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An individual's health and wellbeing are considered unimportant to society when it comes to elder caregiving, yes? I find that society considers it to be first a woman's (usually a daughter's) job to do the elder caregiving. (I am writing strictly about taking care of a parent of in-law, not a spouse or non-parent relative.)


At the gym the other day, we were discussing shingles and flu shots (I have quite the bruise from my flu shot). We got on the topic of the more potent over-age 65 flu shot, and when I said my mother got one of those, someone asked how old she was. When I replied that she is 91, this older woman said, "She must live with you." I said that will never happen. Then she said, "Then you will have to move in with her." Again I said that will never happen, either. She looked at me and said she only had one more thing to say, and that was that I only had one mother. And then walked away. If she hadn't walked away, I might have snapped out, "And she has FOUR children."


Of course, she'd taken HER mother in (I'd found out previously), and I'm sure it wasn't all unicorns and rainbows. So she can judge everyone else.


I wonder if men are subjected to the same "You must move your mother in or go to live with her" mentality in our society? I think not.


It is brought up on this site that some people aren't cut out to be caregivers. And then the absent siblings are excused from any participation in caregiving. But what if the in-town daughter also feels that she isn't cut out for caregiving an elder? Above is society's expectation. I also admit to some guilt about this. I should be the loving daughter who spends time every day with my mother, even if she affects my emotional health negatively.


I love this site, because many people validate that it is okay for me to put boundaries on my time with my mother and stick to them. Society doesn't do that! (There are people here and there who agree with me, but many in my generation and older do not, unfortunately.)

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I have a brother. He has never done anything for mom. He has no clue what our life is like. He only calls her about 4 times a year. I don't even really talk to him anymore. Sometimes I'll send him an e-mail, like if she takes a turn for the worse, just to let him know. To be honest, I don't even bother asking him to make a trip here to spell me off, because I would have to do the work of organizing everything in advance and teaching him the absolute basics of what to do, and then field 10,000 phone calls for help from him while I'm taking my break. It's reached the point where it's less work to maintain things the way they are.

I see this happen all the time with my friends. It's always the women doing the caregiving work. Sometimes if there are no daughters, it's the daughters-in-law doing all the work. I personally don't know one man (though I'm sure they must be out there somewhere) who does caregiving for his elderly parent(s), outside of a shopping trip or a ride here and there.

The expectation on women that we will just do this stuff is something we need to force change on, just as we've had to force change on women doing all the childcare. I've been seeing lots of articles in my Facebook feed lately on the unpaid emotional labour of women, on top of all the other unpaid labour we do....having to even ASK our brothers and husbands arms to participate in eldercare is part of that emotional labour, but eldercare never gets talked about in those articles. It frustrates me to no end. If I weren't so darned exhausted, I'd certainly be out there fighting for this as a feminist, because it is a gender equality issue. Maybe that's the problem though. We're too exhausted to fight. Sigh.
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Something that bothers me when people talk about inequality of pay they rationalize it by saying that women take time off to care for children, so don't keep up. IOW, it's the woman's fault. I am glad to see that young men are stepping up to the plate more now when it comes to children. I am hoping the archaic thoughts on women as mothers disappear in the next couple of generations.
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Along these lines, did anyone see Battle Of The Sexes? Recent movie based on Billie Jean King’s creation of a separate women’s tennis league where women were treated and paid fairly. Culminated in the infamous “battle of the sexes” match between BJK and Bobby Riggs. WHEW. Make you appreciate how far we’ve come since 1973.
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Just yesterday on the radio, these 2 radio emcees were talking about how even up till today, there’s still discrimination on the earnings between a male and female. One of them brought up a recent event that happened last week on the air by another radio station duo. The duo had a strong accent so I’m not sure if they’re from England, Canada or Australia.

They just had their contract renewed. The female mentioned on air that her coworker is making $40,000 more than her. He was shocked. He assumed they were making the same pay. Nope, she said. You’re making more. He didn’t think that was fair. So, he said that he will insist on a pay cut to match her pay...

The woman said that feminism would not happen if it weren’t for men willing to side with them.... He said that if he didn’t give himself a pay cut, she would have quit. He didn’t want her to quit.
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Well said about sexism still being alive. All anyone has to do to see this is read the recent articles about sexism in the tech industries.
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Somewhat off topic but - freqflyer, your comment regarding missing promotions in lieu of “family men” stuck a sore spot with me. An old one - but still...

It was the mid 80’s to early 90’s and after graduating college with a business degree I pursued a career in retail management. It was a field that came easy to me - bossing people around, shopping and I could sell ice to Eskimos. Sorry - hope that’s not racist these days.

Anyhoo - I was ambitious and chose to put off serious relationships and starting a family of my own as it allowed me to accept transfers - which always came with a promotion.

I can’t tell you the number of holidays I was scheduled to work - as the only manager on duty - because I “didn’t have a family”. This went for more than my fair share of weekend shifts as well.

Hmmm... I didn’t have a family? Just who were those two old people calling themselves my mother and father? My brothers and nephews? The occasional fiancé?

I’m afraid sexism is alive and well - still thriving in the 21st century. It just has a different look.
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What took me by surprised was that my parents got older. Why a surprise? Growing up, we had lived many States away from the core families, thus I never got to witness people aging.

I always had dreams of my parents moving in with me... Mom would help with the housekeeping and cooking as she loved doing those things... and Dad enjoyed landscaping and keeping an active "honey-do" list. Thus, I could still maintain my career and have a happy married life.

Yeah, right, then reality struck. Hey, my folks were aging, what happened here???

Being an only child with no children... I had to scramble to be some type of caregiver. In no way, shape or form was I able to be a hands-on caregiver. Not in my DNA. Wasn't in my parents DNA, either, as neither did hands-on care for their own parents.

But I am sure if I had a brother, my folks wouldn't be asking him to help, well he would have a family to take care of. Oh how I remember that excuse whenever I went for a promotion at work, even though I had more education and more seniority.... [sigh].

My Mom was from the very old school... women should not be doctors, Senators, Governors, or even Sports Announcers.... they should be home having babies. Oops, no wonder I felt a cool chill from my Mom.

What is interesting is previewing U.S. Census from the 1880 to 1940's. Very common seeing an elder parent living with one of their grown children... usually a unmarried "spinster" or a daughter who had no children. But core families tend to have remained in the same town/city, and not unusual for siblings to have had 5 to 10 children, so a lot of hands to help out the elderly parents.
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Gershun, your comments on your husband and MIL brought back memories of a time when my sister and I, and a friend boarded a bus to go to a women's lib event, maybe in NYC or DC. It was a loooong time ago.

The friend we had met in earlier meetings was telling us about her Indian MIL, who also had similar expectations that her DIL would eventually be caring for her. MIL should have accompanied us to the rally and she would become aware that that wasn't going to happen.
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I have an East Asian M I L as I am married to an East Indian man. He is very Canadianized, mind you. I would rather be tarred and feathered than provide her care. She is the whiniest, most demanding, needy woman, I've ever had the misfortune to meet. But, having said that, I wouldn't become her caregiver even if she was an angel.

I took care of my Mom cause I adored her not out of obligation. If she had been an obnoxious old bat I wouldn't have. I don't think societies expectations should have anything to do with becoming a caregiver. I do understand that sometimes care homes are not an option because of lack of funds and in these cases people do what they must but I stand firm in my belief that no sense of obligation should dictate what a person does in these circumstances.
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I sometimes think this need for parents or older relatives to literally conscript others to care for them arises not only b/c they need the care, or b/c they need to be with others in their family, but just as much by the very obvious and probably frightening loss of care of their own lives, a sense of beginning to drift on an endless sea, with no rescue or support in sight....kind of a sense of being cast out of functional society and confined to a remaining life of limitations, loss of independence, loss of self confidence, and a whole lot more negative concepts.

I've often wondered what I'll do when I'm completely alone, and it is unsettling.
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GSA, so your MIL is still reacting and attempting to make others conform to concepts and issues she observed years ago. That must have made quite an impression on her. I can feel sympathy for someone who worked in a facility and was so impacted by it that it influenced decisions years later, but one of the basic issues with these concepts that DILs or daughters, or other family members for that matter, is that we all have free will.

No one really has to be trapped by another's desire for care. We do it, and I'm sure others feel trapped as I often do, but the reality is that absent filial obligations case law, we really don't have the obligation to provide care if we don't want to.

I won't deny that I wrestle with this concept periodically, especially with the balance of level of care that I need for myself in order to provide for my father. I think this is always a challenging balance to find.

As I read your post, I thought of PTSD. Although your mother apparently didn't serve in the military, her experience in the nursing home seems to have left an indelible mark.

Perhaps that's what she needs, is some treatment for those events years ago. But it seems that she's married any trauma from then with an apparent sense of obligation by you, and that's not necessarily a treatable concept! She doesn't seem to recognize that you weren't brought into the family to provide long term or end of life care.

I compliment you and respect your decision and efforts to sort out familial obligations and respect yourself as you, and the rest of us should.

And given their financial situation, there's absolutely no justification for entrapping you into caregiving. I've mentioned before how revolted I was when I saw an elder care attorney advise a client how to realign his mother's ample finances so she could get (actually, I'd say "suck off) Medicaid. This repulses me; there are people who really need that help.

And good for you for sharing your story, your challenges, and your determination for self respect and independence.
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Carla/GA - I think the narcissistic waif was trying to find a formal way to obligate me. Her opening salvo in our relationship 20 plus years ago was telling me she hoped her son reconciled with his soon-to-be ex-wife because MIL never got divorced for FIL misdeeds and her son should make same decision MIL did. Alrighty then. It's a daily affirmation to be honest. I was raised to help family in a very dysfunctional household at great personal cost. And there is pressure for women to take care of family members because many, not all, men have never absorbed how to do hands-on care. Now, I've given myself permission with extensive cognitive behavioral therapy to tell people NO in my life. Holding her son to a promise made when he was about 10-12? MIL worked in a nursing home - saw the Medicaid level conditions - and wanted family to promise "to make sure she would never end up there". I told husband that obviously not all his family got that message or promised. This summer FIL went to lawyer, rearranged finances so that MIL's care in AL/SNF due to Parkinson's would be paid for by Medicaid when FIL/MIL have nearly half a million in house and liquid assets. I told hubs at that point that I was not going to be more involved than hubs or BIL and my working 2 part time jobs doesn't make me responsible for managing her care. Since neither brother has stepped up to change MIL's situation with more than monthly visit? Not my circus, not my monkeys. Just dodge the poo (the main reason MIL is in facility with Parkinson's complications by the way).....
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GSA. "honored to provide the care"? Wow! My first thought was that I might expect this response from an Asian person, as women in the old China were expected to provide care for their husband's parents. I've often wondered but never researched how this might have changed since China has changed so drastically in the last decade and women are developing their own lives and careers.

But there's also the possibility that this is a generational issue as well with MIL. Her generation may still believe that women are the primary care providers. I don't think that generation really is familiar or in tune with the changes in women's rights.

This reminds me of something someone said to me last year. She was adamant that Hillary should not be running, adding that she doesn't feel women should be in politics. Seriously??? She wasn't my friend; she was an acquaintance of my father and called me when she couldn't reach him. After that conversation, I never took her calls again.
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Guestshopadmin - that's really crazy. I can't believe that your MIL actually thought either that women should be honored to take care of elders or that you would naturally want to take care of her since your mother had passed. Or that you would be obligated to fulfill a promise made by your husband without your agreement. I'm glad you had the guts to stand up for yourself and not get roped into meeting her (and your husband's?) expectations. Good for you!
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The other part that is funny is the expectations of a daughter-in-law. My mother-in-law has two sons. She would NEVER expect them to provide hands-on care. But she did talk about holding my husband to a promise that my husband made that she would never have to live in a nursing home as her Parkinson's advanced. When I asked who was to provide her the increasing care that the disease would require, MIL looked at me puzzled and said "You, of course! I'd never ask him to do that kind of thing. Daughters should be honored to provide the care, and your own mother passed away so now..." That was all I needed to hear. Told husband that day that he needed to understand that I was not the ONE. The care that MIL was unwilling to provide to her own family members was not going to be provided to her by ME. Funny, my husband has yet to go see about arrangements to get mommy out of the nursing home and arrange in-home care so she can return to live with father-in-law...
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Jessie, I completely understand, and certainly wouldn't disagree with your position or conclusions.

Ali, the financial subordination and dependency of women is one of the most insidious factors behind tying a woman down to raising children. I think you've hit on the root of a lot of this nonsense about women being the caregiver and having to raise the children.

Fortunately, some men are learning that's not always the best situation, and are now the stay at home husbands and fathers while their wives work, and sometimes earn more money than the men can. As Bob Dylan sang, "The times they are a changin'." And those changes are long overdue.
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I think I would've been a poor mother had I had children in the past, definitely if I had them in my 20s. Perhaps in my future, I'll help raise someone else's kiddos (or grandkids), and I think I'm more prepared and emotionally giving now at 42. If you don't have good parents yourself, you're a bit behind on figuring out how to have loving relationships, so it's good for some of us to not have children imo. I think I'm a good auntie and that makes me happy. Not every woman was meant to, or needs to, have a child. That is a pretty regressive view of women, really. Like -- if you don't birth something, what good are you then? lol ;-)

I had a conversation today that touched on how society treats women's caregiving and other domestic labor as something that is expected from them, taken for granted in many cases, largely unpaid in many parts of the world.  This keeps women financially dependent on others even while they work, and provide the foundation of societies. It's a topic of interest to me.   
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Let's see how they might react to my answer. I didn't want children probably because my mother always said that sex and children were just something a woman had to put up with because the husband wanted sex, and that men didn't really want children. They only wanted sex and children were just the unpleasant thing that happened because of that. I think my mother and father would have been happier without any kids, but birth control wasn't available back then. When I was a young woman I actually thought men didn't want kids and would resent me if I got pregnant. I didn't want kids, either, because I missed out of the nurturing gene somehow. Or maybe I got neutered by being raised in a disturbed family. I am glad that there were birth control pills after I came of age.

I was raised with a complete misconception of what men and women wanted. I now know that men do want their own children and they want to marry a good mother for those children. I don't know how my mother came by such a strange logic of what men wanted. She also had a resentment of the responsibilities placed on her as a woman at that time. She was lost as a nurturing parent, but did manage to put a country meal on the table each night. I imagine there are many of us raised during the mid-century who went through much the same upbringing. Perhaps we should be happy that there was enough food and appreciate that we were left to sort the world on our own, even if we did have a perverted view of how things actually were.

Can you imagine if I told anyone that if they wondered why I didn't have children? I find it easier to say that I just never had the maternal drive needed. Perhaps the children I never had were lucky. I would have probably been a crazy mother in my 20s.
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RainMom, this is one of the considerations I had when I was younger, especially as I had just graduated about the time of the Cuban Missile Crisis. Even in school we occasionally used to have nuclear drills along with fire drills.

One of the concerns I had always had was what would happen if a nuclear war did occur. Would my family survive? Would I? If they did and I didn't who would care for any children? That still troubles me when I think about my extended family.

And for some reason, the movie On the Beach had an indelible impression on me.  Even though I love the song Waltzing Matilda, I can't listen to it without picturing the end of the movie.   It was just an overwhelming possibility to consider.

I don't recall how old your son is, but I think that often people with challenges are discounted by the mainstream public, but that they can still find pleasure in life, and perhaps even love. There's no guarantee that anyone who is mainstreamed can find those pleasures either though.

I often wonder how well techno marriages will work out, especially if husband and wife communicate with each other through their i-Phones instead of interacting personally, or actually talking to each other.
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Again, I’m in agreement with GA. While it saddens me that Rainman will never fall in love - never have a partner in life, never be able to make the choice of starting a family of his own -
I have found myself thinking on more than one occasion- with the state of the world as it is - I’m kind of relieved that my own bloodline has come to an end.
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One answer to the why aren't you having children is a blunt one, which I've considered but never said: "I'm selfish and I want to spend my time and money on myself." That should shut up nosy meddlers.

Sometimes I have said that the world is already overpopulated and I'm not going to make it worse. That's another "shut your mouth response."

What people fail to consider is the time invested, the economical situation when the children become of age and need to work and may not find good jobs, the pollution in many areas, climate change and uncertainty, especially now with two fools saber rattling over nuclear war.
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CM, not very easy to stop those intrusive questions as one thinks. I had decided at age 20 that I will not marry nor have children. I grew up in a very dysfunctional childhood. My older brothers were continuing the abusive cycle. Plus, from early on, I was my older siblings ‘free’ babysitter while they went out at nights. They each had 3 kids all under age 6. By age 20 trying to juggle exam week and a colicky infant, I was completely turned off children. Up to now, when I hear a newborn’s cries, I shudder.

People, even strangers, have no shame. Are you married? Oh, you do have a boyfriend, though? Why not? .... and they wait for me to answer.... Do you have children? Are you married? Do you have a husband? A boyfriend? ... Why don’t you want children?... and they wait for you to give them a really good reason why NOT.... The only answer I’ve found that stops the question cold is: I had to have a medical required hysterectomy (in a very solemn voice and very expressionless face).

P.S... I have had men (married) asked me those intrusive questions. It’s not just only from women.
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I've always found it strange that one of the first questions to a woman is if they have any children. I rarely hear men being asked that question until someone knows him fairly well. I don't have any children, so it is an uncomfortable question for me. But almost everyone -- men and women -- asks.

I doubt that anyone would classify me as selfish. It wouldn't surprise me if many women growing up in disturbed families opt not to have children. That is beyond the scope of this group, though.
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Speaking of expectations, on Woman's Hour yesterday they interviewed a successful comedian - funny little sausage, she's been doing pretty well for over ten years and deserves her success. But anyway. She and her (second, the first was a toad but on the plus side gave her loads of comedy material) husband have made a positive decision not to have children. Fair enough, in my book; but apparently not in the books of many, many people she comes across, because she spent her entire slot on the programme whittering on about how infuriating and intrusive she found it to be challenged on this.

Not having been in her shoes I can't really understand why it upsets her so much. Surely these are conversations one can close down comparatively easily, no? - from a Jack Lemmon style "I can never have children" to "why don't you p*ss off and mind your own business" or even just a cold, outraged stare - so many fun ways to deal with it, I'd have thought.

But on the other hand, I also completely fail to understand the mindset of people who come out with things like "women who don't want children are selfish." Uh? How the heck do you know???
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CM,
Not pregnant, unless society's expectations have changed for the post-menopausal woman. Lol.
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In the kitchen and barefoot, Send? Oh crumbs, you're not pregnant are you - ?!
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GA, I could not agree more with your statement that “dementia” is “diagnosed” way too frequently- by both layman and professionals, in my humble opinion.

Some people are just quirky and outspoken and as they age become less and less incline to feel the societal pressures to rein in their opinions and behaviors.

I know that was true of my mother - in the beginning at least. My mother had always been self-absorbed, along with a tongue that could slice you to ribbons before you even knew you had been cut. Mom used old age as her “get out of jail free” card and openingly admitted as much.

Of course, in the end my mother did develop bonafide dementia- along with the actual symptoms, both mental and physical. But I think having a mean, selfish and/or quirky parent can be more easily accepted by friends and family if you can blame it on something besides the person actually being just that.

On a side note - I recently shared my opinion on another thread that I believe Narcissistic Personally Disorder is also being vastly and inappropriately diagnosed- usually by the children of said persons.

Current statistics say that roughly 6% of the population suffer from Narcissism.

I honestly mean no criticism or disrespect to anyone here on AC - God knows, that to even have come to that diagnosis in error, means you were likely dealing with a very unpleasant person. But not necessarily a Narcissist.

We all can’t have a Narcissist for a parent - statistic just don’t support that. But the parent in question can still be incredibly selfish, self-centered and an attention slut. But putting an erroneous label on it won’t  make it any easier to deal with or accept.
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What a vision: Send cooking barefoot in the kitchen.

Carla, your point about men caregivers getting more sympathy. It's true. And all guys know that single dads with a cute kid will have no shortage of dating offers. Women just melt. Except for the ones that are raising kids. They run the other way.

Im the last living kid, a son, who's watching my parents elder, slow-motion train wreck bearing down on me. Never dreamed I'd be responsible for all this. He'll, never even thought about it.
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Not bragging, nor complaining, but dH could not work, or even get to work without my job coaching skills.
And, my income is more than dH.
On another question, I would like to escape my caregiving duties to go to Switzerland.
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Ha!
Today any woman who doesn't bring in an income - as well as have babies, take care of the traditional household duties and keep up with family and social contacts (how many women are in charge of birthday greetings and holiday gifts for their inlaws?) - is considered an odd duck. I certainly felt societal judgment for "living off my mother"... why DIDN'T I just put her in a home?
And I imagine the judgment for a man doing what I have done would be doubled.
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