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My husband has 8 children, two of which are across the country and not able to be here and one who is developmentally disabled and lives with us; that leaves 6 children that live locally.


My husband is 84 and I am 47.


I have been caregiving alone for a long time now (over 5 years). I have given up precious time with my own family and any semblance of life outside my home and caregiving responsibilities.


I am currently trying to secure honest and reliable home care for a small amount of time throughout the week.


My question is this: Should I write an open letter asking for each of my husband’s children to come sit with their Dad once a month? Or stay over 24 hours so that I can leave and visit family?


Two of my children live about 3 hours from us (they moved closer to be near us). I would really like the freedom to go visit my children and grandchildren without the responsibility of being a caregiver for my visit.


I am so blessed that two of my children and one of their spouses (both in their 20’s) have come down a number of times to visit and help with things around the house. They want to make sure Mom is okay and know the great responsibility that I am carrying.


His kids are from 35-62 and it’s rare we see them; they live locally and Covid isn’t the reason they don’t show up.


I'm just really tired and wanted to know if you thought sending out a letter would be a good idea or even appropriate.


Thank you in advance ♥️

I think you have to face reality as hard as it is. You’re burning out and need help. That’s a given. You miss your family. Who wouldn’t? I would too.

Your stepchildren aren’t close to their dad. Who knows why? You don’t have to say. It’s none of my business. The fact remains that they aren’t close.

Forget your preconceived idea about how you feel children should feel or how you were raised to feel.

I am curious though. Have you cared for your parents? It’s a tough job. I did it.

Would I do the hands on care again? Not a chance! Does that mean that I don’t care? Absolutely not. I cared immensely. I cared too much. I put their needs above my own and it nearly killed me and I lost out on time with my husband and kids. Is that what you want for your stepchildren?

There is a valid reason why they don’t want to do it. It’s too hard.

Have you contacted Council on Aging in your area? What about speaking to a social worker to help make a plan for future care? Is he a veteran? Can he collect benefits to help pay for care? Have you considered placement in a facility?

Those options that I listed are your reality. Asking his children is not a realistic approach.

I feel for you. Of course you love him. I would like for you to place yourself in your stepchildren’s shoes. Ask yourself would you be willing to care for him?

I sincerely hope that you find a viable solution soon. Please let us know if you have further concerns. We care.
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FloridaDD Oct 22, 2020
Great answer.  We don't know what is going on here.  The stepkids may think stepmom married their dad for money, and let her earn it.  They may resent her for replacing their mom.  They may be unreasonable, but whatever their feelings are, I doubt they are going to change.  OP needs to look for respite help elsewhere.  OP should be looking for a group home for her stepson.
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EmmaSue, go ahead and write the open letter. But don't send it.

Write it to help *you* clarify what exactly you would like from them. You've already got as far as suggesting, e.g., come and sit with him once a month. Come and stay overnight so that you can go and visit your own family. The next step is to make a start.

Say it's your grandchild's birthday on November 14th, or something. What you would like is for DH's child + spouse to arrive on the Friday and stay until Sunday, leaving you free to set off early on Saturday morning and return after lunch on Sunday.

That's one specific project with one set of specific "asks."

Then get on the phone and ask.

As a rule of thumb: when you want to ask someone to do something for you, the best thing is to identify what it is and then ask yourself if it's a reasonable request. Is it reasonable to ask any of these grown adults to come and stay with their Dad for two nights? Would you mind somebody *asking* you to do that, if you were in their shoes? - I can't see why you would mind, always on the understanding that they're free to say no with no hard feelings.

So ask them nicely and see what they say. Try not to have any assumptions about how they'll react, but I honestly can't see why they'd take it badly. Can you?
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EmmaSue Oct 22, 2020
Thank you CountryMouse. I will write that letter to myself and destroy it. I think that you gave some really good advice and I will try implementing it ♥️
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I’m wondering whether to write this, but please ignore it if it upsets you.

There is a difference of 37 years between you and your husband. My experience is that the relationship most often occurs between students who fall in love with their lecturers or professors, who in their fifties are well off, attractive physically, and have high status in the eyes of the student. (When I was ‘looking’, I met (once) a recently retired lecturer who told me that he was only attracted to younger women, and didn’t seem able to cope with the fact that they had all disappeared out of his life. You can imagine how much I sympathised.) There are other situations, but the biology still works like that.

Simple common sense says that the new wife should look ahead and make provision for the future that is almost inevitable, in the absence of sudden death for herself or her husband. A life insurance policy for her husband while he is still young enough to get one, would have been a good idea. Common sense also says that the older children are not going to be happy. Not only them, my sister aged 22 had a SIL who married a man just a bit older than her parents. Her parents were most unhappy, and so were her husband’s friends - I happened then to work for his (rapidly cooling) best friend, who was even suspicious of me because of my own slight relationship with her. And yes, the husband died of cancer quite soon and left her the lot! With no local support and lots of money, she spread her wings and flew a long way away.

There is no perfect way out of this problem. A start would be a good understanding of everyone involved. This is not the ‘normal’ ageing Mom and Dad, or widower Dad, situation, where many children would step up to help. A next step would be to find a better place for your stepson to live. A substantial part of your care responsibilities must be his care and company. When his father dies, do you want to devote the rest of your life to him? If you don’t, the sooner the better that he finds somewhere to live his life as well as possible, while he can still manage to learn to fit in.

A harder step could be to deal with the finances. Have you in fact cut DH’s children out of any expectation of a substantial inheritance? Are you prepared to bargain? Or ‘blackmail’ - unless you can provide some care, he’ll go into a facility and there won’t be anything left anyway? But if you mean it, what will you live on yourself?

You have my sincere sympathy for the situation you are in now. I wish you all the luck you can find in dealing with it. It certainly isn’t easy, in fact it’s very hard indeed!
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Wow. First, I am sorry you're worn out. Who wouldn't be?

Your husband fathered 8 children over a 28-year span! I'm not sure to be bewildered or give him a high-five. Anyway, my guess is not all 8 have the same mother, and all siblings did not grow up together as one big happy family. If he was married multiple times, the children get tired of the revolving door of stepmoms and distance themselves. (My husband's father has been married 4 times. Two were only because the women were pregnant. Needless to say we don't get together much.)

It's also hard when he's married someone who is young enough to be their sister. In their eyes, you may be seen as a 'replacement' for them. Unlike the kids who couldn't help being born into the situation, you took him on knowing he'd be elderly, unwell, and die way before you. The "you made your bed, you can lie in it". Your own kids coming over to help is nice of them, but can also be seen as another 'replacement'. Like why would you need them, since you're way younger and your own kids are helping? Not saying it's fair, just an aspect to consider.

For all six local ones to not be around indicates a lot of issues are underneath. And those are not things you will be able to fix.

You certainly could do one mass letter to contact all six and tell them they are welcome to come if they want. Instead of "I need help", offer them the chance to be around their father while they still can. Could offer to step out of the house for awhile when they come by, if that's what they would prefer. After that, it's up to them. You offered, and if they don't accept, it's their decision.
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There's a probably a lot to unpack here beyond just the need for respite.

How long have you and your husband been married? How did his kids feel about a peer marrying their father? Was your husband up front with his kids when the two of you decided to marry?

I ask these questions because my own grandfather was 77 and married a 45-year-old woman after my grandmother died. She was 10 days older than her elder stepdaughter and 5 1/2 years older than my mother. Neither told my mom or aunt that they were dating, much less that they were getting married. My grandfather called them and said, "Well, I got married last week," and that was it.

Fair or not, my mother didn't take kindly to this at all. After all, her own mother had died only a few years earlier when my mother was only 36 (and was buried on my mother's birthday!), and she only vaguely knew the new wife as a woman who had worked for my grandfather back in the 1940s. Needless to say, she wasn't happy at all. My aunt took it much better and was happy my grandfather had found a companion, and I think she understood that my grandfather had likely married more for convenience than love.

As for the new wife, she was really the only grandmother I knew as I was four when my grandmother died. She was always kind and loving, and she didn't push anyone to treat her as their mother or grandmother, since my cousins are all much older than I am and did remember our biological grandmother (I do not remember her). She was their friend, not their grandmother. Still, when it came to the end of my grandfather's life 13 years later, she was pretty much left to deal with his illnesses on her own because I think it was perceived that that's what she signed up for.

Your stepkids may have the same issues roiling in them as my family had. No one in my family was intentionally unkind to my step-grandmother, but it was an odd relationship, and each person in the family had their very specific relationship with her. My mom perceived her as another bossy older sister, my aunt saw her as a friend, as did one of her kids. The rest of my cousins really had nothing to do with her once my grandfather died, not out of spite, but just because they had no real reason to connect with her.

I helped my step-grandmother clear out her house about six years ago when she was 90. She gave me every single thing that had to do with my grandfather's side of the family and made it clear that she was aligned solely with her side of the family, and not my grandfather's side. She never said anything unkind, but obviously she never felt like she was part of our family. She had no beef with me nor with one of my cousins who was very close to her, but there was no love lost for my mother, and my aunt had already died. I was honored to give the eulogy at her funeral in 2018.

I think the only reason why I had the love I did for her was because I was nine years old when she came into my life, and I didn't have any real knowledge or understanding of the vast age difference between her and my grandfather. I think you're in a very similar situation: Your husband essentially chose between his kids and you, and he chose you. Now the kids are letting you deal with the fallout, OR they don't know that you'd welcome a relationship with them, OR they think you only want a relationship with them to get respite care. Regardless of the reason, you need to have a frank conversation with those people and ask them where they stand and let them know where you stand. It's the only way you'll be able to clear the air.

Sorry this is such a novel, but it just sounded exactly like my family's situation, and it's SO very complicated.
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Reply to MJ1929
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If they wanted to visit they would have reached out. Do not contact them for that purpose. I would start hiring caregivers if your finances allow. Best of luck to you...
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polarbear Oct 23, 2020
I tend to agree. Perhaps, you can invite them to come for a short visit. Just say dad wants to see them. If/when they come, you can gauge their willingness to help and decide if you should ask. If they can't be bothered to visit, I doubt they can be bothered to come and help.
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I was raised to make sure that my kids WOULDN'T have to look after me, lol.

Yes, of course I made sure that my mother was in a good care situation. But I would not do hands on care.
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I just read your post from January 2019 that Barb referenced.

It seems to me that your husband is really set in his ways on who (and who not) should be taking care of him. I sort of got the impression that he isn't open to hearing anyone else's opinion on that subject besides his own.

Perhaps the reason his kids don't want to give you respite has more to do with him, and less to do with you? Doesn't change the fact that you need respite - but it might help guide you if you decide to try and have a conversation with them about giving you a break.

If he's as intractable with his kids as it seems he is with you, it' going to be hard to convince them to lend a hand.

If you have the financial means, look into hiring respite care for him either in home or in a facility. You are his wife; not his servant. If anyone, including him, tries to give you grief about where your "place" is, remind yourself (and them) that paid caregiving professionals do not do their job 24/365. Who knows? Maybe if you give his caregiving to a "stranger" for a few days, he'll be more amenable to other willing family members taking care if him every once in a while.

Good luck!
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Hi EmmaSue, your profile says your husband has metastatic prostate cancer. What is his prognosis? What does his doctor say? At 84 y.o., I doubt he has too many years left. Not wishing him dead, but I just want to point out that the light at the end of the tunnel may not be too far away.

As for your question about writing letters to his children, based on what you said: "...it’s rare we see them; they live locally and Covid isn’t the reason they don’t show up.", I doubt they will come. You can ask, but be prepared to hear "No". One reason for asking is that, later on, when their dad's gone, they can't say you never let them come to visit.
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ExhaustedPiper Oct 24, 2020
"One reason for asking is that, later on, when their dad's gone, they can't say you never let them come to visit."

THIS.

Emma, I would send an open email like you were thinking, for the very reason I quoted from Polar above, however I would do it without any expectations, because it's very likely they will not help.

You still need help though, so keep working on hiring some reliable help.

BTW- When your husband eventually passes, are any plans in place for his disabled daughter?
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"His kids are from 35-62 and it’s rare we see them; they live locally and Covid isn’t the reason they don’t show up."

I wouldn't send a letter. It seems pretty clear from this statement that they have little or no interest in their father.

You could try asking them once, either in person or by phone if they would be willing to sit with him for a little while, to give you a break or time to get some errands done, but I wouldn't hold my breath. I have 2 brothers who have done very little to help me with the whole situation. Most of the prep work to get all legal paperwork updated, set up everything, to get her to MC was done by me. The only thing I refused to do was the actual move (she was ADAMANT she wasn't going to move anywhere!) Then came the clear/clean/repair and sale of the condo. Three guesses who did most of the work, and the first 2 don't count! Helping her before the move, settling the condo and continuing to advocate for her, handle her finances, supplies and visits have sucked down 6+ years of my life. So much for retirement - the only thing good about being retired is that I'm not killing myself trying to work and do all the rest of this! The condo took almost 2 years alone!

Asking for their help, or even just understanding is a joke. One is a year older, the other 10 years younger.

Your best bet is to take time to check on resources available. Was he a veteran? He might qualify for some benefits. Medicare does provide very limited assistance, if he needs help with bathing, etc., and apparently offers one week/year respite care (anything is better than nothing!) Depending on income, might he qualify for Medicaid, as they also offer limited in-home care. If he is mobile enough, what about day-care services?

If none of these resources are available and you have enough income, I would hire from an agency. Several days/week, to give you a break and/or provide the bathing, etc. that WILL become more difficult over time. They do offer overnight care as well. Daytime vs evening and overnight costs are different, as are weekends and holidays, but whatever the cost, it would be worth it. No need to guilt trip anyone and you get peace of mind that he's cared for and you get a break! You also can schedule these outings when YOU want them, not when they *might* begrudgingly help. I would bring these aides in and be there some of the time, so you get to know them and are confident in them before doing more than quick errands. Not all hired help are equal - same as in any work environment, there are good ones, great ones and not so good ones!

Make sure you let your kids know how MUCH you appreciate the things they do for you! Perhaps you can hire someone to be there on the days they come to help. Let the aide care for him and you DOTE on your family - nice meal, etc.

You also mention a developmentally disabled child of his living with you. Do you get services/help for that child? If not, why not? If the child isn't capable of caring for him/herself and can't work, they should be on SS and there should be ways to get help. If the "child" is ADL capable, then it would mean just getting someone to watch him/her when you go out or go to visit family. I wouldn't ask one aide to care for both.

Last thought - don't waste time and energy being angry if they don't want to help. It only affects you, not them. Use that time and energy to make things better for yourself!
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NobodyGetsIt Oct 24, 2020
"disgustedtoo," - Very thorough and informative post!
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