Wife doesn't want hubby's sick mother in the house
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DEAR COUNSELLOR,

I am the only one of my parents' children who lives in Jamaica, and I am married with two children. My father passed, and for the past several years, my mother has lived alone about 15 minutes from my house. She would visit often, and is a good grandmother.

A few months ago she had a stroke, and was also diagnosed with dementia. We tried having a nurse at the house to help her, but this was not an ideal situation, since she has still wandered out of the house at least twice. My siblings and I met, and agreed that it would be best if my mother moved in with me. There is adequate space as I have a big house, and we would continue with the health aide. That was the best option, to keep her safe, and prevent her from going to a nursing home.

My wife blew a gasket when I discussed it with her — she literally erupted like a volcano. She said she and my mother have never gotten along (untrue), that my mother is meddlesome (also untrue), and refused to have her stay at the house. She said it was either her or my mother, and she would leave with the kids if my mother moved in.

I'm still in shock, because I have never witnessed any bad blood between my wife and my mother. I would also have had no issue with her mom moving in, had the situation been reversed. My mother will be moving in whether she likes it or not, but what is the best solution in this case, to appease my wife?

It's certainly imperative that we be ready to care for our family in their time of need. It is said that Jamaican men love their mothers more than most others. Love and commitment for fathers may be another thing. But it is apparent that Jamaicans take the scripture's commandment to "honour your father and your mother" relatively seriously. However, your specific situation requires prudence. Caring for your mother is non-negotiable indeed. Yet, prudence is required on how and where. There's a shift that happens when you get married. When you're single, mom, dad, siblings are family. But once you marry, your spouse becomes your primary family. As difficult as it may be to accept, primary loyalty shifts from parents and siblings to your spouse and children.

My advice:

Meet with your siblings: You should have met with your wife before meeting with them. You have to let them know your wife is not comfortable. I don't suggest you give them the details of why she is not.

Apologise to your wife: It may be hard to hear, but you owe her an apology. It is her home, and her children in the home too. There may be dynamics impacting her that your loyalty to your mother may not be allowing you to appreciate. However, she should have been a part of the decision-making process. Remember, your vows were to your wife, not to your mother.

Create another plan: I am confident that with a little brainstorming, a solution will be found that will be better. And I implore you not to hold a grudge against your wife. Disarm the inclination to hold a grudge. It may be true that you'd host her mother if tables were turned; however, respect your wife's feelings on this.

Get help: It seems there may be other issues, some you may not be aware of, that need attention. Contact myself or another counsellor to facilitate an opportunity for you both to share openly.

It is a difficult emotional time for you. The last thing you need is confusion. However, ensuring the stability of your home is a critical role you play. I pray you resolve this prudently.

Get on The Counsellor's Couch with Rev Christopher Brodber, who is a counsellor and minister of religion. E-mail questions to allwoman@jamaicaobserver.com.

Christopher BRODBER

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