"His Elderly Parents Are Too Demanding!"
"Lisa is right: I am juggling too much," said Don, 50, with a heavy sigh. "And I'm every bit as overwhelmed, exhausted, irritable, and distracted as my wife claims. That said, I take exception to her perspective: She acts as if I've deliberately chosen to neglect our family and don't care about our marriage and our kids. That's not true; the way I see it, I'm trying to manage two major crises at once -- rebuilding my business and taking care of my parents.
"I'm under constant pressure to be a good father, a good son, and a good businessman. Why can't Lisa cut me a break? Her own parents are healthy and affluent, so she can't empathize with what I'm going through. But how can I walk out on my parents now? I love my mom and dad, and as their only son, I feel responsible for them. I'd never forgive myself if I didn't look out for them.
"Lisa is also making too big a deal about the money I've given them. We're not even close to retirement and our kids are still in preschool. We'll have time to catch up once business picks up at my firm. It's true that I'm not always forthcoming about the money because I'm afraid of igniting Lisa's temper. Of course, this approach backfires because she always finds out anyway and then goes on a tear. But at least I buy myself some time.
"When I was growing up, Mom and Dad were good-natured, but very self-absorbed. They concentrated on their jobs and social life and never pushed me or my sisters to succeed. They were generous with stuff -- toys, gadgets, vacations -- but I can't recall them ever saying they were proud of me. When I was a senior in high school, Dad lost everything. My parents sold our house to cover Dad's gambling debts -- no one knew about his habit, including Mom -- and moved the six of us into a tiny apartment and told me that they could no longer afford the private college I was set to attend. I was devastated -- and furious at Dad's irresponsible behavior. I moved into an efficiency apartment and took a construction job to pay for community college, and eventually a four-year college and graduate school. Over time I let go of my anger and became close to my parents. It seemed pointless to stay bitter after I'd made it on my own."