matter what any of us do, it’s never enough, and she seems to want to pit us against one another.

While this makes her sound awful, she also has many good traits, and certainly no one wants to cut her out of their lives.

We just want to turn down the negative noise, have her appreciate what we do for her and not constantly try to make us feel guilty for what we can’t do. Suggestions? – Frazzled

Dear Fraz: If your mother is “80ish,” I wouldn’t bet the rent that she still has a steel-trap mind.

In any case, why don’t you and your sibs keep a “Mom Calendar” at her house so you can mark off the days when you’ve come to visit? Then there can be no question about frequency. (And you can invite your dad to look at it, too.) You can’t, at her age, effect a personality change, so try not to let the drama queen make you nuts. Consciously do your best to ignore the unfounded negative noise. It can’t be easy being old, but neither should her age drag you down – Margo, managerially

Dear Margo: I would like advice on how to be treated with respect by my husband in front of his son and male friends.

He is very caring, loyal and considerate when we’re with each other. However, whenever his 18-year-old son is with us, my husband always belittles me in some way.

It unfolds the same way every time. I make a comment to join the conversation: He either dismisses me completely or criticizes my opinion as being uninformed or off-topic, which is not the case. I end up feeling stupid for even trying.

My stepson lost his girlfriend because she was tired of his insults.

My husband also does this in front of his friends and even my father. His friends have corrected him on occasion.

Also, we have two little girls who I want to grow up expecting respect from men.

This behavior is hurtful and degrading and ends up causing arguments because he refuses to recognize what he is doing. What can I do to fix this problem? – Exasperated in Ohio

Dear Ex: Are you married to the Aga Kahn? This is how he treated the mother of one set of his children. They are now divorced, and friends of hers have remarked that her sons treated her with absolutely no respect at all.

I don’t know if your husband is from that part of the world, but a male-superior society is not a requirement for this kind of dismissive behavior.

I would, with the help of a neutral third party (a clergyman or a therapist), get him to recognize what he’s doing, why and what this model is saying to his children. – Margo, unacceptably

Annie’s Mailbox is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar, longtime editors of the Ann Landers column. Please e-mail your questions to anniesmailbox@comcast.net.

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