Adapted from a recent online discussion.
Tell selfish sisters their reaction to mom's needs made you upset
Ohio: What do you say about two grown sisters (ages 45 and 41, with children, husbands, careers and lives of their own) who excoriate (I looked it up — yeah, that's the right word) their 68-year-old mother for scheduling her long-awaited double-knee replacement for Dec. 17, because it meant she would be in the hospital or rehab over Christmas, thus putting a huge damper on the sisters' holiday? And then who deny any culpability when Mom reschedules for the next available date, which is about three months later than what their mother preferred, because of the unending pain?
A direct quote from one sister in response to an aunt's comment that the surgery date was changed to accommodate the two daughters: "You can't blame me. That decision's all on her."
Mom's been a good sport about the date change and admits it was her choice to delay the surgery, but I saw how much emotional pain she was in when my sisters unloaded on her, and I can see how much physical pain she's in now.
I've already told Mom I'll be available to help with whatever she needs and wants during her recovery. But our dad is going to be out of state for the early part of her at-home rehab, and I know I'm going to have to have some contact with my sisters about Mom's care while he's gone.
Any advice on how to deal with them without blowing up?
My response to Mom's announcement of the original surgery date was "Well, if that's what's best, that's what's best."
Carolyn: Trumpeting your own compassion isn't going to cool tempers, certainly.
I also don't think you'll have much luck with persuading your sisters to take responsibility, because they sound self-absorbed, and that's an affliction that by definition is resistant to outside treatment.
So, whatever approach you take can't be about getting something from them. It can only be about you and your mom, and getting what each of you needs.
That means it's okay to say, when you talk to one sister or another about some item of business, "I'm still upset about the way you lit into Mom about her surgery date, for the record, even though she accepted responsibility for the date change." Better that it comes out by design than by failure to contain it.
And it's okay to deal with your sisters civilly and calmly just for the purpose of keeping them as involved as your mom needs/wants them to be. Mom's emotional and physical pain from postponing will seem like nothing if her kids declare war on each other.
Anonymous: It sounds like you could stand to take a step back. Your mom is an adult who can decide for herself what medical care she needs. You and your sisters don't need to be so intimately involved.
Carolyn: Fair point, but I would still be disgusted with the sisters in this case, even knowing it was the mom's decision to defer to their preference (a decision that helps explain their self-absorption, methinks). Some bad behavior just stays with you.