The vise generation

I’m slowly reading through the comments, and am finding them very helpful. And I’m feeling lucky, too, because it sounds like many of your parents felt like each time with you, or each big event, was very high-stakes. I don’t. We’re each going to see them all the time. Literally, as close to every day as practical with our jobs and locations. So there’s no reason in my mind to fight or make them choose about holidays and events and stuff like that.

I grew up seeing my paternal grandfather at least twice a week, and going to his house and playing with him all day long. It wasn’t until I was much older that I found out that my grandfather had been viciously mean to my mother and they had a hard time being nice to each other. So I grew up with that example, that even if my mother didn’t want to spend time with my grandfather, she knew he was important to us and that he would never deliberately hurt us, and that he could be someone with us that he didn’t have the ability to be with her. So she let us spend as much time as we wanted to with him. And she was able to protect us from knowing the tension and pain in their relationship until we were old enough to be able to understand it without taking it on ourselves.

The whole point for me is to stop them from being steeped in dysfunction, and let them grow up seeing functional relationships. Which is a segue into hydrogeek’s comment, and what I hope we can talk about today:

“Sorta on this topic, though, it seems like the generation of people whoare responsible for their kids and increasingly, their parents, have
the short stick. I know this is nothing new, except possibly the fact
that people are living longer and longer, so there are more generations
alive at the same time. (We have 4 generations on 3 sides of the family
right now!) While this is awesome in some respects, because my kids get
to know their great-grandparents, it does cause this whole new set of
stresses. Any chance of a post about that?”

Enu and other brought this up when we were talking about adult-child relationship a few weeks ago. And I don’t have any answers. My parents are caught between elderly mothers and adult children going through major transitions. At the same time, I’m caught between my kids and my parents and our shifting relationships. If we all lived together it would be much easier to deal with the physical things (medical stuff, babysitting, etc.) but probably way more complicated emotionally. In general, I think my family has it pretty easy because we’re all able to acknowledge each others’ whole person as we deal with stuff.

But what do you have to say? What conflicts and tensions are you going through, being caught between conflicting needs? Are the problems mostly logistical or emotional? Is the transition of power and decision-making easy for your family, or a huge source of tension?

0 thoughts on “The vise generation”

  1. On my side of the family, it’s just me and my dad–I keep mistyping that ‘sad’, which is, actually, quite accurate. He’s a grieving widower of 12+ years, and he hasn’t taken care of himself physically, so he’s not in great shape; a very old 62.My challenge is to try to offer him as much emotional support as I can without letting him pull me under. I have to keep a good boundary between us, or I’ll start parenting him, which isn’t really what either of us needs.
    Right now, CX doesn’t really figure prominently into the me-and-my-dad equation. He loves my dad (and his paternal grandparents, too, but since NC isn’t as close to them, he hears about them less though we probably see them more frequently), and I’m trying to nurture that relationship as best I can. But I also have to make it clear that some of the things he does are absolutely unhealthy and not okay.

  2. We have some serious multi-generational dysfunction in our lives (but I’ll skip the co-dependency of my children on my parents for now). My parents (mom and stepdad!!!!) live in town. I am an only child which puts great pressure on me to support my parents (not that they need a lot of this right now in their 60s, but it’s starting to creep in). My mother and I are very close… but also very far (if that makes sense). She approved of my divorce but disapproved of my remarriage. She loves #1 and #2 but disapproved of my having #3 (which she tries not to channel to him… but someday he will catch on). She disapproves of my small house and my inner-city neighborhood. She disapproves of most of my mothering. You get the picture. Yet she will have to rely on me to take care of her as she ages… can you imagine putting up with the disapproval a cranky old woman can/will dish out? I have anxiety attacks just thinking about it.Is it absolutely terrible of me to see her future death (which I certainly don’t wish for!) as freeing in some sense? I feel terrible just saying it. But sometimes I think, “Yes, I will lose my best friend and confidant… but it will also mean an end to all the criticism and disapproval.”
    I am a terrible, terrible person.

  3. Good thought, Moxie, on the fact that lots of things would be physically easier if the generations lived together, even though it would be emotionally harder. I think this is the crux of something that’s been bothering me about some of the “older” generations. It seems like the oldest generation, that of our parent’s parents, recognize what a tough spot the child-rearing generation is in. The mother’s are increasingly having to work AND parent (whether singly or with a partner). However, they are usually not in good enough health to help us with that physical burden, and may have become a physical burden themselves. (The great grandparents in my husband’s and my family range in age from 70-85.) In the next generation, I see a mixed bag. My mother, for example, would love to help more. She begs to keep my daughter overnight, etc. Others in that generation seem to not want to really help much. They usually will if asked, and planned around, but they seem to have the attitude of “I’m done raising kids.” Oddly enough, these are the same people who cause such a big stress at holiday time, and placing such importance in the time and place of traditional events. They are also the people who make me feel guilty for not bringing their grandchildren to see them enough. I don’t know how to deal with all of this stuff, except to try to understand it. Possibly with understanding comes less stress? That’s the goal, but I’m not there yet, and I’m not sure how to get there, especially while imparting to my kids what is and is not healthy about it all.PS: Vise Generation. Good title!

  4. Our experience is this: My husband’s mother had early onset Alzheimer’s Disease. And by early, I mean she was not quite right when we got married in 2001 (and she was almost 51), and by 2004 she was not living in her own home (she was living in ours) with my 18 month old daughter and 10 year old step son. She lived with us for a year and a half. We had to bring her with us everywhere – to Cub Scout events, out to dinner, etc. We had to send her to daycare when I started WOHM (when my daughter was 20 months old). From there she moved into an ALF, then a nursing home.In the course of taking care of my MIL, we had to figure out guardianship, Social Security Disability, Medicaid, Medicare, psych wards, pharmacutical patient assistance programs, adult daycare programs, assisted living facilities, eventually nursing homes and eventually cremation and funeral. She died a year ago this month, at age 56, when the kids were 13, 4, and I was 4mos. preg. with the baby.
    Ultimately, the conflict is this: An alzheimer’s patient will take whatever you can give them (and more). Your children need you too. You have a responsibility to your parents and to your children. This is the pithy version, there are all sorts of logistical things to consider and what’s fair to whom, etc. Not to mention how to relieve your ailing parent(s) of autonomy with dignity still intact.

  5. This sounds a bit like my family right now. My mother is currently the full-time care provider for her mother, as well as a guardian for her 16-year old niece, so she is torn in being a caregiver. And because she doesn’t drive (living in NYC means she never had to), and a lot of the Internet is kind of a murky grey area, she relies a lot on me to be her support in getting my grandmother places, making arrangements, researching options on the ‘Net, that kind of thing. And because I am currently have a rough pregnancy, she is also trying to help out by taking care of my two-year old. So we are both really under a lot of stress – her trying to make my life easier by taking my son, but being stretched thin with all her demands, and me trying to give her the help and support she needs to take care of my grandmother and raise the teen. There’s also the matter of my father – who is not in the best of health thrown in there, too. We live in the same area, so even though we aren’t in the same house, we are definitely feeling the whole extended family thing.

  6. I work for a family business, so I work alongside my maternal uncle and my younger brother every day.My mother-in-law lives within walking distance of us, as does my sister-in-law and her kids and husband.
    My parents live about 5 minutes from us and my mother picks up my daughter from school every day, so I see her every day. The days she takes off my dad does the pick up for me. They work together, as school teachers at the same school. They live walking distance from my brother’s family.
    My other brother lives less than 5 minutes from our house and I meet his wife to grocery shop together every weekend. (Free time together sans kids and we join forces on coupon clipping.)
    Everyone is in every one else’s business. Anyone who isn’t an Italian transplanted from NY is a southerner transplanted from very small towns.
    I cannot imagine living any other way– its annoying at times and its stressful, but its beautiful too. And not perfect, either, we have people who rub each other the wrong way and we have people struggling with addiction and depression.
    My grandmother visited recently from Alabama and she commented that her son’s kids are the only ones of her grandchildren who are raising their kids the way he was raised– with a lot of family around.
    So I wonder if maybe my family is not so much an exception, taken in a larger context. It has really only been a generation since many families where much much closer, for better or for worse. I wonder if our expectations have changed because what we measure ourselves against is something artificial (familes we see on tv or film, where simple storytelling and money constraints keep the casts small)…

  7. My parents are now the ‘anchor’ generation in my family (that is, the last alive and still able to bear any weight/hold-things-in-place, etc.). Both are now getting to the point that the health ailments are many, but they are still able to get around (my mom is currently enjoying a baltic cruise, my dad has to be driven places and can’t travel comfortably). Both are still pretty darn functional mentally, with a bit more tendency to double-check on things (repeat things to make sure they told everyone, etc.). A bit of senior stuff. They’re also starting to share health details with us as we are starting to ask more about how they are doing.My dad has his younger and very healthy and loving wife to help him through the transitions, so we’re not terribly concerned other than wanting to support her well through it, also. So that one is sort of off my hook for the moment – she’s got him, she won’t let him fall. We check in. If something happened to her, it would be a big loud scary noise for all of us as dad’s needs hit. My mom is steadily transitioning to shared authority on finances, health, and so forth. She reports back on her doctor appointments in detail to me and my brother (shared medical power of attorney), and on her finances to my sister (financial power of attorney). But she also works to stay on top of her own needs and responsibilities, and tries to work out equitable ways of asking us to shoulder the things she cannot (we trade house and yard work hours for her taking the kids when school is out). She’s really trying to NOT repeat what her parental generation did, burdening with everything, but sharing nothing. So far, so good, but I can feel the weight increase each year – and she can feel it, too. (My parents are in their 70’s.) My ILs are still kicking along well, and are handling each other’s miscellaneous issues reasonably well. We need to check in again on what kind of long-term care they’ve decided on (advance planning after dealing with their own parents refusals to plan, again), I think it was a home-care option.
    So, that part isn’t so bad – the logistical, physical stuff is a drain when it happens – we don’t have much time to go off and attend to my mom’s house, we do so anyway, our own house and yard suffers commensurately. But, what are ya gonna do?
    The emotional stuff… I’m getting to where I’m kind of holding my breath emotionally. I want so much for my kids to all be old enough to REALLY remember their grandparents. It’s not under my control, and I know far too many people whose kids lost grandparents either before or around the same time as their child/ren were born… I have a wealth of them, but I’m clinging onto their relationship with my kids. Yes, I love my mom and talk to her nearly daily (when she’s not wandering the globe), but my heartache if she died in the near-term would really be for my kids’ relationship with her, more than mine. Granted, she’s a totally kick-ass grandmother, the best I’ve ever known or seen, so that’s just logical. Each time the burden shifts a little farther, I can feel the hope that she makes it to at least when the youngest are 5 or 6… and likely, she’ll make it another 20 years, if her ONE major health issue doesn’t take her down. So… well, I don’t have much to worry about, but feeling the burden shift still causes the worry.
    I feel for those of you more vice’d than we are, or who are missing one arm of that vice entirely. Is it possible to feel really humbly grateful and stressed out at the same time? (Or is that what the vice really is?)

  8. This isn’t so much an issue on my side — my parents are in their 60s and healthy, thank GOD, for now. They help a lot and wish they could help more, and they have the kind of relationship I’d want them to have with my kids–close, and doting. There’s only one grandparent left on that side, my dad’s mom. She is 95 and frail and I feel very guilty I don’t get out to see her enough. I don’t think my dad feels especially stressed between the generations because we’re mostly self sufficient and mostly only ask for babysitting help.On my husband’s side, oh I could write a book. Suffice it to say, he’s the youngest of five boys, by quite a bit (his next oldest brother is 6 years older, and the next one after that is 10 years older. His oldest brother is closer in age to my parents than his parents are). We’re the only ones parenting little kids right now, and one of two still “actively” parenting at all (everybody else’s kids are in or done with college with two exceptions, who are 16 and 12). His dad has moderate Alzheimer’s, and his mom was diagnosed with cancer last year.
    And HOLY CATS dealing with these people nearly led me to walk out on my marriage last year. My MIL is a very passive aggressive woman who struggles with depression as well. Their family dynamic is to pretty much ignore each other until some crisis happens, and then make all these grandiose plans which his mother won’t express a preference on but will change once they are set and everyone has rearranged their lives to deal with them. My husband allowed himself to be guilted into all sorts of unnecessary things that impacted me in a big way and refused to stand up for me with them.
    Some of what my MIL has pulled: Taking my FIL off his Alzhemeir’s meds for two weeks “to see if he realy has it.” Without doctor’s input, need it be said.
    Walking out on treatment at a major cancer hospital near here, because she was in pain for a couple of days. Mind you, she didn’t see fit to mention this to any sort of health professional who may have been able to help her, nope, she just walked out on the level of treatment most people with cancer would kill to have;
    Somehow got herself on like multiple heavy, addictive drugs. And lots of them. Like 100 Vicodin come in the mail lots of them.
    I’ve taken myself out of the situation as much as I can. I get a lot of guilt about it from my own parents, interestingly, as well as some friends, but screw that. I married HIM, not them, and I don’t know why because I possess a uterus I am required to drop everything in order to care for them, when there are four other families who would be much less impacted by doing so. They seem to just ignore the fact I work and have small kids.
    And we’re visiting them this weekend. Time for the pasted on smiles.

  9. @AmyinMotown. My God. I don’t blame you one bit for distancing yourself from the situation. You have your own little kids to worry about and provide a stable atmosphere for them. Who else is going to do that for them? It’s your and your husband’s job. And as far as how your friends and family feel about your reaction? I’m imagining that they probably simply can’t fathom the situation.It’s hard enough to take care of someone who did a questionable job taking care of you (or someone you love). Let alone having them make it difficult for you (logistically or emotionally). My goodness. Good luck with your visit this weekend.

  10. AmyinMotown: My thoughts are with you. At least it sounds like there should be plenty of vicodin around if things get to be too much for you this weekend. (I kid!)

  11. I fought so much against living so close to my MIL for much of these 8 years that I have been living in Italy ( 5 of which sharing her family home with her- same 4 walls and roof, fortunately divided into two very separate apartments). She was pretty invasive in the first oh, 3 years, and when my son was born 3.5 years ago, she was here all the freaking time, and mostly invited. She contributed to many of our ‘family decisions’ or at least, put her 10 cents worth in, and offered up ‘helpful advice’ on child-rearing, the old fashion way. Lots of bickering between her and I, her and dh, dh and me, mainly due to my ‘extremist views’ of my MIL. Fortunately since my dd was born 18 months ago, things have settled down and are the best they have ever been. Mainly due to the fact that I have finally realised that however ubiquitous she may be, she really does not have any pull in regard to our decisions. Sure, she puts her 2 bob worth in all the bloody time, but we are the ones that make the decision for everything that involves us. It took me 4 years to work that one out. And God, she really does help me out now that I have kids to care for (although, she’s not always that keen to do so, but anyway). So I guess we do live a bit like the traditional Italian family once did (although reduced in numbers). We provide her with free transport, moral support, companionship. She provides us with free baby-sitting, Sunday lunches, company.

  12. Reading some of the comments, I’m uncomfortably thankful that I went through the terminal illness and death of my mother when I was 21-23, because I don’t have the unknown looming over me. I know what happens and what has to be done, and I had to figure it all out when I was, in retrospect, still very much on the outer rings of kid-dom (even though I’d been living on my own for six years when she died).I certainly don’t mean that I’m glad my mother is dead, because I am not–if anything, becoming a mother myself has made her absence even more palpable–but I wouldn’t want to be figuring out what I learned then while parenting a young child. Those of you who have to do so have my sympathies.

  13. Posts like these make me queasy in the worst possible way.How am I, a woman who still gets PPD flashbacks in crowded places…
    How am I, an only child…
    How am I, who lives 1000s of miles away…
    How am I going to be able to care for two, now elderly and beginning-to-ail, parents? Parents who don’t get along and really have never gotten along? Parents who, themselves, live hundreds of miles apart? Parents who have set up varying degrees of emotional distance from me and all others close to them? Why does it fall to me to rise above and make up for all of this?
    On the good days, I know how this will work: one step at a time and with the help of my husband. On the bad days, I just want to bury my head in the sand and pretend that someone else will take on this burden.

  14. My DH’s family is extensive, he’s the oldest of 8 kids, his father is the oldest of 5 and his mother is the oldest of 9 and from my vantage point, the family is well versed on caring for those with needs, both older and younger. They take turns. Sometimes I wish I had that.In my family, my father died shortly after being diagnosed with both physical and mental illnesses – I would have been his primary caregiver as he and my siblings were not close…. which brings me to my mom.
    Unlike most people who have a normalcy-conflict-resolution-normalcy cycle, my mom’s cycle is withdrawn-controversy/conflict-YEA!!!-withdrawn. My sisters ignore her, but her health is starting to be an issue. I can’t be around her for more than an hour alone, as I’m unable to ignore her (she’s got my number). As I see the situation, she is going to have to be cared for by professionals which hurts the nurturer in me.
    I struggle with the guilty feelings I have now with my limited contact. What am I going to do when she needs more?

  15. I didn’t mean to freak anyone out. It’s not a 0-60 in 10 seconds process. It’s a “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.” process. There’s a great Alzheimer’s message board/support group on MSN.It helps a lot of parents have their ducks in a row – powers of attorney, health care proxies, maybe even long term care insurance.

  16. My dad was the caregiver for his very demanding, very insane, 90 year old mother. (Who, as an aside, was an alcoholic and abuser of her 3 kids) Although she never lived with us she called from her nursing home around 400 times a day making demands. My dad hated her but felt some inane responsibility to see her through to the end of her life. Back and forth he would go, catering to her every need, killing himself in the process. Literally, not figuratively. I was 23 when he died and felt I was robbed of the last 7 years of his life because he was so consumed with her. I wasn’t a small child that demanded his attention, I was a teenager/young adult- but i needed him nonetheless. His death brought out a profound urge within to have my children young so they could KNOW their remaining grandparents as Hedra mentioned. Since my dad’s sudden death my mom has struggled immensely. She’s 62 going on 83. My siblings and I are all more than happy to help but she won’t ask out of the crippling fear she will seem like my dad’s mom. She’s so panicked about the years to come and it has been tough navigating these unsound waters because I do have 2 small children to think about and I would never sacrifice their needs. But also I want to reassure my mom she could never be the burden the old witch was. Hmmmm…

  17. @Cathy, thanks. Even with those ducks all lined up (long term care insurance, plenty of funds, powers of attorney ad nauseum, health directives discussed, know where the ‘will book’ is, yadda yadda), the elephant is still scary until that first bite. Or seems so, to me, nibbling somewhere near the toenails. (But I at least get the image of myself knawing elephant toenails… heh.)@Amyinmotown, best of luck. Hope the stick-on-smiles stay stuck on.

  18. Um, yeah…we have only hit this part-time so far, and in some ways I’m grateful that our parents are all in their late 50s/early 60s–the timing may be less of a vise. My father was caring for his (passive-agressive, emotionally abusive) mother while I was in college and my sister still at home. It was very hard on my sister, who was experiencing undiagnosed major depression and the beginnings of other health issues…but couldn’t really get my parents’ attention because of dealing with this difficult and declining old woman. Don’t want to be in that position. My mom has cut off her (physically and emotionally abusive) parents since the day after my wedding, Mouse has never met them, but I know it still tears at my mom to hear about their decline and how they think she should be doing more.Mr. C lost his stepmom to cancer when Mouse was about 6 mos, so handling being a new father while supporting his dad, who struggles with bipolar disorder, through that, was very hard indeed…and harder a couple years later when FIL had a major set of episodes that lasted nearly a year. Mr. C is an only child and FIL has no other close relatives, so it was pretty much all on him to pummel the healthcare system, hold the billpaying and daily stuff together, identify therapists who weren’t working, try to keep FIL involved in our lives without it being too hard on Mouse (it was pretty hard, she was far too young to understand)…and etc. Watching my guy go through that, and feeling too that it left no space for me to have any weakness or need short of emergency, was really painful. FIL is the one we worry about most–there was just an email yesterday that sounded like he’s edging toward manic again, so we will see how things go.

  19. I don’t have much time to post details, but I will say that my 63-year-old mother is dealing with her mom, who is pratically senile from memory loss but refuses to go anywhere for better care. To top it all off, this is a very traditional Chinese family in which you are expected to care for your aging parents. It’s a constant battle between generations and my mother’s siblings. I hate to say this, but my mother’s siblings are just waiting for my grandmother to pass away so that they don’t have to bother anymore! They have all distanced themselves from my grandmother or are trying to. My grandfather passed away in 2005, and things have gone downhill since then.At least I refuse to be sucked into this vortex. I can’t.

  20. We went with the physical proximity (And re-reading this, I think I sound defensive–my biggest awkwardness is trying to explain it. Yes, my husband and I are married. Yes, my parents are married and alive and they both live with us and the kids. On purpose); last year my parents and I each sold our houses and bought a new one. I bought the house, they are paying for an additional bedroom for it. I was adamant that the house belong to my husband and I because I didn’t want any of the house to be inheritable by my brother. I am now thinking that I should get another life insurance policy that my parents would inherit if I died. (My husband has more insurance so there would be more money if he died and my parents decided to move out. I guess I worry more than if I die my husband will have a harder time finding love with both kids and in-laws installed. But that’s all fairly remote.)We’ve lived together for almost a year. The addition is almost done. Emotionally, I think we’ve all done OK. My kids, ages 4 and 6, love having Grandma and Grandpa around. I am pregnant with #3 and I think newborn life will be much easier with us all living together. Of course, my parents came over for dinner and some of the afternoon/evening for 5 years (since my daughter was born). We knew we could handle seeing each other. Living together just removed the commute.
    My mom was/is very determined not to live in a nursing home. Her parents (she’s in her 60s, her parents are in their 80s) are still living in their house. The upkeep is getting harder and they are bad at asking for help. We’re the furthest away–they have 4 sons and 12 grandchildren within 30 minutes. We’re 2 hours away. My mom thinks that when this comes to a head it will be messy and unhappy and difficult. She’s probably right and perhaps more stuck in the vise as after she retires she’ll have more pressure to go stay with them.
    My mom semi-joked that she wanted to do it now so we’d be used to each other in case anyone got sick or infirm.
    I am curious how it will all play out if anyone dies. Or how my brother will interact. We don’t really have an escape plan so I guess it better.
    Our vise is considerably less complicated because my husband’s parents died before I had my oldest. The grandparents passed on as well. On my side, my dad’s parents died almost 20 years ago. We just have my mom’s parents to think about. I am sure they will insist on staying home until one of them would pass on. And then they’ll be that couple in which the second half dies within a year of the first. Hopefully not for 10 years…

  21. My grandparents have all died and my husband just lost his last one – I’m 37 and my husband is 41. His father is showing signs of something (we think Alzheimers) but his current live-in girlfriend doesn’t want to address it yet. He lives far enough away that it will likely be a case of long-distance decision making in any case. My husband’s mother is vibrant and active and in decent health.My parents have both had cancer in the last year – the year, of course, that I opted to go back to work full time with a toddler in tow. Fortunately both kinds (uterine, thyroid) were caught early and they both had surgery and hopefully should be fine. But it has been a real lesson in mortality – and stress. I really struggled with it a lot.
    Both my parents are in their early 60s and were very able to deal with this one with just general support, but that won’t always be the case in the future.
    For the future – my parents are adamant that they do not want to move in with us at any time and would prefer to choose assisted living, etc. We’ll see if that remains but it would help since I still have issues with them. They have enough wealth accumulated that I’m pretty sure we could find them a really nice place near us.
    The message from them, right now anyway, is that they have learned in dealing with their own parents that they’d prefer to make decisions as long as they can and be independent in the sense of deciding where they want to go and going there. But of course that’s easily said right now.
    In Canada we have some of the same issues with nursing homes that you all have in the US, but I’ve worked in a NGO that had really good senior care and I know it exists. So if they’re happy with that, I fully support them.
    My nightmare kind of is though that my dad will die because I think my mother would totally fall apart and forget the plan at that point. I have nightmares about it. I would take care of her but it would be really hard.
    My MIL, on the other hand, is planning to move in with someone and probably us. That’s fine; if we have to move them all in to some creative housing structure we’ll do it. But she lives alone now and I think she would be fine with boundaries, etc.
    I can see it gets more complicated, but I guess I consider that part of being a family and I think it’s ultimately only of benefit to my son to see us struggle, because that is part of being human.

  22. We’re older (in our 40s) and w/older parents. my mom’s turning 70 her husband is in his late 80s & on oxygen, she bears the burden of caring for him and I worry about her health as she hasn’t much time to take care of herself. my father lives on his own at almost 83, and is sort of a mess (messy house, crappy car, horrible diet, the worst is his teeth rotting in his head) but great social life & group of friends.I’m in the south & they are in Maine. husband’s father passed away almost 20 years ago, his mother (also in Maine) is active alcoholic, addicted to anti-anxiety meds, and completely housebound. Grandparents on both sides have been gone quite some time.
    The geographic distance has been quite helpful in us both getting perspective & healing somewhat from our childhoods, setting boundaries w/families, and trying to grow up. we each were not in touch w/them for a time, and only went back up & reestablished contact the summer before we conceived Bean (about to turn 3.)
    husband is only child and has worked to keep his distance but remain in contact, occasionally spurred to attempt to help more by crises. knock wood there hasn’t been one in a while.
    MIL had to be hospitalized 8 days after bean was born for ‘celebrating’ his birth, as she had a fall & caregiver couldn’t get her up. When my dad almost died when Bean was 7 months old & we made an emergency trip up (which was the first time Any Of Them MET our son) she had to have some of the spotlight and did another stunt of ODing and almost getting arrested by sheriff for refusing to come to emergency room in ambulance (she was stalling so her blood levels would be lower.)
    I have a very tenative relationship with my younger sister. I was the golden child growing up, lived by the rules, did well academically, got into college. She was the rebel, dropped out of school, did drugs, had sex, moved to big cities. When my parents divorced (I was 25), I hung out & took care of my dad, living w/him & helping him get settled.
    When I moved to have my own life, and started my relationship w/my now husband, things really shifted between my dad & me. he was really nasty to me at times.
    Now, with me distancing myself from family, my sister has jumped into the golden child spot, and seems to relish ordering my father about, or being the martyr w/her Own Business To Run, Two Children, and Her New House in The Country to Renovate, Never ANY Time to Talk. He listens to her more than he ever listened to me, and seems to really value her success.
    I’ve done 12 step work, and attempt to ‘detach with love’, but I’m not sure how I feel about them aging. Maybe it has to do with my childhood, but I don’t feel that it’s My Problem. My dad deeded his house to me AND my sister, in order to protect it from being taken if he needs assistance down the road, which he definitely will. It’s his only asset. I feel like he should’ve done a reverse mortgage so he could afford heating oil, get a car that’s not falling apart etc. Yet, there’s no way to even broach this subject w/my know it all sister. She rejects information we have about Maine State Law & elders that we got when researching what to do about MIL. SHE (sister) knows better.
    I feel like our culture pressures us about this duty, and I hardly ever reveal that I’m not going to drop everything for my parents. I had a hard time reading the How to Have an Adult Relationship w/your parents posts because it all seemed so foreign to me (and now is too far away in my memory for me to be able to articulate.)
    I have problems with anxiety and am really struggling w/motherhood/SAHMing. My husband has anxiety & depression. We’re both under-achievers w/fear of success, so we’re sadly unprepared w/careers that can fund our futures nicely. I have to worry about my own family. If they want advice or moral support they could have it, but odds are there will probably be all sorts of veiled dysfunctional stuff, w/big oneupsmanship by my sister.
    And @Amy who said she was a terrible person for not dreading the death of a parent for the relief it might bring? You are not a terrible person. you are human. and I’m right there with you.

  23. @wix: I could have written your post: “I certainly don’t mean that I’m glad my mother is dead, because I am not–if anything, becoming a mother myself has made her absence even more palpable–but I wouldn’t want to be figuring out what I learned then while parenting a young child. Those of you who have to do so have my sympathies.” Just wanted to wholeheartedly agree since I was the same age when my mother passed away.@Amy – I echo with others; you are absolutely not a terrible person… it is a fact that my husband, child, and I could make different decisions for ourselves if we didn’t have to think about the ailing next generation.
    My least favorite thing about the ailing next generation is the lack of ongoing care towards oneself, the lack of consistent asking us for our very real knowledge – YET still requiring us to pick up the pieces on a regular basis. The stress waiting for the next crisis is sometimes so palpable one can touch it.

  24. @wix: I could have written your post: “I certainly don’t mean that I’m glad my mother is dead, because I am not–if anything, becoming a mother myself has made her absence even more palpable–but I wouldn’t want to be figuring out what I learned then while parenting a young child. Those of you who have to do so have my sympathies.” Just wanted to wholeheartedly agree since I was the same age when my mother passed away.@Amy – I echo with others; you are absolutely not a terrible person… it is a fact that my husband, child, and I could make different decisions for ourselves if we didn’t have to think about the ailing next generation.
    My least favorite thing about the ailing next generation is the lack of ongoing care towards oneself, the lack of consistent asking us for our very real knowledge – YET still requiring us to pick up the pieces on a regular basis. The stress waiting for the next crisis is sometimes so palpable one can touch it.

  25. @wix: I could have written your post: “I certainly don’t mean that I’m glad my mother is dead, because I am not–if anything, becoming a mother myself has made her absence even more palpable–but I wouldn’t want to be figuring out what I learned then while parenting a young child. Those of you who have to do so have my sympathies.” Just wanted to wholeheartedly agree since I was the same age when my mother passed away.@Amy – I echo with others; you are absolutely not a terrible person… it is a fact that my husband, child, and I could make different decisions for ourselves if we didn’t have to think about the ailing next generation.
    My least favorite thing about the ailing next generation is the lack of ongoing care towards oneself, the lack of consistent asking us for our very real knowledge – YET still requiring us to pick up the pieces on a regular basis. The stress waiting for the next crisis is sometimes so palpable one can touch it.

  26. My best friend is in the throes of this — she is an only child whose mother (also an only child), who lives 100s of miles away and does not have any resources (recently widowed, in her 60s, poor lifestyle as far as staying healthy, very little savings) had a stroke last weekend. Doctors are saying she’s a good candidate for rehab but likely won’t be able to live independently. I only wish I weren’t several states away — I’ve never felt more helpless in my life. My friend is now trying to get her mother’s apartment emptied, arrange rehab, start the process of disability paperwork, etc. etc. etc. by herself, while her husband struggles to hold down the fort at home with their 3 young kids. So my point: in some situations, it is a 0 to 60 transition.For me, the challenge will likely be distance from parents as they get older. Everyone’s in pretty good shape now, but my husband is from Europe, we live in America, and my parents live several states away. My husband is a college professor, which doesn’t give us much leeway in choosing where to live — it’s not like you pick a city and find a job, you find a job and then figure out if you want to move there.
    Finally, I worry about this in the distant future as far as my daughter, who is likely an only, is concerned (and, throw in the fact that my sister has no kids either). I guess the only thing I can do is save a lot of money. Money doesn’t solve these problems but it sure does open up options when it comes to care for older adults.

  27. My parents and my husband and I bought a house together two years ago. My dad has middle stage Alzheimer’s, and Dad was more than mom could manage alone. Husband and I moved back to the US from living abroad, and my parents moved from their condo in Miami to Washington DC.It’s working surprisingly well. My mom provides child care for our two-year old and dad attends an adult day program. In the evenings, my husband and I take all baby responsibility, and do back-up on Dad duty. Weekends, we have Dad and baby. No one gets trapped in the house because there are enough of us to either take dad out with us or stay home with him, and my son loves his grandpa wholeheartedly. (My mom says the baby is the light of her life, and she means it.)
    There are also some unexpected benefits – I have loved seeing my husband form a relationship with my mom independent of me, for one thing, and my husband has turned out to be gentler and more patient and loving with my father than mom or I can consistently manage.
    It’s a precarious situation, though. We’re all dependent on the unpaid labor of my mother – were she to get sick or frail we’d have to find daycare fast and home care for my dad. As dad gets worse, we all have to figure out how much care we can provide at home before the environment is unhappy for my son.
    For now, though, I feel incredibly lucky to have this situation.
    One surprising thing – an old family friend has been staying with us since January and that extra adult in the house has made all the difference. He’s in cancer remission, a recovering addict, and just ended a long-term relationship, so he’s got plenty of issues. But having one more person to help with laundry, keep an eye on dad, or stay home and wait for the cable guy has made life so much easier for all of us.

  28. Take a set of inlaws who married late in life and had a baby even later (my husband), add in a son who also married later in life and has a toddler when most of our peers have 8-15 year olds (husband), and you have us – parents of a toddler with in laws who are 88 and 84.FIL (88 year old) recently entered an extended care facility after it became obvious that living with my MIL was no longer feasible. And now that he is settled, it is becoming apparent that MIL won’t be in the house alone much longer, although she is adamant about staying.
    The hardest thing has been trying to be supportive yet not being allowed to do anything. The inlaws didn’t really plan for retirement/aging beyond financially (luckily they are fine in that regard). There only “plan” was “stay in the house”. Yet they have not and will not make any changes to make that a possibility. The result is that my MIL just soldiers on at 84 doing the same things with less and less energy and ability. She is exhausted and a little bitter.
    My husband is an only child so it all falls on him. All in all, though, it has no more stressful than could be expected.
    My own parents are in their mid 70s and in much better health (things really change in your early 80’s). But we have enough dysfunction to make it tricky. I was the golden child for many years (degrees! financial success! travel! good husband!) and then it flipped to my sister who up until then had been the problem child (pregnant at 19! no education!).
    It is so messed up between us (mom did a great job of playing us off against each other) that she can’t even speak to me. We talk on the phone maybe once a year. She’s the executor and she is the defacto martyr as she lives near my folks while I am 4000 miles away. The only reason she even is in any vague contact with me is because our parents are still alive and she is working the illusion for them that we are close.
    I will be lucky to hear about them passing in time to attend their funeral and will have no input in any decisions.
    Crazy the legacy of family dysfunction.

  29. Ugh. Sometimes I wonder why I chose to marry into my husband’s family, I swear it.I don’t so much have to worry about my parents. They have made their own lives, they are taking good care of themselves in their late sixties. My mom had to take care of her mom in her dying days, and has sworn to jump off her pontoon boat wearing concrete shoes if she becomes a burden to us. 😉 But seriously, she already has her care figured out for late in her life. She knows what assisted living facility she’ll go to and how she’ll pay for it. Her affairs are all in order. We even talk about how pissed she’s going to be at us when we tell her she can’t drive anymore. My father is independently wealthy, and will be taken care of. As long as there’s booze and golf, he’ll be good. Also, I have two older sisters who live much closer to him, and I hate to say it but I think they will bear that burden more than I.
    My husband’s parents on the other hand…ugh. His mother has no life of her own, and she lives vicariously through her sons. I’m sure that my brother-in-law will end up caring for my MIL, and that’s just fine. I’m sure everyone is happy with that arrangement, as she gets along better with him and his S.O. much better than my DH and myself.
    My FIL. Yikes on a stick. SO irresponsible. No money to speak of. It’s always everyone else’s fault. And no relationship with my BIL to speak of. They are not friendly. So, guess who will take care of him when things get bad! Yahoo! And he already has some very serious health issues that require a trip to the hospital every 3 weeks. I can’t even think about it.
    Here’s the rub – my husband and I are living paycheck to paycheck, sitting on a mountain of debt. (I thought – foolishly – that I wouldn’t have to work after the birth of my daughter 15 months ago, and acted as such for a few months too long. Big mistake.) And we live in one of the most expensive cities in the US (SF). So what is our responsibility here? Our first commitment is to ourselves and our daughter, and we live here because we feel it is important for our daughter to grow up here. It is perhaps one of our greatest gifts to her. (To the current detriment of our financial health, but we are hunkering down and working that out.) But do we move out of the area if our parents need us? Ugh, the thought is awful. I can’t even imagine. Would that be the right thing to do? Is it selfish that right now my answer would be NO WAY would we move? Also, NO WAY could he come and live in the same house with us, because he’s totally disrespectful and insane?

  30. @Amy, no, you’re not a terrible person. That’s how I feel about my dad. He’s a jerk who expects to be cared for, has alienated virtually everyone in his life, and then turns to me to run stuff for him — without being willing to make any compromises or do anything other than what he wants to do. And now his mobility and mental acumen are failing him. I’ve had to set limits and I fight to maintain them and it’s a pain in the…well, you know. In many ways it would be easier simply not to see or speak to him, but I find I do not, actually, want to do that. I’m not an only child, but my one sibling lives abroad — which, frankly, is just as well as he’s no good at setting limits — so I’m pretty much it.My mom on the other hand is a delight and I rely on her phenomenally. I would do anything for her (though if her life goes as she’s planned it, I will never need to).
    The in-laws are OK, though FIL and SMIL are aging and growing frailer, and I worry about them and they don’t live here.
    Honestly I’d be OK (at least in principle) with any of the parents moving in with us, except my dad. Then I hope none of the others need to before he dies, because I don’t want to have to explain to him that he and only he is not allowed in the house. But if push came to shove I might do it.
    Another thing, though, about this vice in which we find ourselves is divorce. As a kid I had 2 grandparents in 2 households (each a widow(er)) growing up (two had died before I was born). My son has 6 grandparents and 4 households worth of grandparents (2, my parents, divorced and neither has remarried; 2, the ILs, divorced and each remarried) living in 3 states. Ugh.
    It’s great (in a twisted way) to see other people here dealing with the “my parent is a jerk, what do I owe them?” question — not that I want others to be facing this problem, but it’s good to know I’m not alone.

  31. My parents are the ones who are torn. They live 3.5 hours from their parents (2 mothers and 1 father) and almost 6 hours from their only daughter, son-in law and grandchild (me and my family). They want to spend as much time with my daughter as possible, but their parents are in their 80s and are dealing with various ailments. They spend 2-3 weekends a month traveling to one place or another.They struggle with what their parents should or shouldn’t be doing, what kind of care they are getting, what they need and what choices they are making. I find that many times I am just a sounding board to listen to their frustrations. I sometimes give my opinion, but I think it is more about listening to them and mostly agreeing. 🙂

  32. I have enormous admiration for the families that have gotten their directives and finances and lines of authority in order. It’s the first step.I have great sympathy for y’all in the vise and empathy for the only children among you.
    The only thing to point out is the growing field of elder law, geriatric social work and assisted living and skilled nursing facilities that don’t remind you of Dracula’s basement.
    Please don’t feel guilty about an overwhelming responsibility that most of us have and do our best to meet. Try hard not to do it alone or to expect that you will have knowledge that you could not possibly have acquired.

  33. My brother and I are going on 13 years of on-again off-again care for our parents. I can honestly say that one of the difficult parts of caring for my mom before she died was the fact that I hadn’t had children yet (and had experienced a late miscarriage which threw my life out of whack and basically changed it for the better). It’s different and reassuring now to care for my father while caring for an 18 month old. A sense of being grounded.There is so much to say on the struggles and joys of accompanying someone on their latter leg of life. For those who are interested, I just found this blog which finally speaks to me and my brother after years of feeling so isolated.
    Our Parents, Ourselves via the New York Times–

  34. Interesting post, and it seems like everyone has a full plate. @ Lisa F, do we have the same sister? I never knew any of my grandparents, which is just as well, since they all seemed like basket cases. My parents and DH’s parents? Well, let’s just say that a colleague found out I was going out of town with both sets, DH, and 2 year old. Colleague put her hand on my shoulder, looked down, shook her head for a long time, and patted my shoulder a couple of times. That was the exact sentiment of how the weekend went. Well-meaning (most of the time), self-absorbed, had-their-turn-with-kids, 60-somethings who are in reasonable health and finances but are emotionally disconnected from me and DH. And yet, they turn to us and not our younger siblings to divulge their own woes and dramas. Huhhhhh. 2 year-old doesn’t suspect anything yet. She thinks the four of them are her best friends. So there you have it.

  35. It is nice that your mother thinks in that way. Because it is very important that your mother bond don’t affect yours. Your problem and the people that you hate. They don’t have to be the same for your children.

  36. In my case I t was my mother the one Who aways knew best…I have to say my grandma is very strict, even more with my mother.. that’s why their relationship is very complicated…
    But knew we needed a grandma and always made efforts to deal with it and give of the opportunity of a closer family

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