Question: Dear Luise: I was wondering what your thoughts are on a very difficult family situation that I am currently dealing with. I have 12 siblings, age range 40-65. My mother is 82 years old. She raised 13 children and is still today a vibrant, healthy and competent woman. Here’s the issue: half of her children badmouth her, put her down, call her names and try and control her life. Even though she is still able and competent, they would like nothing more that to see her end her 20 year relationship with her partner and move into a senior living center by herself. The other half of her children cherish her, respect her and want her to live the last years of her life with some dignity and peace. The problem is that the hating siblings are constantly calling the loving siblings spewing their hate and negativity. One brother called my mother the day after she was released from the hospital and raged at her for an hour, threatening to “evict” her from her home (he, along with another brother provide financial support to my mother). The loving siblings in the family have come to a point where we avoid the haters at all cost, but this does not solve the problem. We still live in fear that they are putting too much emotional stress and burden on our aging mother. My eldest sister is the main “instigator” for the haters and this is why: Twenty years ago, my mother’s spouse died. Around the same time my eldest sister’s mother-in-law also died. At the suggesting of my oldest sister, my mother & my eldest sister’s father-in-law started spending time together and being companions. They’ve been together over 20 years now, and about 5 years ago my eldest sister started saying she can’t deal with them being together. She believe their relationship has ruined, in her word, “Her marital family.” She will not let it go. She keeps going over it with anyone who will listen. A couple of the other hating children, just believe they had a horrible life growing up in such a large family and blame my mother for EVERYTHING that is wrong with them. On the other hand, while the loving siblings acknowledge that there were significant challenges and hardships related to growing up in such a large family, we are grateful that our parents managed to feed us every day and keep us together as a family unit, when there was no such thing as welfare from the state. We also embrace the good times and unique experiences we had because we had such a large family. I am currently looking into having a professionally mediated “family meeting” to see if anything can be resolved. I am completely skeptical that the hating siblings will apologize or change anything because they see themselves as self-righteous and blameless. I’d really like some input on how I can convey my feelings to them. My feelings are that I do not want to be subjected to their negativity any longer, but more importantly, I want to convey to them that I view their behaviors toward my mother as “elder abuse.” I want to ensure that they understand that I (along with my other siblings who love my mother) will no longer tolerate them emotionally abusing our mother. Just a note of interest: It is mostly the older siblings of the family who are the haters, and the younger siblings are the lovers. I don’t know why, but this is how the family is split. Thanks Luise, and God Bless you and all your efforts. C.
Answer: Dear C.: I am afraid no mediator is going to change the leopard’s spots. In many smaller families there are adult children who refuse to be responsible for their mistakes and lay it all on “mom.” It’s the easiest way there is to never grow up. The self-righteous stuff goes with. I call it the “It’s not my fault/be right Syndrome.”
They aren’t going to change. What they are doing and how they are acting works for them. What I would do is to get together with your loving siblings and create a home for your mom. Don’t let her be dependent on them and think she has to take this. Move her out from the place where eviction is being threatened. There are many ways to go…I am 85 and my husband is in a nursing home. I live in low-income (HUD) housing and pay $408. a month including electricity. Before that I lived in a camping club and had two leased sites I moved my 5th wheel back and forth on to meet the requirement’s there for 6 months maximum residency. There are parents who have no home and who rotate staying with their kids. Two months at each place…that isn’t too long to have to deal with it.
Get creative. Rescue her and then get a restraining order if you have to stop the abuse. She deserves so much better. Find a way to give it to her. I want to tell you one more thing…you are a cut above and don’t you ever forgot it. She is so lucky to have you. Blessings, Luise