Why being ‘less dutiful’ can improve your relationship with your parents

Transitioning from the role of daughter or son to carer is a difficult one. Before you might have chatted about a restaurant you recently ate at, or a weekend away you’re planning, now you might find yourself asking if your Mum or Dad has remembered to take their medication, or if they need help cleaning the house.

Introducing a different dynamic to your relationship can be difficult for both parties as Deborah Brown* found out when her parents started to need help with everyday activities, but didn’t want to be seen as a burden.

From daughter to carer

Taking on the mantle of carer was “a bit of an emotional minefield” says Deborah, whose Mum and Dad felt uncomfortable asking her and her two sisters to do things for them. “Often they wouldn’t ask at all,” says Deborah. “Dad would go without the mustard he liked or Mum would skip hair appointments (when she’d always been an every-six-weeks-or-perish kind of gal)”.

Deborah says her parents were worried they might seem like an inconvenience, and when she started to casually mention that they might like her to go shopping for them or mow the lawn, they became agitated.

“I was trying to help but now realise I seemed like I was prying, or worse, being critical. ‘What do you mean, do I think the lawn needs mowing?’ Dad snapped one day, ‘Are you saying I’m letting the place go?’”

Relationship strains

After a few months of gently suggesting her parents might need some extra support, Deborah realised that her relationship with her Mum in particular was deteriorating and their fun, easy chats were no longer. “Our conversations were strained and less warm. Neither of us were happy,” she says.

It was only when she managed to convince her parents to consider Five Good Friends in-home care solutions did she notice a difference. Deborah’s Mum and Dad felt comfortable relying on their carer Pam*, who visits three times a week to take them to appointments or do the grocery shopping for them, as they were paying her for a service.

Gradually, Deborah noticed that her relationship with her parents was getting back to the way it had always been.

A restored balance

“For me, it’s meant I’m back to being a daughter. I’m still devoted to my parents, but I don’t have to be as dutiful.”

Deborah still helps her parents when they ask but she says, “Between me, my sisters and Pam they’ve stopped hesitating when asking for the things they need. Conversations are easy again, the laughs are back, Dad has his mustard, and Mum’s hair looks great.”

*Deborah and Pam’s names changed to protect their privacy.

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