When do I break away?

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My parents were raised that the woman and kids wait on the dad. I lost my mama nearly 2 years ago. For the last 14 years my mama had health problems and never complained. My dad complains constantly. I have tried, and cried, but nothing is good enough. He has never done anything for himself. Now he is 84. I have tried for years to get him to try. He calls me at the least, 20 or more times, a day. That's on weekends. Through the week, I work 2 to 10:30. At least 10 calls before 1 o'clock. He gives me guilt all the time. He's hungry or lonely or just wants to see when I'm coming over to bring him something. This has went on for years. I have been asked in the past to just come serve cake and coffee to guests of his. Then I'm told I can clean up and leave. I am so depressed, I don't go out except to work or grocery shopping. I have 2 sisters and a brother, they have never helped. When I do go anywhere, he calls and makes cracks about "it must be nice to go out." I'm trying to stay away. But am I wrong or should I just give up and be the dutiful daughter, that is what he calls me. Help

Answers 1 to 6 of 6
Top Answer
Joan, make up a list of everything you do for your Dad.... now cross off half of the items on the list.... now cross off a couple more. Keep that list handy, so when Dad calls and wants you to do something that you have crossed off, calmly say "sorry, Dad, I can't possibly do that" and you don't need to go into any long explanation.

If Dad gets mad, so be it. Yes, there will be a lot of guilt, but in the background you can feel like you have won on this one issue.

It is your Dad's choice to continue to live in his home without hiring someone to help him. Yes, he is of that generation where the women do all the housework, cooking, grocery shopping, and be a nice hostess. I bet he has even asked you to quit work, right?
Joanchatman, I will guess your siblings don't help out because they were criticized much the same as you have been. They preserve their own health and sanity by staying away. Maybe you should do the same. Limit him to one phone call a day and let the rest go to an answering machine. Ignore any calls you get at work, please do not jeopardize your job.
Dear Joan,
Way down the road, if you ever go to therapy, you will likely get asked "What do you get out of being enmeshed with Dad's treatment of you?"

Since you have not arrived at that point yet, just ignore what I have written here for your benefit. Be kind to yourself, it is a process. Reaching out as you have asked your question is the first, very brave step!
Your father apparently believes that women are subordinate and expected to serve men; some women also were raised to believe this, especially if they're members of religious cults or very conservative organizations.

His attitude will NOT change; only you can change. Take the advice given, set boundaries, and keep to them. Distinguish between the need to provide medical and ADL care or related activities, and social ones, between caring for him and being a servant.

Men with these kinds of attitudes are ingrained with the philosophy and attitude that women serve their men, so anticipate that snide remarks will be made because he has no other way of thinking. However, this attitude can easily segue into mental and emotional abuse b/c of the degradation of women who won't conform. And it probably threatens him if a woman stands up to him.

When he makes snide remarks such as ""it must be nice to go out", you can respond that, yes, it is, and is becoming more so since women have been emancipated from so much drudgery and living their lives as subordinate to men. Emphasize that we're equal human beings. Then leave and don't bother to wait for his response.

You can also, if you want to push it a little farther, provide him with articles on women's rights, especially women who have achieved so much outside of the home - execs, doctors, attorneys, engineers, politicians.

You can still be a caring daughter w/o being dragged down. But stop responding to his social needs. Let him serve food on his own.

But you also need to consider your self esteem, self respect and health first. If he continues to insult and degrade you, consider backing out, as perhaps your siblings have done, and advise him that you can help make arrangements for caregivers but you will not be a personal servant any more.
In your position, I would call the local Area Agency on Aging or Human Services department and ask for a "needs assessmnet". You need to find out what dad can do for himself and what he legitimately needs assistance with. He needs to find out how he's going to get that help and how he's going to pay for it.

Because you've just been emancipated. Slavery was abolished quite some time ago in the US.
About the guilt - the thing to keep in mind always is the difference between a situation where guilt is actually morally appropriate (sometimes it is) and the situation where it is not actually morally appropriate but is a well-drilled-in emotional response. When in doubt I consult my parish priest who has theological training - you might want to find a spiritual adviser you can trust. Now what you are describing is simply an emotional response, real guilt is not valid. There is a story about the Buddha walking along a road. A man comes up to him and asks him to hold out his hand so he can receive a gift. The Buddha sees that the gift is a scorpion and says "No, that is not good and I don't want it. You will have to keep it yourself." And walks on, without scorpion. Your dad probably does not realize it, but what he is doing to you is abuse. And to be a better person, it should stop. So set boundaries and help him be that better person, even if unwillingly.

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