I find it really surprising how widespread the attitude is that care taking for an elder relative is a burden and will ruin your life/family/marriage/kids/etc. I've heard it over and over and over, especially when I was actively doing that for my mom . . . It still shocks and confuses me when I hear it, especially in a homeschooling forum, presumably populated mostly by parents who are clearly pretty driven to *personally* take great care of their kids and make sacrifices to do that . . .
Why is the care taking of our elders so denigrated when the caregiving of our kids and spouses is so revered?
I understand that care taking for our elders can be a burden financially and practically. I understand that if your elders were assholes and/or grossly irresponsible financially or otherwise, that it's not "fair" for their care to fall on you . . . But, let's say we take off the table parents/elders who've been hateful/evil and/or grossly irresponsible . . . Let's just give everyone permission to kick those folks to the curb and leave them to fend for themselves . . . Fine. I'm *not talking* about the abusive parents, the ones who ran through millions on diamonds and furs and saved not a nickel for retirement, the ones who are just mean/awful to you or your family . . . I'm not talking about those folks . . .
. . . and so, now we're just talking about ordinary, decent, loving, did the best they could elders/parents along with some fantastic, were the best thing since sliced bread (like my mom) kinds of parents.
Talking just about those good elders in our lives . . . why don't we honor and value the care we, as their youngers, can give? We sooooo value (over value?) the caregiving we give to our own children, and sometimes we also honor and value the caregiving we do for our spouse (or at least we talk a good game about it) . . .
But, somehow, reciprocating that loving/adoration/service that our parents gave to us . . . somehow, that's crap? Somehow that's ruining us? What makes us so damn fragile? We're tough enough to homeschool a half dozen (or more) runny nosed kids through their bratty attitudes, slammed doors, and awkward phases, maybe through a drug bust or car wrecks or a teen pregnancy . . . still loving, still serving them . . . and we can honor sticking with a spouse who might have a porn habit or an affair or a bad habit of spending what we don't have . . .
But, our elders? Those who loved us through our own failures and held us up when we hurt and put us on the right path when we were heading down the wrong one? The ones we knew we could call on when our husband left or we failed out of school? Those ones? They're somehow a burden? We're too fragile to make some sacrifices to serve *them*?
Maybe I'm overly sensitive, being orphaned at age 44 . . . by two parents who really were "all that" and more, as imperfect as they were, they were exactly everything I needed them to be and so much more. But, I really think there is something very wrong with our culture that we're so intently devaluing something that is precious and vital. Taking our turn as the responsible one . . . taking that turn parenting our parents. It's brutally hard, but it's also brutally human. It just is what it is. Helping my mom figure out how to put on her dress was just as human as was suckling my babies. It is just human existence, and it is everything. It made me more of a human being to go through what I went through with Mom. I wouldn't trade it for anything. I miss her every day, not just the mom she was before dementia stole her from me, but also the mom she was when she looked to me as if I were *her* believed parent, the trust and confidence she had in me turned me into someone better and stronger than I was before she *needed* me.
So, anyway, I don't get it. I think our culture needs to re-look at the value of being a caretaker of our elders. Maybe this is the next front for feminism, right after we finish reasserting the value of care taking of our own children. Maybe after we abolish preschools and day care centers, we can abolish nursing homes. In my perfect world, no human being would be institutionalized if there was an alternative place where they could be cared for by *people who love them*.
What do you think?