I have a very close friend (let’s say her name is Jane) who is an only child of an incredibly domineering mother. A few months ago, Jane’s mother demanded that Jane give up her career (Jane is a solo ager and is five years short of retiring) and move back into the family home so Jane can wait on her hand and foot (literally).
What’s the catch? Mom is a wealthy woman who threatens to disinherit Jane if she doesn’t comply.
Jane and I have spent many nights talking over this situation. As we talk, Jane reminds me time and time again not to repeat the phrase, “Don’t say money isn’t everything.” She also reminds me that her inheritance will be derived from her mother rarely spending money on Jane as a child. Jane feels deserving of the money, and so be it.
Over the years, Jane has sought counseling from a variety of close friends, therapists, and medical professionals including her doctor who has advised her against moving in with her mother. Understandably, Jane is confused and frightened.
When Jane and I get together in person, the only way I know how to be helpful is to ask questions not dish out advice. My role is to reflect back to Jane the truth of her situation and move the conversation forward so she can come to her own conclusion to do what’s best for her.
Here are the questions I ask Jane to think about:
- So what you are saying is that your mother has used her money to control you all of your life – did I get that right?
- Instead of being grateful that you would agree to be her caregiver, your mother expects you to wait on her like a hired servant. Is this relationship dynamic OK with you?
- How do you see yourself in this situation a year from after you have moved in? Are things better or worse?
- What about this situation scares you the most?
- Based on everything you’ve told me so far, do you believe that you deserve to be treated this way by your mother?
Jane is running out of time. Her mother has given her a tight deadline. I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again. Never underestimate the power of friendship, love and support in the caregiving process. If you know a family caregiver who is going through hard times because of an aging parent, stay close to them as best you can. We’re all in this together.