My father thinks I need to tell him why he is not included in every dinner we have friends over for. Any ideas?


My father does not like to cook. I make sure he has easy to make meals in his freezer for the times we might be going out to dinner or over to a friend's house for dinner. He lives in a father in law house that is attached to our house. 95% of the time he has dinner with my husband and I and is included when we have friends over for dinner. On the rare occasion we decided to just have my husband and myself and friends over to our house he feels I need to explain to him (give him a reason) why he is not being included. Even after I have explained it is nothing personal, we just feel that sometimes we want it to be just us. That is not good enough for him. I am afraid that I have created this monster and I need help in getting a part of my life back. I do want to be sensitive to my father's feelings but at the same time I do not feel that I need to explain myself. I felt bad telling him he was on his own for this dinner to begin with, he just made me feel worse by questioning me as to why he wasn’t being included. I am looking for ideas on how to handle this type of situation. Thank you



I know what you mean. My husband and I and kids planned to go on vacation in July way before mom moved in. I thought briefly about taking her, but it would be more work than fun, and frankly I could do that here.

I'm wanting to have her stay a week at an AL facility for respite since we are considering facilities anyway. That way she can try it out and see if it's a good fit.

I'm having the same problem with not knowing how to tell her she can't come on vacation with us. I've thought about cancelling but hubby and I and family really need this.

Sounds like you too need to have the alone time with just your hubby and friends. I understand though about wanting to be sensitive. Sometimes with parents it's like we're teenagers again, having to sneak out.
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Reply to FrazzledMama

What are your father's infirmities? It sounds like he is fairly independent and can be left on his own for at least short periods. He doesn't have dementia does he? Any cognitive problems?

Don't be at all defensive or apologetic when explaining this to him. Call the time you go out "date nights." You can explain/discuss this with him once or twice. Didn't he like to go out with just your mother sometimes? Then don't discuss it again. Just announce that you have a date night scheduled on Friday; he has that good bean soup in the freezer.

Do something similar with the times you have friends over. Perhaps call it Couples Night or Friends Time or Social Evening. Think up something that fits and use that term consistently to mean having friends over without other family there. Again, explain the need to socialize with people approximately your age, without an older audience. If he sometimes did social things without including your mother (poker, golf, hunting, etc.) remind him how nice it is to have time with friends, and that it certainly doesn't mean you like your family member any less. After a couple of explanations, just announce that you are having a Social Evening on Thursday, and suggest he might like to invite a friend over and order pizza in his place.

You could also mention what you are planning for the next meal, to remind him that he is still included. "We're having a date night Sunday morning. Don't eat too much while we are gone because I'm planning beef stroganoff for dinner."

Does he have any friends in your neighborhood or reasonably close? Encourage him to have his own social evenings (or afternoons, etc.) Perhaps you could offer to make a special snack, or simple meal for them (and not join them, of course). If he is at an age where many of his friends have died or moved out of state to be with their children or if moving to be close to you meant he left friends behind he can feel isolated. If you are his only social outlet and you are excluding him, my gosh, what is he going to do! Does he have his own social life now? Encouraging some activities that don't include you might be a good idea.
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Reply to jeannegibbs

I suggest just eating out with your friends.. To my way of thinking, compassion trumps leaving dad out at home..

You'll likely be in his shoes someday.

Grace + Peace,

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Reply to OldBob1936

First, you are right to pursue that 5% and please keep at it. I will trail off jeanneg’s last comment... I’d shift the focus to him not having any social contacts other than with you. And when your friends come, he gets additional pre-qualified nice people brought to him. It’s understandable!

Let him know you know it’s hard but we never lose the duty to seek out our own companions. Say you’d like to work on this together; find social centers, church groups, or morning coffee meetups at cafes nearby. It’s natural, a lot of older folks just find it easier to have one ‘built in’ social group, but it isn’t enough.

Gosh, since her 60s Mom has tried to ramrod me into being her social everything, and we don’t even get along that well. She’d just like to hide from the social vulnerability of trying to connect with others.  When she has a fit at my not agreeing with all her opinions or she says ‘You don’t know where I’m coming from,’ I say ‘You’re right! That’s why people seek out peers, more shared viewpoints!’  It’s a big reason why he should seek out a few nice people his own, to my mind.

Good luck! :)
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Reply to Zdarov

I know what you’re doing because it’s taken me years to decide I don’t owe my dad an explanation for what I do. I think it’s leftover from childhood, the respect for your parents, but we’re adults. No need to be rude, but also not necessary to provide an explanation for your choices. Grownups don’t have to do that!
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Reply to Daughterof1930

My understanding of the question is that the get together would be at the OP's house - kind of hard to fib about that.

I think the core issue is either a reluctance to set reasonable boundaries - Father has his own suite and doesn't (shouldn't, for your own peace of mind) need to be enmeshed in every aspect of your life - or Father's refusal to accept them, which is really all about establishing the ground rules of living together so that you (and importantly, your spouse) don't end up feeling like your home is no longer your own.
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Reply to cwillie

The first thing that comes to my mind is "My friends are coming over tonight to visit with my husband and I." If he continues to press, ask him why the idea is bothering him.

Sure, being excluded from the odd meal isn't anything to get worked up over, but seniors are often socially or physically limited by what they can do and They Know It...your father might be bundling up worries about abandonment, you not 'really' wanting him around, even missing his own friends he no longer sees.

Be firm but compassionate; your father doesn't NEED to be involved in every single meal, but you're right in wanting to be sensitive about this.
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Reply to OneLastStraw

If your dad doesn’t have dementia and you’re able to reason with him then there is nothing wrong with honesty. I think any therapist would tell you that. We are not obligated to have our parent with us for every meal. If he didn’t live there and you were having friends over would you call him up and invite him? Probably not...but because he lives in an attached home next door and you have him over often, it’s become a "thing" now. The best thing is to be up front and tell him tonight you are having a social night with friends and not family. Part of the issue is you are afraid of confrontation and the other part is your dad being too sensitive. He needs to see he is separate from you and your husband. I think in general you all are quite compassionate and kind to him including him as often as you do. Not inviting him to a social gathering is part of setting healthy boundaries. It’s needed and important. He is a big boy and will survive. You might even just sit down with your dad and explain things way before you have another gathering when it’s more neutral. Let him know there will be times when you will want to have friends over with just you and your husband.  Setting boundaries is what helps us not feel like we’re being run over or have no sense of rights.
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Reply to Harpcat

Hmmm. You will likely be in his shoes some day...and I doubt you'll expect to be included in everything. There is nothing wrong with wanting some semblance of an autonomous life. Sounds like you are providing a nice home for your dad. Set boundaries and then don't feel bad about it. It's OK, as far as I'm concerned but, as you can see, everyone thinks about this differently. Did he include you in everything he did, your whole life? Peace!
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Reply to geevesnc

This happens in caregiving with my grandma too.

I usually just go out and eat and not make a big deal of it. She always has meals in the fridge.

It’s hard because they are lonely at this point in their life, but it’s hard to change that.

Your life and time is just as valuable and important as his. Realize he’s going to be upset but establishing boundaries helps.
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Reply to Gbprincess

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