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What if Mom Won’t Say Thank You?

Frustrated Woman

Life is funny sometimes. What happens when you realize one day that your mother can no longer manager her own affairs? She can’t pay her bills and needs help with everyday tasks. She can’t schedule doctor appointments or get herself to the doctor’s office. When she can’t process information in order to make reasoned decisions.

What happens when you become responsible for helping her? When you are the person who must decide what is best for her. When you take the role of parent and have to rationalize what to her are unreasonable decisions.

What happens when you dedicate hours upon hours of your time to care for your mother. To help her manage her day to day tasks. At the expense of your spouse and children. Moving her into a new environment suitable for her compromised cognition and physical abilities. Enduring her complaints and criticisms because no matter what you do it isn’t right. She didn’t like living at home alone but isn’t happy in her new assisted living community. She doesn’t want the items in her home but doesn’t want you to manage them. She doesn’t want to spend her money but only wants the best.

This scenario plays itself out every day. Children stepping up to help their parents. It’s nothing new. Our parents helped our grandparents and many prior generations moved their elderly loved ones into their home. While that still happens it is relatively rare.

Life has changed. It has gotten a lot faster. Both spouses work and the kids are overbooked. Helping mom is more difficult that it used to be. Just getting by managing yourself and your family is draining. The extra effort to care for mom is more than some can handle. But most people try. They give it everything they can to improve mom’s quality of life. Frequently at the expense of their spouse and children.

This can go on for months. Often years. Family, friends and co-workers listen to your stories and sympathize. They watch you go above and beyond to help mom. They admire you and hope that when they are elderly they have someone like you there to help them. You listen to their compliments and are proud of what you are doing.

However, there is one person whose opinion matters most. The person who benefits from what you are doing. Every child wants praise from their parents. You thirst for the thank you from mom. But what happens when she doesn’t say thanks. Not that she can’t, although many parents cannot. She just won’t.

Many people deal with this issue. This article is not a solution. I am not a psychologist and you are not laying on my couch. Rather, the purpose of this article is to (1) acknowledge that this phenomenon exists; and (2) let you know it happens a lot, i.e. it isn’t you. I work with children who selflessly help their parents — they go above and beyond — to help mom. I know it hurts them when mom won’t say thank you. I also know that it feels better when you know that this is a common occurrence. Because it isn’t you. It is her. I am not saying that negatively. I am just saying it. And it is important enough that I will say it again.

It isn’t you. It’s her.

Keep doing your best. Know that everyone looking that your situation objectively has nothing but respect for you and what you are doing. It mom won’t say it I will… thank you.

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