Is it your job to take care of your parents?

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Me and Eloise hanging out!

Are you responsible to take care of your parents if they didn’t take care of you, or what about if they simply weren’t good parents?

The recent issue of Psychology Today has an article about a woman who ends up taking care of her mother although her mother had never been a good parent. Millions of people have exactly that decision to make every year. Maybe the question is how bad were your parents? Or perhaps you feel that taking care of your parents is your job no matter what they’ve done.

Once you have children, they’re your responsibility at least until they graduate from college. You might not like them all the time, you might not get along with your spouse or with your ex spouse, but you can’t just let someone else raise them while you move to another state. Your offspring are your job/your life.

But many kids feel that taking care of their parents into old age is not something they signed on for. Especially if those parents didn’t do a great job being parents. As they say about the Gen X kids and the Milleniums, it’s scary to think of them showing up all tattooed to feed their parents happy pills.

I personally have no plans to have my children take care of me. I hope that my husband and I can take care of ourselves until the day we die, and I have no parents to take care of. My husband took the wise advice: Avoid having to visit the in laws, marry an orphan. But, I see many people I know taking care of their parents and it’s usually quite stressful.

My ex mother-in-law likes me and loves my kids. She is eighty and continues to live on her own in an apartment in Sherman Oaks. She does very well on her own, but if she needed help, I know my kids would make sure she was taken care of.

My mother-in-law decided at eighty that she wanted to move in with one of her kids and my sister-in-law very much wanted her to move in so she did. I think my sister-in-law and mother-in-law get along well and have a lot in common. And they like having her living with them and all going out to eat and just generally hanging out.

We are really enjoying the phase with no kids and just the two of us. We like coming home, watching movies, having light dinners, listening to music and reading and writing. We don’t go out to eat much. When we’re not at Red Hen readings, events and parties, we like to relax.

It’s great when taking care of the parental units is something you want to do because they took care of you. It’s lovely when you are giving back the great love that was given to you. But if there was no great love, ideally we find it, strewn around our beds, on the couches, under the linens, between the mattress, in the kitchen cupboard, hopefully we find love and can give love. And if that fails, hopefully one can find an amazing facility for one’s parents and visit regularly. Some people you can’t live with. Sometimes you have to save yourself. You can’t walk away from kids, but you can walk away from living with your parents if that’s the only way to stay intact.

Being alive is big and scary sometimes. To love. To live with integrity. To have compassion for yourself. It’s complicated.

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Published in: on November 5, 2013 at 9:55 pm  Leave a Comment  
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