Dear Annie: My 20-something children attend school in other cities. On occasion, they have asked to bring their current boyfriend or girlfriend home for a visit to meet the family. The friend then stays in a separate room for a night or two.
The problem is my husband. He gets extremely upset about these visits and accuses me of encouraging immoral behaviour. He says that allowing these friends to stay at our house gives tacit approval for them to spend the night away from home. I say it is normal hospitality to open our home to our kids’ friends. Is he being irrational, or am I missing something? — Conflicted Mother
Dear Conflicted: There is absolutely nothing wrong with this. Your husband apparently is convinced that the kids are sneaking around and getting into bed together when you are asleep. But that is ungenerous of him. These friends are guests in your home and should be treated as such. And your husband might keep in mind that should these friends turn out to be his future sons-in-law or daughters-in-law, reacting poorly to them now could set him up for future difficulties.
Dear Annie: May I vent a little about the extended family of a caregiver? My relatives live out of state and rarely visit. This is for them:
Please don’t tell the primary caregiver what to do and how to do it. You don’t have all the details, and you do not control every situation. Good caregivers are proactive and vigilant. You are loved, and your opinion matters. But unless you are a medical expert in these areas, please listen rather than resort to preconceived ideas.
When you do visit, don’t say, “I guess you get the day off.” There is never a day off, especially if the loved one is in the hospital or rehab and preparations need to be made for what happens after they are discharged. And while you may think it’s “too early” to discuss assisted living or nursing home care, some of those places have waiting lists. You may want to have a light, enjoyable visit, but some things still need to be handled, even unpleasant things. Life doesn’t get put on hold simply because you’re in town.
If you want to take over the full-time care, you are more than welcome. Otherwise, please respect the primary caregiver’s role and responsibilities, and keep your interference with the medical providers to a minimum. You have no idea what it is like to have a family plus elderly parents to care for, with all the activities, medical appointments, medications and therapies to coordinate and facilitate. You purposely choose to live states away. Please don’t fly in and out telling me what to do.
Serving as a primary caregiver is an honour and a privilege. It carries with it a tremendous responsibility, as well as accountability and self-sacrifice. I do it out of love, and I want what is best for them. — Walk a Mile in My Shoes
Dear Walk: We have heard this plea many times and know you speak for thousands of devoted caregivers. But we also know that many relatives who live away need to feel as if they are contributing and often react by making demands and trying to take over. Sometimes, all they need is a task to perform that will make them feel they are needed.
Dear Annie: Like “Heartbroken Mom in Connecticut,” I, too, left a controlling husband, and it created conflicts at family gatherings. Our solution was to have two birthday parties. My ex could attend one with whomever he wished, and I attended the other. The grandchildren loved the idea of having two birthday parties. Over time, some of the conflicts lessened, but they never completely stopped. Sometimes they just can’t let go. — Don’t Stress, Celebrate Twice
Annie’s Mailbox is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar, longtime editors of the Ann Landers column. Please email your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.