Thoughtful Thursday: Obligation
June 3, 2010
#17: Wiseguy from Woman Anyone?
#13: Photogrl from Not the Path I Chose
#12: Ernessa from Fierce and Nerdy and 32 Candles
#11: Kristen from Dragondreamer’s Lair
#11: Lost In Translation from We Say IVF, They Say FIV
#8: Elana from Elana’s Musings
#7: A from Are You Kidding Me?
#6: Stacie from Heeeeere Storkey, Storkey!
#3: Rebecca from Northern Grin
There’s a crisis with my mother, having to do with her emerging dementia and her ability to function daily. Her mental issues are also affecting her ability to manage her own health care. My parents are now divorced, but he still looks out for her.
My first thought was to get on the next plane.
My second thought was that I can’t just hop on a plane across the country when I have two babies, leaving them with a husband about to go out of town on a business trip and a part-time babysitter. I also can’t bring them with me since there would be no one to care for them while I’m swooping in to deal with my mother. But honestly, even before I had children, I didn’t hop on planes when she had crises — largely because she is the type to refuse all help.
Long-term, she’ll only be able to live independently for so long. Am I supposed to undercut my career and settle for any job I can find in her city? Am I supposed to have her uproot her life and come to live with us, spending more and more of my time helping her as she requires increasing care? Am I supposed to devote some huge chunk of my income to pay for her to live in a facility?
I don’t want to do any of those things.
This is when being an only child is particularly difficult, because I don’t want to do them but I can’t pass along or share the responsibilities.
I know many people who have devoted years to caring for aging or ill relatives. I can’t see myself ever becoming one of those people. If my husband or children needed anything, of course, anything. Parents, grandparents, aunts, etc.? I just don’t think I have it in me. Maybe I’m too selfish, or too dedicated to the life I’ve worked so hard to build.
At the intellectual level I can lament the lack of family-mindedness in our culture. I can tsk-tsk about the people in DH’s grandmother’s nursing home who never get any visitors or calls. I can condemn those who let one family member take the full burden of caring for someone while everyone else does nothing. But when it comes to my own life? I might just be one of those people.
Or maybe I’ll change once my mother starts asking for help — or once she stops being herself and isn’t able to refuse help.
For all of my mother’s flaws, she would do anything for me. She’s always been willing to do anything to make me happy.
I’m afraid I can’t return the favor.
How strong is your sense of family obligation? How far would you go? What are your limits?