Sometimes I think it's a mother's lot to feel guilty a good deal of the time. We are bombarded by what we should look like, what we should wear, how we should raise our children, whether we should work or stay home -- the list is endless. And let me add one more to that list -- the guilt of a daughter who is caught in the "sandwich" generation -- that generation who still have underage children at home but are also having to deal with an elderly parent. Nowadays, I say I have five children -- three that I gave birth to, one husband and one mother.
It's sort of a strange feeling when the tables have been turned -- to have the people who cared for you needing to be cared for themselves. At 85, my mother is in reasonably good health -- she lives alone, still drives (some) and can take care of her personal needs but, increasingly, she turns to me to drive her places, for her entertainment and social life, and to be the main listener of complaints (of which there are many). I don't have a problem being there for her -- I do owe it to her and I want to take care of her. However, there are also days I want to scream. Or run away.
So, far I have not run away.
I'm not an only child but my brother lives far away and is rarely here to pitch in. So, my life revolves around the schedules of my family -- and especially that of my mother. My husband, if he has to, can take care of himself. The last child at home is finally driving and can do likewise. But when my mother calls with a problem, I can't say, "you'll have to take care of this one yourself" because, frankly, she probably wouldn't -- and, believe me, she won't ask anybody else for help, either. I have learned, though, in my old(er) age, that I can sometimes just say no, as long as it's not an emergency. And I've also learned, as I did with my children, to state clearly that I'm not going to put up with bad behavior -- because, whether they'll admit it or not, most folks, when they get on up there in age, believe they've earned the right to act (out) however they want.
My mother likes for everybody to think she has a perfect life -- and, at this late stage (yeah, getting old is a bitch but the only cure is an early death), she nearly does, though her childhood, like many folks who grew up in the 20's and 30's, was not great. She revels in people telling her she never complains, is always happy, always has a kind word. All of this is true.
But for other people.
I am her dumping ground -- and, quite honestly, sometimes I feel my shoulders are sagging from the weight of being her one and only. I try to spread my own copious whining around -- my husband hears a lot, my "real-life" friends hear some, my internet buddies hear it -- and I have this blog and my forum to work out many of my grievances. My children hear a little -- especially the oldest -- sorry, Shannon, it goes with being the firstborn. I try not to put everything on one person. But, for my mother, I'm it. She does not even want my brother to know of any problems, small or large. She does thank me sometimes -- and people will tell me she sings my praises -- though that is not why I do what I do. It's simply a matter of caring -- and of family responsibility.
Occasionally, though, I just need a short break. Lately, these have been few and far between but sometimes she'll go to south Georgia to visit with relatives. She really only wants to go for three or four days but she's "captive" when she goes down there because someone else does the driving. Yesterday, I took her halfway and my cousin picked her up for the rest of the journey - we'll do the same for the return trip. But, my cousin and I can pretty much set the day and time and, to be honest, I need a full week, at the very least, to recharge my batteries -- so that I can start all over again. If I'm lucky, I might get a couple such breaks per year -- and it's like a mini-vacation without leaving home.
Of course, this all makes me wonder if my children will one day feel the same about me. I hope not. I hope I'll become an agreeable old lady -- and, yeah, I know I have some work to do. I've already asked them to please not let only one of them shoulder the entire burden of their father and me -- or their spouses' parents -- when we are elderly -- and that it's rather backbreaking for the one who has to carry the entire weight, all the time.
Anyway, there is the ever-present guilt. No one would bat an eye if you said you needed a break from your children -- or if you put them in daycare while you work. But, when you say you need a break from a parent, sometimes you can almost hear the gasp of disbelief.
But it's your mother!!
And, if anybody else ever says to me, "just be glad you still have her...", I will not be held responsible.
I am glad and I do love her. But I'm also often aggravated, as we say in the south, as all get-out. But, that's the way of it, isn't it? The ones you love the most are usually the ones who can also annoy you the most. Sometimes, I think they are actually trying -- and it usually works because those that know us well also know what buttons to push.
Because we tend to wear, not only our hearts, but our buttons on our sleeves.
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As an aspiring writer, I blog about whatever happens to move me at the moment -- though some posts contain serious content, my big-picture goal is to bring a little humor into an often humorless world! Welcome, y'all, and make yourself at home! Please make sure you update your bookmarks!
When you are offended at any man's fault, turn to yourself and study your own failings. Then you will forget your anger...Epictetus