I am a happily married mother of two, ages 3 and 4 respectively. My parents are in good health, mom is 62 and dad just turned 70. They have a good marriage and my mother lives in a house, which is one hour away from where I live, for most of the year. My father stays there, too (he occasionally travels there), esepcially for the whole summer.
I don't expect anyone to help raise my children or to be a secondary caregiver. My husband and I provide and pay for our babysitting. I have never asked my parents for money.
Even when there's been an emergency, they have not helped. For example, last summer, I was admitted via emergency in the hospital for three days and they never showed up to visit, asked who was taking me home or if my husband needed help. They never showed up or mailed a card when my 3-year-old broke his collar bone. Because of this, I don't even feel like I could ask either of them to watch the kids so I can go get a mammogram, PET scan or a haircut.
At this point, I feel that my parents are a source of irritation, not comfort. They feel entitled to our help when they think they need it and they don't reciprocate. I usually don't have the time to talk to them on the phone, but they don't understand that. Yet they often ask why it might take me a whole day to call back. They refuse to email, to text or to read texts. They've also asked me to bring the kids to visit more this summer, though I went at least once a week last summer. It's just too much this year with current circumstances but they don't want to be part of any solutions, unless the solutions exclude them making an effort. I wished I had any help from them or felt as though I could depend on them for help.
What I tried so far
I've asked them in the past "why" and I get the too tired or too busy excuse. But they are not too tired to travel 2 hours to go to a scrapbooking convention or visit a friend at the same times.
When I ask them what I could do to make things easier for them to be with us, they reply that they think everyone is doing their best and one day things will be easier for me.
In contrast, my paternal grandmother, who was widowed and worked full time, was there for my parents, even taking us for whole weekends several times a year before she retired at age 75. Besides, my parents have raised us to be religious, teaching us that it is ungodly to ignore family needs.
I've tried to explain to them how such would benefit them. I've tried reasoning that their help could free up time for me to help them, call them back sooner, or socialize with them more. I've even outright asked for it. Nothing has seemed to work.
The straw that broke the camel's back
My parents have been back for over a month and we've seen my mom once during this whole time. I'm overworked due to several events, like our children having been sick for two weeks etc. This month, no one offered to help or agreed to help when I asked. I cancelled us going to a family cookout in 2 days, because I'm simply overwhelmed and it sounds like more work to go at this point. I'm not doing it to punish anyone. It doesn't sound relaxing or fun to me and I told them so without anger. So, my parents are now boo-hooing. Their response shows they obviously value our involvement.
Is there another way to get what I need from them, aside from what I've tried? I wonder if, by responding with "no" more frequently when they ask for non-essential involvement, they would start missing us and be more likely to drive up here and/or help when asked so we can stay involved. Or should I come out and boldly negotiate with them that unless we have more of their presence at our house, we won't be present at theirs? Or is there another way to nicely ask?
The less I'm busy and the more I'm at home, the easier things feel on my end and this is a solution to me feeling less overwhelmed that doesn't involve my parents directly providing help. I personally don't really want to do any of these options or be that person, but nothing else has worked for me so far. I have a hard time not believing that there is another, nicer way to solve the problem.
I would love my parents to be present more frequently and to reciprocate help, when they are back in the state. We offer to help them and agree when asked because we want to.