Caring for Our Parents

… a Sandwich Generationer's perspective

Archive for the month “February, 2012”

Oh the guilt!

So I call my parents regularly and they tell me they are doing great.  They are back into their routine and living their lives.  Yet, I can’t help but wonder.  Why you ask?

Because they make comments like “We are good … just another boringday here.”  Are they really doing well and like their boring lives or is this a passive aggressive way of saying “We are bored out of our minds because we there is nothing to do … and it’s all your fault”? (Notice that I added that last part for emphasis and a bit of self pity).  My favorite is when they remind me to “Please call more often if it’s not too much trouble.” I call them basically every day!

The funny thing is that only my parents can make me feel guilty in this way.  If anyone else even tries to play these passive aggressive games with me, I tend to address it immediately by calling them out which usually nips it in the bud.  Yet, with them, I play right along and plunge right into their game.  The funny thing is that I know they don’t mean to do this and if they ever realized just how bad they make me feel, they would be crushed.

When the feeling of guilt sinks in, I remind myself that they are living the lives they chose and that it is not my job to make it better (or worse).  Then I ask myself if I am still engaging with them out of love or obligation – Am I calling every day because I want to or because I have to.  When I find myself in the ‘have to’ category, I reflect on it and try to get back to the ‘want to’.  Sometimes, I do this by waiting a day or to and having a chance to miss them before I call.  Other times, I do this by thinking about what I want to talk to them about and wonder what they are up to.

A friend of mine recommended a book I would like to read – Codependent No More by Melody Beattie.  I’ll let you know what I learn but if you beat me to it or have already read it, I’d love to get your perspective on it!

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“Let them be”, she said…

In my quest for trying to get a more objective, more educated perspective regarding my parents’ well-being, I decided to talk to an expert.

Her words of wisdom… “Let your parents be!”

A bit harsh if you ask me… after all, I’m just trying to help them out.  Granted, I’m doing so by telling them everything they are doing ‘wrong’ and clarifying what they need to be doing to make their lives ‘better’.  Isn’t that what a daughter is for…to bring truth and perspective to the issues?  Who would tell them the ‘truth’ if not me?

After I got over the initial shock of realizing I may not be the perfect daughter, I decided to reflect upon the advice and try it on for size.

“Be supportive!”, she said.  I’m not sure I’ve told them recently that I love them unconditionally.  Nor have I told my dad how much I appreciate how hard he’s trying to take care of mom.  But he knows… right?!  Besides, I need to tell him all the ways he is messing things up so he can stop doing it.  I know he doesn’t mean them, he just doesn’t realize it so I need to tell him.  Yet, it never seems to work when I do so maybe if I try something different…  So I call them every day and celebrate their activities the same way I celebrate for others, asking questions and reinforcing positive actions while not giving any time to negative aspects.  I proceed to have had the most pleasant discussions with them I have had in months.  Maybe this ‘expert’ is on to something…

I realize that I’ve been tougher with my parents than with others I love.  Probably because I have such high expectations of what they can do versus what they are doing or maye because they are tough on me when it came to this type of thing.  Either way, I realize what they need, now more than ever, is unconditional love and support.  That I can do easily!

I still struggle with knowing their  house is a mess (even though I know it is still cleaner than most college dorm rooms), or that they eat out every day (even though I know more often than not it’s a relatively healthy and balanced meal).  I still worry that they fight and argue a lot (even though they’ve been doing that for over 40 years).  Ultimately though, I realize that I will worry about them no matter what and that my judgement will not improve the situation nor tell them something they don’t already know deep down inside.

I realize now that I need to be as sensitive and protective of their feelings as I am with everyone else I love and care about.  The world is full of people who will judge them and tell them ‘how it really is’.  Unfortunately, not many will remind them they are doing the best they can and that it’s good enough.

… I’m off to call my mom and dad!

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