Caring for Our Parents

… a Sandwich Generationer's perspective

The ‘Daughter’ hat…

I wear many hats in my life – mom, wife, daughter, friend, sister, marketer, mentor, volunteer… As I interview many of you, I learned how different and similar our hats are.  This is not surprising to me since we’re all different yet linked together by commonalities.  For most of us being a ‘mom’ and ‘wife’ are consistently the first two hats we mention.  However, the ‘daughter’ hat seems to be a bit of a mystery to me.  It rarely comes up with many of you until I mention it.  Even then, I hear a quiet over the phone… “uh… yeah… of course I’m a daughter…”  Yet there seems to be a great variance in what it means to each of us.

Some of you mention that it’s not a hat you think about because you don’t have to wear it very often.  Others mention that the label is not really relevant to you any more because you are no longer a child and your relationship with your parents has evolved to one more of peers.  Finally, there is the group that I fall into… those that list it right up there with mom and spouse.  We seems to be in the minority in my current sample. (I need more victims to interview!)  Interestingly enough, while cultural heritage is a factor, it does not seem to be the driver.  It seems to be more consistently related to the role we each play within our families at this point in our lives.

Of course, the label alone is meaningless, what is relevant is the significance behind it.  For me, being a ‘daughter’ has always been a hat I wear.  I am the only girl in the family and I come from a traditional Southern European heritage where the girls are the caretakers and the ‘glue’ that holds the family together.  For those of you who share this caretaker role within your own families, this seems to bring up the ‘daughter’/’son’ hat consistently.

If this is a sound hypothesis, then I am curious about whether this hat pops in and out of our lives like some of the others (ie. ‘mom’, ‘wife’).  Afterall, we are born with the hat… do we eventually take it off?  I’ve never thought about whether I will continue to wear it once my parents are gone.  Do people ever ‘pick it up and put it on’ after not having worn it for a long time?

Our definitions for ‘daughter’ are so varied.  I can’t seem to crystalize it into a common one.  The meanings vary.  Sometimes it relates to a childhood stage or a state of dependance.  Sometimes, it’s a simple label in the family tree with no further association.  Yet sometimes, it is a label deeply connected to fond memories and self-imposed expectations.

As a ‘wife’, I partner.  As a ‘mom’, I care.  As a ‘friend’, I empathize.  As a ‘sister’, I admire.  As a ‘marketer’, I do.  As a ‘mentor’, I encourage.  As a ‘volunteer’, I give.  As a ‘daughter’, I…

(all of the above plus pay it back?)

Hmmm…I’m going to have to think about this one.

[Please post a comment with your definition of ‘daughter’]


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