Life Advice



Ask Amy: Caregiving duties create sibling resentment

Amy Dickinson, Tribune Content Agency on

Dear Amy: My husband’s mother and sister recently moved to our city, and it’s been bumpy.

I’m hoping you might weigh in on a disagreement that’s sprung up.

My mother-in-law has some chronic health issues.

His sister, “Jackie,” is single and is currently living with their mother.

Jackie works from home and has a fairly flexible schedule.

My husband and I have two toddlers. We both work long hours out of the house.

My husband and Jackie have struggled to find a reasonable balance of care for their mother.

She doesn’t need daily care, but she does have frequent doctors’ appointments and doesn’t like to drive.

Jackie thinks that she and my husband should split the load 50/50.

My husband feels this would be equal, but not equitable.

He has a lot of responsibilities at home with our children, in addition to a much more demanding work schedule than Jackie’s.

It’s also a lot easier for Jackie to step in since she lives there.

I think it’s hard for her to understand the demands of small children.

She has become resentful, and unfortunately, their mother’s health isn’t likely to significantly improve.

I’m trying but struggling to see Jackie’s perspective.

– M

Dear M: “Jackie” doesn’t understand the pressure of having two toddlers at home, and you likely don’t understand the challenges of cohabiting and providing care for an elderly and chronically ill parent.

I’m not sure it is for you to decide what is “easier” for Jackie because she is living in the household. You should assume that she provides a lot of daily care that you don’t know about. You should also imagine what the situation would be like if Jackie became overwhelmed and decided to decamp.

One solution would be for your husband to hire a caregiver to help his mother one morning a week and on Saturdays.

This would give Jackie a break from the household, and would relieve both siblings from running errands and doing household chores so that they could spend more of their time with their mother in less of a caretaking role.

(You might also bring your mother-in-law to your house for lunch on some Sundays. Crazy as it might be in your household, a few hours spent with your family might be good for everyone.)

I agree that a family member should accompany her to doctors’ appointments, if possible; the siblings should take a look at the calendar a month in advance and do their best to share this responsibility.

Dear Amy: I lost my husband almost a year ago.


After the funeral a lot of promises were made by my friends and fellow church congregants that would always be there for me in whatever way I needed.

Those promises were sincere, I’m sure, but the majority just went on with their lives. I understand this.

My question is: Why make these promises if you can’t follow through?

Honestly, I would have appreciated a phone call to see how I’m doing, someone dropping in to visit, or inviting me out for coffee.

I’m all alone all week until my son visits on the weekend.

It’s been a lonely year.

– Lonely Widow

Dear Lonely: I’m so sorry for this loss, and certainly for the loneliness that has followed.

Oftentimes people make these promises after a loss, but don’t follow through in part because after the structured memorial events are over, we don’t seem to have any cultural roadmap for what to do next.

People are wary and uncomfortable navigating another person’s loss, but as you point out, it’s actually easy! A phone call, an invitation for coffee, a visit.

Instead, you likely feel dropped.

I hope you will be a little bit proactive here. How about if you make a phone call to ask a friend if they can meet you for coffee? Others who have lost spouses, especially, might jump at the chance to get together.

I also hope you’ll rejoin your church family. Ask your son to give you a ride and stay for coffee hour.

Dear Amy: Your response to “Stop Haunting my Dreams” brought me up short. You mentioned that you have a recurring dream of appearing for a final exam in college but landing in the wrong room.

I have the exact same dream!

– Graduate

Dear Graduate: Scores of people responded, experiencing the same dream!

I suggest that we all sync our dreams and show up at the wrong room en masse. Some of us might not be wearing pants.


(You can email Amy Dickinson at or send a letter to Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068. You can also follow her on Twitter @askingamy or Facebook.)

©2023 Amy Dickinson. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.




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