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Learning to Accept New Family Realities


A woman of thirty-three recently wrote in to a problem-solving site, asking if the load her mother is carrying is too much for a sixty-five year old woman. The scenario she described was something like this : her mother, Rose, is living in the family home, a comfortable two story house with a good sized garden in a nice residential area. Rose had taken in her mother, now ninety, some time ago as she was not managing well on her own after her husband had died. The elderly lady now shows signs of advancing dementia and has had two minor falls when getting up from the table.

Rose’s husband, aged 70, is recovering from a recent stroke affecting his right arm and leg and is going to rehab three days per week for exercise and speech therapy with good effect.

The writer described the situation in some detail and then added that her mother has always been so strong, calm and well organized but now seems to be quite tired and irritated some times when the writer goes to pick up her two pre-schoolers who spend Tuesdays and Fridays with their Nana Rose while both parents work. She wonders if it is too much for her mother?

As I reacted in horror to this question, thinking why would you have to ask, of course it is too much, I realized that it is actually not an uncommon scene these days.

The next thought is why?

Is it the short-sightedness of a generation that has relied on Mum to always be there, always caring, always understanding, always carrying the load ? The expectation that this amazing parent is going to go on forever with little attention to her own desires?

Or is it Mum’s pride in her own strength and depth of understanding of each family member’s personality and needs? Is it her reticence in ever saying, “Will someone help me, please?”

Perhaps it is all or none of the above; perhaps it is more a sign of our times, life is piling up and it is hard to take time to unbundle and take a hard look at what is going on and what effect it is having on everyone.

There is a lesson here — STOP — take a hard look around — who is carrying too much? who has strength for more? who is strong enough to open a very important conversation to begin to even out this lop-sided load?!

Written by Anne Duggan, Invited Advisor to Bell Alliance

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