Daddy Do-Right

20 Jan

Dear LetterBalm: I’m one of three daughters and married four years. Our mother died several years ago, and our father is in his early 60s and still employed. He was very ill last year and had to take a leave from his job, which he’s returned to. My two sisters still live at home, and they took care of him. My husband and I are looking for our first home together. My sisters are insisting that our father move in when we buy our house. This is creating a lot of tension in the family because my husband and I are hoping to have children, and we aren’t planning to have my father live with us. My sisters are pressuring me – they say they took care of him, now it’s my turn. What can my husband and I do to resolve the situation?

–A House Is Not a Home 

You and your husband need to arm yourself with information and answers to deal with your sisters. You’re planning for a family; it’s unfair of them to demand you take your father in. More likely, they want him out of their hair so they can live in the family home without responsibilities for his care. Has your father fully recovered? How much information do you have from his doctors? Does he have ongoing mental or physical health issues that will require attention? How long does he plan to continue working? Presumably, he owns the house where your siblings live. What living arrangements and what kind of retirement does he want? You and your husband take your dad out for a nice dinner without your sisters. Ask him what he wants to do. If he’s uncertain or argumentative, you’ll have to go to Plan B. Ms. L.B. wants you and your husband to remember that your first loyalty is to each other and the family you hope to create. Your father comes after that. Both of you sit down with your siblings (not your dad at this time) and tell them what you’re willing to do and the necessity of working up a plan. Make it clear that you won’t be guilt-tripped:

Cindy and Claire, you’ve asked several times that Marcus and I take Dad in to live with us after we buy our house. We’re here to tell you that this will not happen, and both of us agree on it. We’ve talked with Dad, and he plans to retire at 70 and wants to stay in his house. In the future, he probably will need home health care. This means that if you continue to live at home, you’ll do some of the caregiving for pay or we all will chip in and hire someone. Dad is still pretty active, and thank goodness he’s recovered from last year’s illness. Please understand that, while we want what’s best for Dad and are happy to do our fair share, we aren’t in a position to have him live with us. We’re concentrating on buying a house and starting a family, and that’s where the subject will stand.

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