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
- Not Sissies… Or Paupers (infinitesadnessorhope.wordpress.com)