A Band Of Warrior Women

I was sitting in a medical waiting room this morning; waiting while my mother had a blood test. This was the second waiting room for the morning, and we had one yet to come.  Looking around the room I noticed something that I had seen before, in other waiting rooms.  Here was an older person sitting next to a middle-aged woman.  The combination was repeated around the room, and was there to be seen in all the other waiting rooms my mother and I have recently been in.  Presumably often a mother and daughter, occasionally father and daughter.  A band of warrior women, presumably supporting their parents.

I don’t mean to be sexist, but in all the times I have seen this happening, I have never seen the middle-aged woman replaced by a middle-aged man.  Occasionally it is an older man accompanying the older woman, but mostly this seems to be the domain of middle-aged woman.  There to support their parent.

My mother is due to go into hospital to have an operation next week and since she has taken to wanting me to take her, I have learnt a routine.  From my mother’s perspective it is easier for her if I drive, and have to worry about parking.  And it is easier on her if I navigate us through buildings to where she is meant to be.  From her perspective my role is then to sit quietly and be the dutiful and supportive daughter.  Often it seems from the doctor’s perspective it is good to get another opinion of what is happening, and even a slightly quicker answer.

As an aside today my mother chose to tell a nurse all about giving birth to me, and then about her last job (some 50 years ago).  All this when actually she was meant to be saying how well (or otherwise) she managed around the home.  When I stopped and thought about it I imagine that it made mum’s day to have people so focussed on her and what she has to say.  Usually I’m the only person she sees.  And with that, I relaxed a little and decided the nurse could handle the time management.  Let mum enjoy this a bit.

In the back of my head I guess I’ve always known that it is often the female off-spring who end up providing more support to elderly parents.  Especially single females have often been expected in the past to give up their own lives to look after parents.  I’m not sure that I had ever given the whole thing much thought.  Perhaps I should have.  I am the only female and have two brothers.  Neither of them are in positions to support mum this way.

I guess I take it on because I am available, but I suspect there is a sense inside of me that this is what I should do as her daughter.  And my guess is that all these other middle-aged woman in waiting rooms have had the same sense.

What I’m wondering is the difference between the sexes.  I know there are men who look after elderly parents, although it’s not what I see while I’m sitting in waiting rooms.  I’m wondering do men feel some sense that they should be supporting their elderly parents in these practical tasks?  And how do you deal with it that sense if you simply don’t have the time or flexibility to do these things?

And what happens to the elderly people who don’t have a warrior woman (a middle-aged daughter) to help?  I know (and she commented) that mum would have really struggled this morning to go to all the appointments that were necessary today.  She would also have forgotten most of what she was told at the appointments, had she not had me there to listen.  That said, she would never admit to that.

It makes me think that elderly people who don’t have family able to help must really struggle.  It must be a very lonely and isolated life if there are not people there to help.  I’m inclined to think that I have never stopped to think how hard everyday life can be when you’re old.  Instead I just get frustrated when stuck behind them in a queue.

As I think I said recently I admit that I’m too taken with old age right now.  I hate the term middle-aged (because I still think of myself as in my twenties) but it is much preferable to what is to come.

“I would like to believe in the myth that we grow wiser with age. In a sense my disbelief is wisdom. Those of a middle generation, if charitable or sentimental, subscribe to the wisdom myth, while the callous see us as dispensable objects, like broken furniture or dead flowers. For the young we scarcely exist unless we are unavoidable members of the same family, farting, slobbering, perpetually mislaying teeth and bifocals.” 

―    Patrick White,    Three Uneasy Pieces


18 thoughts on “A Band Of Warrior Women

  1. I’m here, reading but also knowing what you are talking about. We are STRONG, we are WARRIORS, no matter what anyone else thinks or says. Don’t you DARE forget about yourself and your “needs” while tending to all your mums wants and needs… Yes, your mum IS important but YOU are more important to you, cause you are the one that will always be with you… Kick that thought/feeling out of your head, that you are performing your “duty” as a daughter. That is if you have (had) a good relationship with your mum… I didn’t and my time in the waiting rooms and also the last bout in the hospital, waiting for her to draw her final breath very much felt like an expected “duty” of mine. A sort of “paying back” for years past… I wish I could have done it out of love and not the feeling of duty and what is/was expected of me as a “grateful” daughter. Try to remember that your mum is also the 20 year old young warrior girl in her head, much like you are and always will be, even if the reflection looking back at you from that terrible contraption called a mirror says elsewise… You ARE a warrior, a young, strong and powerful warrior… Never forget to pamper yourself after one of these days… Treat yourself in a way that makes YOU feel good, be it a nice perfumed bath, manicure or just something good to eat while curled up on the couch watching a movie or whatever. You DESERVE every bit of pampering you can give yourself and that young girl within. Sometimes, that is all we have but it’s important that we can admit, that, “damn, I’m good”!

    1. You’re quite right Cat. Thank you. Actually mum and I have never been close but I don’t think I do it to make up for that. I think I do it because I know it is what my Dad would have wanted me to do (and I as close to him). It’s difficult to separate from that but I’m learning. I’m heading off for a six week holiday soon and it’s all for me. 🙂

      1. YAAAY!! 😀 Make sure you have fun every second of that holiday! I’ll be thinking of you in an envious way! Wouldn’t mind at all leaving all the snow behind and go back to Florida for a few months! 😀
        Have fun!! 🙂

  2. Wow. I am going through the guilty warrior woman (middle-age daughter) syndrome. My parents are in Nova Scotia, about 7000 km away from where I am in Sweden. My mom turns 80 this June, and my dad is going to be 89 in April. I have been away from home since I was 18, and recently I started thinking that I should move home to be a better daughter. Luckily, so far, my parents have not needed my help too much, but I am feeling like it is time. I enjoyed your take on this. I think that your question about men does depend on the culture, too. Swedish men, in general (and the ones I have met), seem to be very involved and helpful with their elderly parents. But that is also because more and more men are becoming stay at home dads, and I think that the nurturing aspect for men is becoming more acceptable.

    1. I like that the nuturing aspect for men is becoming more acceptable. Long may that last. 🙂 I understand where your thinking is at and I hope you can always have the freedom to choose what is right for you. I know it’s hard too and somehow as daughters we take it on board. Good luck.

  3. I’ve wondered about my own old age one day. Being childless and no nephews or nieces (only child, no siblings) I’ve thought about what it will be like for me. My mom, aunt or I took my grandparents to every hospital, every doctor. Now I go with my mom, just like you describe, as my brother-in-law used to do for his mum (Yes, sometimes the oldest sibling who takes over the caring role is male). In fact, he’s in a similar boat – never married, no kids. It’s no reason to have children, to have them take care of you, but it must be nice to get old and know that you will never be alone or uncared for.

    1. That’s an interesting one for me too as I also have no children, although I do have nieces and nephews. I think you’re right that often the child-free sibling is the one that ends up with the role. Whether that is an expectation or a choice based on time? Who knows. I certainly don’t feel like my siblings had expectations of me to do it. There’s lots to think about on this issue, I couldn’t get myself terribly bogged down. 😉

  4. Your mom is so lucky to have you in her corner. When I was a nursing student I often saw that the patients who had someone by their side received better treatment than those who are alone. I saw more women than men no matter the gender of the parent. Hope all goes well with her next procedures.

  5. John Richardson

    We need a better way to take care of our elderly and men need to help more; but thank God for women and all they do. Women are the backbone of civilization but they have needs too. Take care of yourself Cate, while you’re taking care of your mom.

  6. I worked in social services for a long while, and time and again I’ve seen how valuable ‘informal supports’ are to older citizens. You should be applauded for being an advocate on your mother’s behalf.

    As far as your observations on the general lack of caregiving from males, it is unfortunate but true. I’m not sure why or what the answer is, but I think it has something to do with the nature of sacrifice. Men seem to have no problem making large, dramatic sacrifices: war, dangerous jobs, etc. Call it heroic mythology or whatever. The thing is, day in day out caregiving is a much larger and more difficult sacrifice than those sort of grand gestures. Caregiving is the duty of love, and it’s sad that my gender doesn’t seem to be up to that kind of duty, largely.

    1. I think you’ve got a good point about the grand gestures. I have to admit that I know some men who have taken on the more mundane caring roles, and good on them. While it’s not easy work, it has some value for us all. Maybe more men couldn’t discover than in time. 😉

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