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It’s Time For Superwoman And Super Caregiver To Retire (Part III)

          I have spent the last two articles discussing some common joys and problems we face as the holidays come and go. Baby Boomer women, growing up in the era (or should I say, “with the error,”) of the self imposed attitude of  “we can do it all” without help, have for the most part not discussed the difficulty of the holidays with anyone except other boomers. Instead of sharing and discussing the complications of putting it all together with their family in a mutually helpful way, many boomers smile and force themselves to do it all without help from those around them. This can only be done at a price. The cost is often exhaustion and stress, both emotional and physical.  Many may even become resentful at the lack of help they feel should somehow be forthcoming from those around them.  However, the message they have always given, without words, is that help is not needed. Why should family help, if they don’t know that help is needed?


 

It is important for everyone involved to realize that it is not easy for many parents to ask for help. Doing so forces us to admit that we are no longer as young, as strong or as resilient as we once were. It is something we are afraid to acknowledge especially to ourselves. It is also something our children do not want to hear. It hints at our mortality, our aging, at everything they, and we, don’t want to think about. And so we all pretend that nothing has changed for us in the last 20 or 30 years.

 

We all want to enjoy time with our families. We all look forward to it. We just need to learn how to share the tasks so that it is enjoyable for all of us and no one is overburdened. That is what successful families do. But how?

 

Here are some of my ideas:

 

Baby Boomer women who are making the Sedarim or otheryom tov mealswhile caring for ill partners and/or aging parents, out-of-town children and grandchildren, etc. need to begin asking guests for assistance.  Delegating some of the work makes the yom tov not only easier to put together, but lessening the stress helps makes the time more pleasant for everyone. A burden shared is easier to carry. Asking people ahead of time to take on certain responsibilities, like helping set the table, serve or clear, taking young children out to play or cooking a specific dish in their home and bringing it, involves everyone in the festivities and helps minimize the work load. Parents need to verbalize clearly what they want in their home. Whether it is lights shut when a room is empty, or diapers and dirty clothes not left on the floor, it is their home and children should avoid doing what makes them uncomfortable. But our children cannot read our minds. We need to ask andask appropriately. However, asking is not an opportunity for criticism. Save those discussions for another time.

 

Husbands need to learn when it is time to let go of having the Seder in their home ‘for the sake of their wives’ and spend yom tov at the home of their children. For many fathers this can be difficult.  Letting your son lead the Seder while you are a guest at his table, is seen by many as giving up their place as the head of the household.  Many children understand this and will often let the father lead the Seder in the child’s home. But this needs to be discussed beforehand and not left to chance. It needs to be discussed honestly by the men and not argued among the wives. Hopefully, some agreeable compromise that satisfies everyone’s customs and preferences can be decided upon.

 

Mothers going to their children for yom tov should let the daughters decide what assistance they would appreciate. They may want you to cook that favorite dish or just spend time with the grandchildren so they can cook. How and what to serve, whom to invite and the rules for their children are their call. Your method may not be theirs and their space needs to be as respected as you would like yours to be.

 

            Married children visiting their parents’ home need to remember they are adults. If you would not allow your 3-year-old to bang on the glass of the china cabinet or build a fort with the crystal goblets at your friend’s home, why is it suddenly permissible at your parents’ home? If your mother would like the toys put away once the children are in bed, don’t argue that it’s just a waste of time because the house will look the same once they wake up and you’ll clean it up in eight days before you leave. Remember it is their home and they have gotten used to a certain comfort level that we should respect.

 

Families need to care for and consider each other. If everyone pitches in, if we are honest and open about our needs and wants and don’t expect our relatives to read our mind, then our families will not be as excited to see us go as they were to see us come, no matter whose house we are celebrating in. Ultimately, our grandchildren will learn from their parents’ behavior how to behave when they are adults and visiting their parents for yom tov, just as we baby boomers taught our children that we can do it all, no problem.

 

You can reach me at annnovick@hotmail.com.

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More Articles from Ann Novick

When one is blind one learns to use Braille to read. When one cannot walk, a wheelchair gives mobility. Sign language allows a mute person to speak and ocular implants assist in hearing when one is deaf. These are all compensatory strategies that help a person function despite his disability. But compensatory strategies are not just for physical problems. Understanding our psychological weaknesses and setting up our lives to ensure that we are not tempted to repeat our past mistakes, is as necessary as any aid to the disabled.

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Over the past two weeks I have shared letters from a therapist and a well spouse. Both of the letters gave personal insights into the process of losing hope, how we react when that happens and some ways of coping when test scores, diagnosis and just simple repetitive behavior indicate that change for the better is impossible.

Dear Ann,

I’ve read your last few articles on psycho-neurological testing (Oct.8-22) with interest. As a therapist who has counseled couples dealing with chronic illness, I’d like to give you another perspective.

Dear Ann,

Your articles on the Neuro-Psychological Testing were right on (October 8-22). My husband underwent testing twice and your articles explained it things exactly the way they were. Besides the test, we also tried therapy.

Very often when we can’t face our big hurts or big loses we focus on the little ones. We can discuss those. We can cry over the small loses, be angry at the smaller hurts even though it may look trite and sound ridiculous to others.

Over the last two weeks we have been discussing one way in which well spouses can determine whether behavior displayed by their ill partners is caused by their illness or is a way they have chosen to act. We have focused on Psycho-Neurological testing, what it can tell us, as well as its pros and cons.

Last week I discussed a question that haunts many well spouses: not knowing if the difficult and often inappropriate behavior frequently displayed by their partners are caused by the disease and therefore not-controllable, or if the behavior is a choice the spouse makes and can therefore be changed. This doubt can be the source of much frustration and many marital disagreements. One way of alleviating this doubt is by having a psycho- neurological work up done. But that path is not so simple.

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