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Mum not putting my dad first

Posted 15 Aug 2020 at 11:00

My dad is 70 and was diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer, which has spread to his lymph nodes, a year ago, he is on hormone therapy and had a course of chemo.  The last MRI a couple of months ago showed very good news that the cancer was almost untraceable and his PSA was very low too.  Both him and my mum are and were very very fit people and always busy doing something but due to his diagnosis treatment and volume of hospital appointments and lockdown added in they have had to slow down a bit.  My mum is 7 years younger and only retired a year ago and hates these restrictions that my dad's illness is putting on her.  She has always been "in charge" and what she says goes.   She has always been extremely independent - literally until the day my dad was diagnosed.  Now she won't do anything alone or go anywhere without him (understandable in the circumstances) but she makes him go to the supermarket with her and she refuses to drive anywhere!!!   He is basically having to do everything because she seems to have lost any ability to do anything for herself.  He gets very tired easily but she drags him here there and everywhere and anything he wants to do she won't do.  When me and my brothers were growing up we were sure that would end up divorcing as she so did her own thing!!  Anything he suggests she refuses to do -it has to be on her terms or not at all.  We have all spoken to her and sort of told her quite firmly that she needs to put my dad first and her question "what about me???" this is horrible for her and we are all forgetting that.  She had a very high powered job and was always used to being able to control situations and it is like she is treating my dad as an employee.  He wants to enjoy the time he has left and do things that he would like to do (visiting railways around Britain) not my mums thing at all so she just tells him how boring it is for her and won't let him go on his own so he basically can't do it.  When we were little because she was  always working myself and my brothers were more less brought up my gran and aunty, she does really not  have any idea about other peoples feelings.  She isn't really talking to any of us now as we are  only seeing it from my dads point of view.  How can we help her understand how low my dad is feeling and that actually for once this is about someone else other than herself!

Posted 15 Aug 2020 at 14:58

I'm no psychologist or family therapist, but I don't think 'fixing' you mum is necessarily the answer, but maybe helping your dad directly instead?

Can you or your siblings intervene to take him out to do some of the things he wants to do?

Families are bloomin' hard. This year has been particularly atrocious with the pandemic and lockdown causing serious mental health issues and many other knock-on effects for many people.


Two cannibals named Ectomy and Prost, all alone on a Desert island.

Prost was the strongest, so Prost ate Ectomy.

Posted 15 Aug 2020 at 15:17
Not an easy one here where Mum is dominant and seems used to getting her way. Dad is perhaps even less able to stand up for himself now. Mum has been told by family but does not appear to be co-operating or want to compromise. I feel it needs some independent counselling to be sought which if followed will enable Dad to have more freedom and enjoy some of things he wishes to do. I don't know how easy this would be with current restrictions on meeting and so on but maybe if you could get them involved with some body such as 'Relate' as this seems to me to be more of a marriage problem though maybe exacerbated but not basically caused by PCa.
Posted 15 Aug 2020 at 18:16

It might be that mum hasn't accepted dad's illness, and by carrying on like nothing has happened, is thinking it will go away.

Maybe some help with getting her to understand that, which will probably be tearful?

Maybe discussing what she would like to do with their remaining time together, and also discussing what he would like to do with their remaining time together, and coming up with a plan to try and meet those objectives. This might include other family members taking dad to things mum isn't so interested in.

Anyway, just tossing in some thoughts.

Posted 15 Aug 2020 at 19:24

Hi Peppa

I am sorry for your dad's situation and yours.

I suspect there is an awful lot going on here and the complexities suggest, as Andy does, that we are best concentrating on helping you with positive actions and hopefully people will change as a result of that rather than trying to "fix" people directly or talking about the "why" they are doing what they do.

That being said, your mother is in good health and mind so I would suggest that you do not take her "what about me?" as an urgent call to putting her first. Your father needs the support and help because he is ill and you are the ones best placed to help. She can certainly cope.

Given that, you need a strategy to deal with your mum and dad, individually and as a pair.

I'd like to suggest some things which may or may not be of help. Take what works and discard what does not.

1) See if you can (via your dad's onco nurses) arrange a conference call between your family (you, your siblings your mum and dad) and his consultant to discuss his care. You can brief the onco on the situation in advance and that his role is to hammer home that your dad needs support and not be forced to be the one in the driving seat. See if you can get them to say clinically he cannot overdo it. As long as you get your dad to tell them he is happy with this in advance and the situation is explained to the consultant in advance, I cannot see why they would object.

2) Could you explore options for advice and support from the hospital, McMillans etc. to see if there is any help they can provide to take the load off your mum and dad? Maybe even help with housework and shopping. A naive hope in these time but worth a shot.

3) Work your mum's needs to your advantage. Tell here you would love some quality time with her. Take her out for a coffee or visit their house and say "I want some time with you. My brother will take dad out for a walk". Your dad can then go off with a family member and go to the pub or bowling or whatever. You get the idea. You need to decide whether any grandkids can help here in a safe and positive way.

4) Not 100% about to do this in detail so think really hard but big up to your mum how your mum helping dad makes her a wonderful person. If she can positive vibes from people for helping him rather than making him do stuff, she may change tack for the validation she gets from it. Just make sure she doesn't go overboard with martyring herself.

5) Do EVERYTHING you can to boost your father's self esteem and confidence. You know him best as to how this can be done but every opportunity you get, make sure he knows he is a great person and is becoming a better one every day.

6) In hindsight, probaby do this first!!!! Book an appointment ASAP with a good counsellor yourself (bring your siblings along too if this is possible) and unload everything on him / her and ask them for an honest take on the dynamics of the situation and what can be done short and long term. I have a broad feel for what may be driving all of this and you really need some face to face time with an expert to narrow it down and refine what you can do. EDIT: A counsellor won't advise on what your dad / mum need to do directly as they are not their client and not present but will be able to assess the situation and advise what you and your siblings can do.

7) Finally and importantly, please, whatever happens, do not be hard on yourself, whatever the outcome. It is important to remember that your parents are adults and their journey is theirs. You can help and guide but at the end of the day, it is their choice, individually and as a couple. Don;t let it take over your life.

Good luck.



Edited by member 15 Aug 2020 at 19:37  | Reason: Not specified

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