New generation, parents living longer, where did MY life go?

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Anyone else in my situation? ...my kids grew up going to "Grandmas" for Holidays (my mother and my husband's mom). Once my kids grew up, started their own families, that tradition continued.
At one point i started asking if we could have a holiday dinner at MY HOUSE once in awhile. Well, by then it was hard for the old folks to travel. Then my dad died but my kids said they HAD TO go to Grandmas because she needed them now more than ever. Surely I could see that. Well I offered to have the gathering at my house & bring Grandma here. Well but... that would mess up the plans of the OTHER GRANDKIDS. Then after a few more years, I was told, sorry Mom, but as long as Grandma is still alive, we will continue going there. Then it was, sorry Mom, yeah we know Grandma's in AL now but.. Well, by now our kids are getting older & we are all used to doing our holidays with the other side of the family... & now we also want to have Holidays at OUR OWN house..& we can only make it to just so many places!! Why can't you understand Mom??
So, I have tried for years to be "the flexible one", offering to have it on a different day, or on one evening, either during the week or the weekend but they never seemed to be able to work it out. I can count on one hand how many times I've had my own family gathered at my table. So, here I am at 61, spent most of my life aiding my mom who is able to remember literally hundreds of gatherings at her home, while I have teenage grandkids who never came to my house for a holiday ON THE DAY...& many years not at all. I never once saw my beautiful granddaughters in their Easter dresses..only photos taken at my ex-husband's family.

My life has been a series of disappointments, major life challenges involving 2 abusive spouses, with my health declining along with my parents, and ...guess what??...time went swiftly by,... my kids grew up...and now so have my grandchildren. I am still the only one taking care of mom's needs as best i can ... but i listen to her reminisce about the good old days... and I have to wonder:

Where did * my * life go???

17 Comments

Your story is one that is so common in the sandwich generation. There were a lot of parents in the "great generation" who wanted all the children to come home for holidays. Families grew to include grandchildren, but no one could start their own traditions without making grandma upset. So people started having multiple celebrations to try to make everyone happy. Now a lot of people dread seeing the holidays come because there is just too much work and travel involved.

I personally believe that when people marry and have kids they should be allowed to set up their own tradition. If it includes grandparents, that's fine. I also think our generation should be able to go to Hawaii if we want to for the holidays. We can make holidays so stressful trying to keep people happy. It usually turns out that no one is happy.
JessieBelle..you got it right. My husband (3rd time was a charming prince!!! Lol) and I discuss making holidays special for just the two of us so travel plans are in the future. However, for now, my mother needs us because nobody else makes an effort to be with her. Last year for Christmas we put the word out that Grandma would be at my daughter's (she's a Feb locks from Mom's AL) but nobody showed up OR EVEN CALLED. And my mother has 5 kids (though one brother died last October) , 9 grandkids, and 15 great-grandkids! I was heartbroken for her. At least her mind has declined to the degree that she didn't fully grasp what happened. But it makes me so mad at them!! Mom is the type who worked her whole life to provide for her family...had huge family dinners up until her 70's, cooking, making homemade rolls, pies, you name it. All those people came to "see her" as long as it was Grandmas cooking. After she was no longer able to do it, we had potlucks. But, the numbers went down each year. And since we got her moved last summer, nobody bothers. I suppose they think she won't notice or remember. But, on her good days, she does! And she will say, I sure do miss the big family get-togethers.
And I sit there thinking, hmm. .wonder what my own long-term memories will hold?!?
Dang spell check!! Was supposed to be: daughter lives a FEW BLOCKS from mom's AL
My husband and I attended several sessions on parenting in blended families early in our marriage. One piece of advice sticks with me: Don't feel guilty about enjoying yourselves in your children's absence. If all of the kids are with your exes this holiday, hooray, you can now spend the holiday in Aspen. It may seem unseemly to be celebrating not having your kids with you, but it is a matter of making the most of the situation. Your kids are elsewhere and spouse's kids are with you? Great opportunity for some one-on-one time between your spouse and those kids, and for you to get to know those kids better.

Also, a holiday is just a mark on a calendar. Who says you can't celebrate Christmas on Dec 18? Or Jan 6?

I know that this "sandwich" generation thing is not quite the same as blended families, but I think those principles apply. Celebrate the good in whatever the situation happens to be, and don't be tied to arbitrary dates for family celebrations.

Now that my grandkids are all adults I tend to celebrate non-mainstream holidays. Lunar New Years, Mardi Gras, Cinco de Mayo, Flag Day ... and none of these make the poor kids and grandkids have to decide which "side" to go to this year.

I don't think my sisters and I ever visited our mom on a holiday in the nursing home. The facility did an awesome job of making that day special. We celebrated with other parts of our families. But we also had celebrations in NH by reserving a common room, bringing in food, table cloths, party plates, etc. For the Christmas event (held in January, but before the decorations were taken down) we all brought presents that the NH could use as Bingo prizes. They were very happy to get our contributions! Gifts for mother were mostly certificates for the onsite beauty parlor.

Every generation has its own challenges, and each family is unique. I try to make the best of what I've got.
Thanks God our siblings and I were taught by example how to take
Care of eAch other when we become old. So whoever needs more ,we put
Our efforts to help .
"Celebrate the good in whatever the situation happens to be, and don't be tied to arbitrary dates for family celebrations."

Jeanne, great perspectives all around. And love your idea of claiming the non-traditional celebrations.

Not only are you upping the joy and lowering the stress. You are showing the younger generation how to be less rigid and more spirited as their adult years escalate into Family Calendar Competition. 

A win-win for everyone.
i am one of the guilty younger generation. We live 3 hours by car from my divorced parents (same town - refuse to be in same room) and 4 hours by plane from my in-laws. What is it with the demands for holidays? We are expected to travel - they won't. (they'll gladly drive across country to see a college chum but it is h*ll to pay to ask them to travel to us for a holiday) We are expected to be there ON the holiday - no matter how bad the weather or chaos with flights. (btw, my grandparents generation did not expect people to travel!!) It is madness - all because this generation expects some idealized version of everyone gathered around, in harmony, at the bountiful table. In reality- we and our child are cranky from travel, criticized for how we are dressed (even when we dress up), criticized for our child's behavior - why can't he sit for three hours at the table with all of the relatives?

The stress was too much and our son hated holidays - is that really the message we want him to have? Christmas is all about sitting in a car for six hours? We ended the madness. We, small nuclear family, have our holiday, at home, creating our own temporary traditions, and CALL the extended family. We will travel to see them, just not on the holiday. Yes it has lead to WWIII and "poor us, we won't be around forever" and eighty ways to try to manipulate us to come so they can win the holiday calendar competition and brag to their friends. Pfffuuiiii...........!!!

This will come across very negatively, i'm sure.
Kimber, you definitely get thumbs up from me. My parents and their parents before them didn't travel to be with their families on holidays. They stayed home with their spouses and children, sometimes inviting others in. The baby boomer generation seems to be the first that was expected to travel long distances to grandma's house. When I was living in Texas it was quite a long trip to feel like I had to make to sit with a group of polite strangers. Total insanity, really, since no one cared but my mother. And she only cared because she thought it was what you were supposed to do.
I feel like I failed in relaying my situation clearly.

I am 61... 1 son/1 daughter, grown... 5 grandkids.
Daugter lives in town where my mother is in AL. (2 & 1/2 hour drive away).
Son moved to FL 4 years ago.
I stayed with their father until they "left the nest" then divorced after 21 years of mental & physical abuse.
To this day, BOTH dgtr/son say best thing I ever did.

Married husb#2, cared for his mother (COPD) to her dying day, loved her with all my heart, such a loss. Then we inherited her farm house. Husband ran our computer business while I slaved on the house: cleared 25 years of hoarding ("ma" had lost a mother after moving her into the house & caring for her for 3 years, a grandson to a drunk driver & then (his mother) her daughter to suicide..all within the same 3 year period that she found out she was terminally ill ...so shopping was her therapy) but since the house had no maintenance and there had been shoddy work on it, leaving gaps everywhere... I dealt with mouse droppings on everything.... Live mice, snakes, poop from 2 dogs/4 cats, etc.!!
Husband held down the fort at our small computer repair shop and I did the bookkeeping in the evenings. I worked every day on the house for a full year. I ripped up 4 rooms of carpet & hauled myself/sealed the floors, caulked windows and foundation gaps, refinished/repositioned wood trim, gutted a bathroom almost entirely by myself, took down kitchen cabinets & paneling (bug nests behind), moved furniture to basement & back again, cleaned and cleaned!!, reinstalled cabinets, wallpapered/painted, the list goes on (don't even get me started what all I did in the yard)...right up to the day husband #2, after 9 years together, announced he was getting back with his high school prom date, saying he hadn't loved me "for years". This came just after I got my diagnosis of 4 herniated discs in my lower back. I went to pain clinics, received treatments but next up was surgery. (Thankfully, a year later, I found a natural treatment instead). Found out dear husb#2 hadn't added me to the deed for the house and he had personal debt so I got nothing but heartbreak.
Through this period, my grandbabies came along & I struggled to see them as often as possible. One of my greatest joys was to sew an elaborate beautiful baptism gown for my grand daughter the week after we moved into the refurbished house.
So, .... Over the next 15 years I was the FLEXIBLE GRANDMA!! While other sIdes of family got nasty with my kids, ruining the holidays for them, I tried my best to be accommodating!! I let them fit me into their schedule, and I traveled to their homes every other year! They couldn't seem to get to my house more than once a year, tops. I didn't care what DAY, what time, or where, or who all was there.
Even did a Christmas/Valentine's day party which was so much fun my kids thought we should make THAT a tradition...but somehow every year too busy ...so I gave up.

Now that the grandkids are teenagers (except a 7 year old grandson), they LOVE to come to our house! so I guess I still managed to develop bonds with them.
My darling current husband & I do make our holidays special, just the two of us, but lately i want to pitch out my passed-down family china...what do I need them for?? And that makes me angry! And HOW do I not feel bitter when my mom sits there whining about missing her "good old days"??
Couple all this with a childhood of sexual abuse in a totally dysfunctional family... I just WISH I had some good old days to reminisce about.
Our elders' warped perceptions sure can strike a nerve. And in most cases, they aren't even trying. They're just being themselves -- as dictated by mental short-circuiting, boredom and wishful thinking.

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