Women and daughter caregivers - changing roles from a changing time?

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I've been thinking a lot about the posts here and the frequent expectation that women, single or married, might compromise their careers to provide caregiving for elderly parents.

1. I've also been thinking how much women's roles have changed since WWII, and again in the late 70's and more so now that women have so many more opportunities. I wonder if during the Great Depression anyone would have anticipated that we might have a woman president or that women would be generals in the armed services.

We're caring for people who were raised during the Great Depression, WWII, and eras before women had the career potentials they have now. In some cases, women didn't anticipate marrying, moving away, moving abroad, or leaving their childhood areas.

I've been wondering how much these social changes have

(a) contributed, or enabled, the emotional conflict we women feel when our elders expect us to compromise our careers for caregiving;

(b) these changes could be viewed as enabling women to leverage their potential now to use new resources available to continue careers as well as caregive; and

(c) how men feel about these changes (broad question, yes).

2. On a related subject, I recall reading an interesting novel on Asian traditions which also addressed women being selected by their spouses with the intention that the wives would eventually have to care for the husband's elderly parents. How different that must be to the view we Western women have! And I'm wondering also how this will change now that Asian countries are becoming economic powerhouses and women are flocking to workplaces.

Thoughts, anyone? And for the record, I am totally in support of everyone having more career opportunities - but I don't think the social support network has caught up.


It is an interesting question. GA. Here in Alabama we have a society that is split between the old and new ways of the world. Women in the "new" families are raised to get an advanced education and to work outside the home. Women in the "old" families tend to be from more primitive Baptist congregations. Women in these families are raised with the expectation that they will make lots of babies and spend their lives serving others. They may go to college, but often it is a soft major like performance music. The goal is to teach music to children and to play in churches. It is not to become a concert pianist that tours the world.

I don't think either one is bad, but they sit in judgment of each other. The "new woman" talks of how repressed the "old woman" is and how it is not fair to raise girls that way. The "old woman" says the "new woman" is of the world and not of God. Not honoring parents, obeying husbands, and having as many children as possible is not acting in accordance to God's wishes. (And don't get me started on the sanctity of marriage!)

To be a woman right now means that someone will criticize, whatever you do, in the old South. The religious right has been losing their stronghold, but it is still quite healthy. What is going to happen in the future, I don't know. I do think one of the most wonderful things about women is their capacity to care for others. I hope we don't throw that baby out with the bathwater as society evolves.

Still, I think of a time where society has solved the problem on eldercare so that women don't have to sacrifice so much to take care of others. I think it was easier to tackle childcare, because kids are cute. Eldercare facilities tend to want an arm and leg for pay.
BTW, I like the talk of Asian women. I've heard in the past that Japanese women do this and Indian women do even more. And I think, yeah, but why would we want to be like them?
I sometimes joke that my employment has covered all the traditional womanly roles, childcare, house cleaner, cook and now I am a caregiver to my elderly mother. I haven't done any sewing yet though...
Every one of these jobs are at the bottom end of the pay scale.
Although the women's movement bristled in the 70's when women were described as “just a housewife” the attitude behind it has persevered, only now it is held by both men and women and directed at those who are employed in such jobs. Women may have been emancipated from having to depend on a man for our livelihood and self worth, but we have not left behind the attitude that traditional women's work has little value.
So where am I going with this? Not every woman (or man for that matter) would want to give up a satisfying career to care for a parent or spouse, but unfortunately those do are often impoverished because their contribution is not seen as having any value, indeed they are often scorned by others for dropping out of the race and marginalized. Politicians pay lip service to the benefits of the army of caregivers and applaud how our dedication saves our healthcare systems (whichever country you are in) millions of dollars, but in reality little has been done to ease the financial burden of the individual caregiver. They can't add up those unpaid hours when it comes to contributions to future pension plans and future employers will continue to look askance at the blank spot in their resumes.

cwillie, if I could like what you wrote 10 times, I would. Very well stated.
Interesting thoughts all. I'm a 60 year old man. I've been participating on this site for awhile now and a couple of points are clear to me:

About 98% of the posters are women and a large amount of these women are caring for their husbands mom and/or dad. I'm sure many of these women are caregivers by choice and wouldn't have it any other way, but I think we all (a few men maybe) know that caregiving is seen as traditionally as women's work.

Men's point of view? Most could care less and are very grateful that wife, sis, granny, auntie, girlfriend are changing the adult diapers. I say most, yes there are some wonderful exceptions to the rule, I acually know a couple of men who do what needs to be done and wife keeps her job and sanity.

To be quite honest I didn't want to be left solely responsible for my elderly parents but due to the death and disentagration of most of my family I'm it. I would have loved to have had sis or auntie jump in and I would never have set foot on this web site. Trust me, I'm a very reluctant hero.

Given the deck stacked against women politically , economically and otherwise attitudes are slowing changing, at least in this country. Men are assuming more childcare and housekeeping duties and eldercare duties. But it has been slooooooooow..........

I don't think you can raise such a broad without addressing American politics. With the turn to the extreme right in the US you can forget about things getting any better for minorities, working people, students, caregivers and the elderly. Government has become a bad thing which should be destroyed. You're on your own. Stack up the bibles and guns and may the strongest survive. Any offence to tea party members wa totally intended.

Ps I hope the site guys don't delete this. This took for ever on my mini I pad!
Raise such a BROAD topic....I meant to say...good grief....
Thanks for the answers - lots to think about - regional attitudes and expectations, social issues, politics...

I'll be back after I've mentally digested these as I really appreciate your insights but you've each raised some very important issues. I appreciate your responses, very much.
Not long ago my Dad [93] asked me to quit my career so I could have more time to be around him and Mom [97] as they still live by themselves in their large home.... I then asked Dad "did you quit your career to take care of your own parents?"...... Dad became silent, I knew what his answer would be and he never asked me again.

I did add to his discussion that since I am a woman of my generation, it will take MUCH longer to obtain the retirement level that he and Mom have, because of the wage gap I faced for all those decades. Back in my youth, I got my degree in Accounting but all employees were interested in was "how fast can you type?". I lost out on a promotion with a Fortune 500 company, it went to a male employee who didn't have any college and had been with the company only a couple of years... [sigh].

My parents still are bias when it comes to doctors who are women [Mom claims men are smarter, women should be home having babies]. Mom doesn't even like female sports casters [what do they know about sports].

At least now female students in high school don't automatically have to take "home ed" class, and the male students take "wood shop" :)
Windy, ok, was that a play on words when you said "Raise such a BROAD topic." :)
Flyer, I well remember shop class. When I was in high school the only sport for girls was cheerleading. My, how things have changed. And, my use of the word "broad" was not meant as a play on words. I'm not that clever!

Keep the conversation going (or start a new one)

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