Thursday, December 06, 2007

Is There A Silver Lining To Being In The 'Sandwich Generation'?

I was reading Steven Barnes' Blog Dar Kush, and this question really hit home: "For our OWN benefit, shouldn’t we be as hands-on as possible in the raising of our children and the death of our parents?"

The short answer is, "Yes".

As far as taking care of our children and our parents maturing us, I agree. It forces a deeper maturity than simply growing older bestows. It opens our eyes to our place in the 'circle of life'.

To the fact that our parents will be gone sooner than we think, realize, or expect. That we don't have much time to receive from them the gifts that they have to bestow upon us.

To the fact that our children will be adults sooner than we think, realize, or expect. That we don't have much time to give them the gifts that we have to bestow upon them.

To the fact that just as we were children once, at some point (if all works out), we will be our parents.

As you care for both your parents and your children, you begin to realize that you don't have any time to waste on things that aren't important.

Does caring for aging parents require a certain amount of maturity and empathy? Or does it develop from helping and caring?

Maybe it's a chicken-and-the-egg question, I don't know. I do know that caring for a dying person is one of the hardest things that you can do emotionally. Because you have to deal with not only your own fears and issues, but the fears and issues that come up with your loved one. I've done it, more than once... and even when you know that the person is dying, you are never ready for the pain when it happens. The pain is not lessened by the foreknowledge that death is imminent. The fiction of preparation is a cruel one. It leaves the person with the expectation that preparing for a loved one's death is as simple and painless as packing for a journey, when in truth, it is not.

One big question that I have is that so many people have been indulged, sheltered and spoiled… the world exists to take care of them, provide for them, and clean up after their messes. I wonder, would the reversing of the roles mature them? Or would there be a spike in the amount of child/elder abuse? And when that generation of parents is old, will their children care for them? Or will they be institutionalized, because that is what they saw their parents do?

As far as I'm concerned, as much as I can, I will take care of my parents when their time comes. All I can hope is that my children will do the same for me when my time comes.

This was a great post... I'm not much of a commenter, but I had to post on this one... it's a question that each of us needs to think about consciously, and answer from our heart.


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4 opinions on this post:

Pete said...

It seems that most Americans remain as committed as ever to the idea of "self-sufficiency." I remember a chat I had about a decade ago with a psychologist friend of mine on the subject of caring for aging parents. My mother lived with us at the time, and we cared for her until her needs outran our abilities.

Anyway, I was talking proudly about caring for Mom because it seemed so obviously the right thing to do. My friend, however, was growing increasingly restless. Then I mentioned that at some point in the future, if I lived long enough, I might well end up living with my daughter. This was too much for my friend, and he couldn't hold his tongue any more.

What he had to say was essentially this: "What makes you think you have the right to burden your daughter? Is it just that you have allowed your mother to burden you? You need to provide for yourself, save your money, buy long-term care insurance, so that when you can't take care of yourself you can afford to go to a nursing home. I'm sure you don't want to be a burden on anyone."

Well, of course I don't want to be a burden! I guess the action here is about the definition of "burden." In my friend's view, asking anyone for help ever is "burdensome." I disagree with that, and I surely won't ever ask him for help of any kind. But his is the prevailing American view: the purpose of life is to acquire money and things, and this is to be accomplished all alone—without any help from anyone.

The large inheritance we are to leave intact for our children doesn't seem to count as "help" in this analysis. Maybe that's because money allows us to pay people to do things for us. Implicit in this notion is the idea that if we never ask for help, we never have to offer it either. There is, in this view, no need for charity or kindness and no place for the joy of giving to loved ones.

For myself, I'm glad my mother allowed us to care for her. It was terribly hard work sometimes, but I simply can't imagine not having done it.

That psychologist, really a former friend these days, naturally has more money than I do. In his view of things, he wins: I may have to accept the kindness of my daughter at the end of life, and he can push everyone away right to the bitter end.

Pete

Caregivingblog

LaVeda H. Mason said...

I agree with your thoughts. Your 'friends' way leads to dying in isolation. In my opinion, that's pretty sad.

We are interconnected. We rely on our society to provide the framework that we use to accomplish things (electricity, runnung water, internet service[grin])… many, many people all over the world live without *most* of the things that we take for granted, yet, we still talk about how we 'did it ourselves'.

And, let's not get into discussing the social aspects of achievement! That's a totally separate blog!

Doing for one another is what makes us human. Although, using that definition, I'm finding that fewer and fewer people qualify for *that* particular label. I can't think of an alternative label, though.

You have a new RSS subscriber to your blog :-).

richgold said...

I believe in self-sufficiency for my children. I hope the same for myself, my parents and my friends and that a long, healthful life comes with it.

Seeing that not everyone will have such self-sufficiency, can or does have a life like that, I also believe in the concept of supporting one another (not just blood relatives) to the best of my abilities, until I have to pass that individual on to some one else who has different skills then mine.

My dear one and I have talked about the possibility of taking in his mother, if her husband passes before her. We've never talked about that option with my mother, because she has stated she won't do it.

I think I'm more open to making accommodations for my mother-in-law because, well, I like her. She's easy going. It makes a huge difference to wait on some one who shows some gratitude, then one who identifies your faults with greater frequency.

That being said, my parents live about 20 minutes from my home. I've been there for them in any emergency, when they've let me help. (My in-laws are 2000 miles away.)

My children see this example. I don't know if service to support their comrades is part of their make up. (They're certainly going through the selfish stage of adolescence!)

There are so many things that mold us as people. Nature versus nurture. I do see the need for charity and kindness and I live in a place of giving. I try to demonstrate this at least once a week ;-).

Finally, I'd hazard to say that most American's probably aren't as Pete has identified them to be. What we're seeing are the selfish (not the selfless) acts of greed and miserliness. It gets more press. There are a lot of us who work behind the scenes, refusing the glare of the bright lights of recognition because it gets in the way of the work that needs to be done.

LaVeda H. Mason said...

@richgold:

Very true! Negative news sells… and very well, too!

However, I *will* say this: it has become acceptable to be selfish in our society today, and those who hold onto the values of duty are laughed at and pitied for being 'old-fashioned' - why put yourself through all that work, when there are professionals who are trained to do it? (Don't even get me started on the whole 'professionals stop being fallible humans once they get their sheepskin' thing...)

Our children watch what we do, not just what we say. If we talk about how important it is to read books that challenge our vocabulary, and all they ever see you read is "Hop on Pop", well, they'll figure out what the *real* deal is pretty quickly.

If you take care of your elders because you think that it is the right thing to do, and because you want to, your children will pick up your attitude of service. Your children may surprise you when you are older, and be willing and able to take care of you.