How do you be a mom while also being someone’s daughter?
My parents are part of that sandwich generation, that set of people who are parents to their parents and still the parents of of their young adult/grown children. Where does that leave them? Caretaking and caregiving. And also grandparents. A weird mashup of generations.
Where does that leave me in our family dynamic?
In some ways, I’m still in need of mothering. I don’t always know what to do about toddlers running a fever or what to do when my garbage disposal won’t run or choosing matte or eggshell finish for my walls or finding myself in a relationship dilemma only a mother can help me through.
But I’m also a mother. I tend to the boo-boos and make daily parenting decisions and do all those adult things like pay bills and call the insurance company.
And what about my mother? Who takes care of her?
As a child and a teenager, my relationship with my mom was mostly one-sided. I needed her for emotional support and guidance. She provided. She didn’t share her struggles, her challenges. As her child, I probably couldn’t have understood or maybe it would have been too much of a heavy burden.
But now I’m an adult, her adult child. And our relationship has changed and needs to change. I can take it now, the heavy stuff. And she needs to share.
We had a conversation recently about communication, as adult child to parent, how sometimes I need her to check in with me and sometimes I need her to let me be. And how she needs to share with me how she feels frustrated dealing with an aging parent, challenging issues at work, how she and my dad plan to go about retirement.
Part of me feels itchy and uncomfortable, seeing my mom as a person with her own struggles and challenges. Part of me only wants to view her and my Dad as Parents. Those People Who Know Everything. Seeing her as someone apart from my mother is a strange realization.
It feels a little scary. When I’m in a scrape, I always think my mom will know what to do. But seeing her as a fellow woman and mother and wife makes me wonder what if she doesn’t? What then? Who will offer me advice and tell me everything’s going to work out?
But over this past year, as I’ve found myself more comfortable with motherhood and settled into accepting that the dementia taking over my grandmother’s mind isn’t going to change, I’ve morphed from my parent’s child to a companion down the road of life challenges. When I was a child, we couldn’t really be friends. But now, as adults, we are confidants, partners and allies in support of each other.
My Mom might not always have the magic words for me. And I won’t always know how to help her. But we can be there for each other. Support each other. And no matter what, she’ll always be my mom.