“I don’t want to be a burden to my children.” It’s one of the things most frequently heard in older generation’s conversations. Of course we all tend to think like that, but we should think also of the holes in that statement. First, assuming we’ve earned the love and respect of our children, why would children consider it a burden to help us in our times of need? If nothing else, think of all those diaper changes we did for them! Were they a burden? Think of the growing up years, the college expenses, the marriage ones. Burdens or blessings?
Recently I’ve needed the help of my children and they’ve all three stood up to bat gladly. They’ve said it is a pleasure to spend more time with Mom. What a gift! Occasionally I feel embarrassed that I have not made more of a contribution to society with an important career of some kind. Then I think of what I did do. I and my husband too. I helped to make a home for our children. It was a good home, loving but principled, caring but not coddling. A home of work and fun, a home of love for family and dedication to church. Because my husband’s career had us moving frequently it was not practical to pursue a career outside the home. I won’t sing my praises too much but let’s say I was a good mother. Love and respect were staples in our family and still are.
Now, in these later years if I need help from my kids, they come cheerfully and I have a chance to see them under circumstances more intimate than our holiday gatherings. We talk, we visit, we work together and enjoy each others’ company in ways not always possible at other times in their busy lives. I’d be awfully surprised if they consider me a burden. For this I am so grateful!
Now, dependency is another thing. Who wants to be dependent upon their children? My mother-in-law came to live with us after my father-in-law died. She did not have a lot to live on but she wanted to give us what she could afford so she insisted on paying us what she had been paying for rent. “I want to feel a part of the family. I won’t be a bother,” she said. “I just love to hear footsteps in the hall, voices of ones I care about. I need to feel a part of the family but still feel independent.” And she was just that for the nearly twenty years she lived with us. Because of her presence in our home I could take on volunteer jobs without making latch-key kids out of our children. If I was out working at one of those jobs when they got home from school they’d naturally migrate to Grandma’s room to chat about their day, play a card game or two, or watch some TV program. Since Grandma had the only TV in the house, that was a drawing card, but she also had a small supply of home-baked cookies or fresh doughnuts. No generation gap there. And “Gracie,” as she was known by her friends, had a pretty good life. She knew her worth and drew her own boundaries, not taking over my place or assuming the position of matriarch.
It’s good to know, when the time comes that we need each other, that we as parents have earned our children’s love and respect, that should it work out that we live together or near one another it is a blessing on all sides.
I feel sorry for parents and children who have built up barriers between each other. It doesn’t need to matter who’s at fault and maybe those barriers can be taken down. A friend of ours said that Robin’s help for me and the mutual blessings that have come of it are such an inspiration to him that he decided to give his dad more of his time. His siblings wrote their dad off and never see him because of past grievances. But our friend has kept the door open and yesterday the two of them had a good talk and a long walk on the beach. Their time together was so gratifying that now he’s going to see his dad more often.
I’ll never forget a neighbor of ours who came from a large family. She was the one who took their father in toward the end of his life. She often asked her siblings to come visit dad but they had excuses. “We’re so far away. We have made other plans for our vacation. We’d like to but...” When it looked like the dad was not long for this world she again called. “It would so please Daddy to see you again. Won’t you come?” They didn’t. Then when the dad died she called again.
“When is the funeral? Where is it? We’ll be there!”
My friend’s response was, “You needn’t bother. It’s too late to make any difference for Dad. You could have come before. It would have meant so much to him.” I think this happens more often than not in many families. Too bad!
I’m glad to say that my present needs will soon be over. I am independent and do not intend to live with my children. But when people ask me what I used to be, what sort of career I’ve had, etc. I have a hard time telling them I’ve been a homemaker and mother and grandmother. It seems those things require an apology but I can’t put one into words.