Magazine article Work & Family Life

'My Brother Always Was Mom's Favorite'

Magazine article Work & Family Life

'My Brother Always Was Mom's Favorite'

Article excerpt

Here's how our strategy for solving problems with an older relative works. Take this situation, for example:

For die past four years, you have been helping your 85-year-old mother so she can continue to live independently. You cook, shop, clean and do her laundry for her. You make sure your husband and children visit her and you keep other relatives informed about how she's doing.

Your only sibling is a brother who lives an hour away. He maintains a pleasant, though distant, relationship with you and does not share in the dayto-day care of your mother. But when he does something - like send flowers on Mother's Day - she cannot praise him enough. You feel hurt that your brother's occasional efforts elicit more praise than your ongoing hard work.

First, clarify the problem

Does everyone agree that a problem exists? No, just you. From your mother's perspective, her needs are being met by a daughter who asks for very little in return. Your brother has no problem either. He doesn't share in the caregiving, yet receives accolades for the small things he does. Your mother adores him while you feel like Gin deralla.

How urgent is the problem, really? The urgency centers around your needs. You are showing signs of caregiver burnout. That is, you feel taken for granted (and rightly so). Yet you've done little or nothing to improve your situation. And if you continue this way, your resentment will get worse and could even affect your caregiving, health and marriage.

What is behind your mother's and brother's behaviors? Your mother may feel that taking care of her is your duty as her daughter - and not a responsibility that your brother should share. She may assume that you know she's grateful, and may not realize that you feel hurt by her silence.

Your mother's relationship with your brother is apparently different, and you may be right - that he's always been her favorite. A look into your family history may confirm that her current behavior is simply the repetition of an old pattern. Or possibly something new is going on.

What's hooking you? You may still be hoping that, it you try hard enough, your mother will notice and praise you tor your efforts. By not asking your brother to share in the caregiving, you may be trying to prove that you're "more caring." And if your brother gets involved, you might lose this dubious advantage.

Who must be included in your problem-solving discussions? You have three issues to tackle: your need for relief, your brother's lack of involvement, and your feelings about your mother's lack of appreciation. Talk to your mother and brother together about sharing the caregiving responsibilities. …

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