Moderated by Rachel Stein | firstname.lastname@example.org
Recap of the current dilemma: A woman wavers about whether to invite her father-in-law to live with her family.
Dear Friend on the Seesaw,
I would happily invite my in-laws to live with us with almost no qualms. As of now, they can live independently, and I would be happy if they lived in a local apartment. I believe they are content being independent in their current living situation. If at some point there were only one of them and the other one wanted to move in, I would be hard pressed to decline. To me, it is one of those things I would say yes to and then figure out how to make it work. This is just me; I hope it doesn’t make you feel guilty if you feel otherwise!
Dear Seesaw Rider,
I write to you from the other end of the spectrum. I am 85 and living in my own home. But because of declining health, I am forced to consider other options. My daughter has invited me to move in with her family, yet I waver. I love the idea of living with family and being there for each other. For as long as I can, I would gladly help with household chores and child care. And isn’t it a timeless Jewish value to care for our parents? A sense of good, old-fashioned Jewish pride bubbles up in my heart to know that my daughter has her priorities straight. And who can quantify the benefits of Bubbe’s involvement in her grandchildren’s lives?
Yet I hesitate to accept the generous invitation. Perhaps it would be better for all of us if I lived close by in an assisted living facility. Especially after reading your dilemma, I wonder if my presence would be a burden, although I know they would never make it obvious. Yes, they would sacrifice their privacy, and in the event of medical issues, they would also sacrifice their time. Is that what I want for my children?
I’m torn and uncertain what to do. I may ask my rabbi for advice. My thanks to Rachel for printing your dilemma; it is definitely helping me weigh the issues and pushing me to get clarity.
Wishing you all the best,
You appear to be a compassionate child who wants to do the right thing. However, there is no one-size-fits-all answer to this monumental issue.
You and your husband have to take a deep look inside yourselves. How will having your father-in-law around 24/7 affect you and your family? In an ideal world, I agree it is proper to open your home to your elderly parent. We all owe our parents — they gave us life, not to mention everything else they’ve done for us. But if Dad’s presence will be a source of tension rather than joy, it may erode your disposition and joie de vivre. Will you unintentionally take out your frustrations on your spouse and children? If that happens, can we honestly say this is a good move?
You wrote: “We feel strongly that elderly parents deserve respect, and consigning them to assisted living or nursing homes is tantamount to shirking our filial responsibility.” I contest that statement. My mother resides in a wonderful assisted living facility. I visit her frequently during the week, popping in either before or after my workday, and arrange longer visits on weekends. Sometimes we go on pleasant outings, and the children love having Grandma around. I often do her shopping, help her with medical appointments, and we enjoy a loving, intimate relationship. Am I neglectful? I don’t think so. And I don’t believe she feels that way. She is happy with her own peer group and still enjoys a sense of independence.
If you and your husband are at a dead end, perhaps it is time to consult with someone you respect and trust. Do you have a rabbi, therapist, coach or wise friend who can listen to all the ramifications and guide you? Your adviser should know you well and understand your strengths and weaknesses to shine a light onto the murky waters.
Do what’s best for your family now, taking every aspect into consideration. And no matter where your father-in-law lives, please enjoy a loving, respectful relationship filled with boundless love, appreciation and the special brand of closeness inherent in the parent-child connection.
Wishing you the very best,
Mrs. H. Ostro, L.M.S.W.
Shared Spirit is a forum in which people send their problems to Rachel Stein, who invites readers to help.