My mother, 65, has dementia. She loves my children but doesn’t remember their names all the time. My father, 70, is preoccupied with his own medical issues.
I’m trying to stay helpful to both parents… driving my mom to her doctor, the grocery store, etc. She’s no longer able to drive. And I accompany my dad to his doctors, especially when he is in severe pain.
Meanwhile, it has reached a point that my husband dislikes the fact that I no longer have time to spend with him and our kids. But I believe I have no other choice other than being fully involved. My other siblings live out of state, so I’m the only child that can help.
I’m at a loss of what to do. I want to be there for my family, but I also want to follow my parents’ lifetime example of always helping out those who need it.
Your advice would be greatly appreciated.
You have brought up a very touchy subject. Yes, it is very natural for you to want to help your parents, especially since they are no longer able to take care of themselves. Honoring your father and mother is certainly one of the important commandments of our holy religion.
But there’s a catch. If necessary, it can only be up to a point.
A rabbi of our community once told the following short story to a women’s class:
A man comes home from shul one morning and asks his wife, “Honey, where’s my breakfast? And how come the kids aren’t dressed for school? And why is the baby crawling around with a dirty diaper?”
She politely answered, “I didn’t finish praying shaharit yet.”
The rabbi explained, the reason that women are exempt from positive commandments that are time-bound is because their primary responsibility is to their family. Hashem says, “You’re taking care of your family? I can wait.”
And although honoring parents is a 24/7 mitzvah, your husband has the right to say in an extreme case, “I come first, get someone else to help with your parents.”
Of course, this would not be the best solution for a happy marriage, but your husband does have that right. Therefore, you need to work out a schedule that accommodates all parties. If necessary, get a part-time aide or even a community driver who is sensitive to the needs of your parents. Most important, make sure to schedule plenty of quality time with your husband and children.
In the merit of your untiring devotion to all of your loved ones, may you be zocheh to be with your entire family in times of joy and good health until 120. Amen.