Society's Expectations

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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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