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I recall on another thread where a daughter who was a CPA wasn't appointed to be the financial Power of Attorney for her parents, but her brother was and he always was terrible with handling money. It was just a case where the elders thought the son was more qualified because he was a male.

I noticed this with my own parents regarding their burial in Dad's home State... they wanted the nephew to do the planning out there, and when he had passed, I was surprised they didn't ask his equally qualified sister to be the planner. Instead my parents choose the nephew's son who was clueless about such matters.... [sigh]. It was the male vs female thing with my parents.
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Its probably because women, like mothers, have this instinct or have the traditional role of being nurturers. While men are seen to be providers. Each family is different. Sometimes the roles are reversed where the men are better at being the caregivers and the women are providers. I dont see it as a problem for how each family conducts their business as long as its working and the job gets done. That is what matters.
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I agree Jessie. I think there is such a thing as overthinking things too much. :)
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Uh, I got lost somewhere. I think my mind is too simple.
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AND another example, and I don't know why I didn't think of this first: Only Niece and Nephew 3, siblings, educated at the same school, same grades, same degree at the same university (I deplored the lack of imagination, there, but that's another story) - both went for interview at the same management consultancy firm. She was unsuccessful, he was appointed. She was livid, but that too is another story.

All is well, I am glad to say, because I am fond of both of them. He is now a Management Consultant, and she is an extremely successful teacher making rapid strides in her professional career. Both now have Masters Degrees, too.

So she spends her days developing potential in the young. She will already have dragged, pushed and coaxed upwards of 500 disadvantaged young people towards achievements they didn't know were possible.

He, by contrast, goes forth to tell companies with more money than sense how to make their businesses even more profitable, which quite frankly they should have been able to work out for themselves if they'd stuck to their business and not diversified into mysterious waters. He spends his days in meetings, or at lunch.

And guess which one is paid twice as much as the other?

Neither, however, is of a temperament that is likely to make the thought of giving up their careers for anybody more than a whimsical little joke, so I'm rather off topic. But there it is: a crashing example of weird values in society. They want looking at anew, I think.
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(I think there might be a way to go there, FF… but may we live to see it!)

I have observed - as a general rule, and what I hate most in all of these kinds of debate is the idea that just because a majority tend to do something then everyone in their category MUST do that - that more daughters do seem to be born bothered whether or not the button gets sewn on.

Then again, there is such huge variation - my older daughter spent her short career on the rugby pitch helping up players (of either team, her own and the opposition) who'd just been tackled; whereas the younger daughter not only trampled them like any self-respecting wing three-quarter would, but transferred her new scrummaging skills to the classroom - where they went down less well.

And, I remember it fondly, my father - who coached all his grandchildren from the touchline with equal enthusiasm - despaired of Nephew 1 who was, he said, the only front row forward he had ever seen *skipping* towards the ball. I suggested it showed he was enjoying himself..?

What troubles me about the cross-training idea, and the more equal and diverse spread of lifetime activities, is that to get an equal number of women and men doing the full range of options, you'd have to get more women to stop caring so much and more men to start caring more. Well all right, I don't mind the second, but I don't think the first would be an improvement in the world.

What I'd like to push for is a wholesale re-evaluation of what skills and aptitudes and qualities and work are worth. I've whined before about having calculated that my "worth" as a freelance copywriter is apparently forty times that as a caregiver, according to pay scales in the UK. So who gets hurt if a brochure doesn't get written? Why is that more important than taking full-on responsibility for the welfare of an old lady? And how can it possibly be THAT much more important?
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Well, of course more daughters take care of their parents.... aren't we born knowing how to thread a needle to sew a button?.... how to cook a pot roast?.... how to starch and iron a shirt and pillow cases?... how to use a thermometer to see if someone is running a fever?.... how to grocery shop?....and to be scare silly of bugs? Oh wait a minute, we aren't born knowing all these things.

Parents rarely ask a son to give up his career to become their caregiver... oh no, he has a family to support. Oh I heard that during my corporate career as to why a male was promoted and I wasn't, even if I was more qualified and had higher seniority.... hello, I might have a family to support, too.

I believe in future generations, everyone will be cross-trained and there would be 50-50 in caregiving between the sons and daughters.
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Come come Jessie! Or, to turn that upside down, sons aren't trusted with the really important ones? Or: "Off you go to war, I'll stay home and take care of your mother."

Dysfunction aside, the one thing I must give credit to my parents for was their unwaveringly equal regard - ineffectual parenting maybe, but unwavering and equal love - for both sons and daughters. So to me it was wholly alien to hear from two different ladies, on two separate occasions, said as though I would instinctively and naturally agree, that "of course" sons are special. ?!?!?!? And they both have sons and daughters. Both educated, both successful. What the h*ll is wrong with them????
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Or it could be simpler than all that. It may be that sons are considered socially higher than daughters, so sons aren't expected to do the lowly tasks.
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Oh yes, and Cmagnum, I believe you have "hit the nail on the head" to some extent. The relationships between mothers and daughters are complex. We must break away from mom to form our own identities, but we are so much like them in body, genes, and sometimes in soul. A philosopher once told me we all hate our mothers to some extent...they brought us into this world of duality and we can never be whole and safe again. We must wrestle with these opposites and live the "struggles and joys" which are life on our own with only moments of true oneness with others. Think about THAT for a while and then phone your mom. : ). But yes, you're right...those mom/daughter relationships are maddeningly complex.
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Ah yes, the "character" of Alison....as created by Chauser. However, Country Mouse, I do not think she can be seen as a feminist fighting for the rights of women in her day. More like fighting for power Over man...emphasis on use of sex as a technique for doing this. Not sure most women would identify with her back then or today.
We do have choices today in our society; however, there are still those who feel put upon by their families to care for their aging parents, particularly the women in the family. They can choose to do so or not; their reasons are their own. I think my aunt said it best when she decided it would be better not to even put her family members in that position in the first place and to just plan or her own care. But lots of folks don't have that option. Thanks for your insights.
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Car, I hope your foray into Medieval Lit included making the acquaintance of the Wife of Bath? Not all women were then content to be exploited, though many were. Not all are now, but many still are. The rigidity of the rules - in Western society, anyway, and don't forget the rest of the planet - has changed, but the rules themselves haven't much.

This is the old question of love or money, isn't it? - for what reward do we expect to carry out our social obligations, and what kind of obligation falls mainly on men, and what kind on women, as a general rule.

The major difference between former and present times is that (some) women have more and freer choices. The really interesting question is why women tend to choose as they do: why, for example, were my brothers unable to take care of my mother because they had to work, while I was unable to continue work because I had to take care of my mother? Different priorities, would be my best guess. Different definitions of 'worth.'

And why *those* differences are there, and whether they should be left alone or socially engineered away, is the moot point. Which I will very happily leave to others to debate.
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Life is a circle, isn't it. Well, I have to weigh in here and just say that yes, more women than men have to step up and take care of everyone's needs in the family. But dysfunctional families, like mine, carry all that dysfunction even into the very last years of a person's life. In my family, my maternal grandmother was very mean to her female children growing up. My grandmother lost one of her first babies to pneumonia before he reached his second year of life; she was detached, cold, and mean to the rest of her children. She lived through the Great Depression, her husband served in WW II, and her sons served in the Korean War. She was prescribed many pills to get through those time periods. ( This was common back. ) She was so depressed over the death of her son that she would not ( could not? ) breast feed the next child that came along and my aunt almost died. ( My great grandmother stepped into help. They fed her canned milk before canned milk was fashionable. ) She lived on a farm, isolated from most others except nearby family members. She had 7 children because there was no birth control. She had one, heavy, black phone in her home in the late 40s and 50s. I don't remember a TV in her home until the early 60s. She did not drive; a lot of women of that era never learned. ( Driving Mrs. Daisy. ) My grandfather took her "to town" twice a month for groceries and other items. They did not attend church regularly. I remember her cooking or cleaning all the time, no love at all expressed between my grandparents. He watched TV or sat outside on his porch waiting for someone to drop by, and she often stared into space, and in later life, repeated the same phrases over and over, as dementia caused by vascular problems set in. All of her children couldn't wait to get out of the house when they were younger, and some joined the military, some went into nursing, some got married right out of high school, moved to the city, etc. as fast as they could. When her husband died of a heart attack ( my grandfather ), and she was left alone in the home, her daughters did step up to help her, and one son came to visit her as often as he could. She did not want for the material things in life. My mother, the eldest, took turns with her sisters taking care of her as she aged, but they had such a poor relationship in the past that my cousin told me that at times she witnessed my mom being awfully mean and harsh with her mom when she wouldn't ( or could not ) eat what was being given to her. (My grandmother lived through such harsh times; many women did. How often we forget...and it was only less than 75 to 100 years ago.). Eventually, my grandmother was placed in a "home" when her needs became too difficult for her female children to deal with. My gradmother would cry that she wanted to go home, when she was already home, and she tried to wander off at times. She died in a hospital...lingered there over two weeks. I went to see her as often as I could.
My own mother has a personality disorder. She is rigid and cold. She had a successful career in a large city, but she has a hardness about her that is the result of an upbringing without love, IMO. My mom is now aging fast and her two children, my brother and I do help. My brother is a very successful salesman and owns his own international company. My mother was divorced after 10 years of marriage and never remarried. She worked for 40 plus years in insurance and retired, then took a part time job for years. When her home began to basically fall apart in places ( problems with a damp basement that often flooded and led to structural issues ), my brother stepped in and first tried to fix the house, then eventually convinced her to sell it, took her to his CPA and investment banker and then wrapped up some deals before I knew anything. He sold her house. He "invested" in a brand new rental home in a neighborhood for older individuals on the outskirts of a large posh neighborhood. It is near grocery stores, restaurants, a library, and doctors' offices ( I think I'm using my apostrophes correctly at 5 in the morning ). He had her moved in to her new home, and she now pays him "rent" to live there. There are some tax breaks in there for him somewhere too. (Yes, I agree, some boys/men will step in to "help" if there's money to be made.). But I must also say that my brother made some smart moves to keep outsiders from gobbling up all her assets. So some men help, but they help in different ways from women... For example, my brother pays for all of my mom's yard work and he has her car serviced. And my brother and my mom have always had a very loving relationship despite her hardness. My mom "hates" females although she would never admit it. ( Issues from her past. ). And so, my relationship with her has always been hard and strained. I am in education and social work, so I do try very hard to step up and help her. Trouble is, she is stubborn and mean to me...still. And she refuses to let me help her, is suspicious. I think this will only get worse as she ages. My SIL has her own family issues to tend to, and she's also very much a socialite, so I don't think she will help much as my mom continues her downturn. I expect my brother will probably move her into his basement in the next couple of years, which is fully furnished with a bathroom and kitchen, after his son goes away to college in a year and a half. Then, he will hire or arrange for in home care when necessary, and then...who knows. But, then, there's some money in that. And if his wife will not care for her or spendtime with her in her own basement, her daughter, my niece, will.
I have one child, a daughter, whom I love dearly and whom I've raised differently from myself, my mom, etc. I made a conscious effort to give her all she needed and put great focus on her education. She left home as soon as she could and moved in with a friend's parents while still in her second year of college. She married a man she met at college that we did not really approve of. Because of our disapproval, which we kept mainly to ourselves and only mentioned to her once, we were almost excluded from her wedding. She had a child right away. Her husband "drained" her bank accounts, stole her jewelry to pay for a gambling habit and had several affairs. They divorced three years after the wedding. She went to graduate school while I worked all day and then kept her house and child for her in theevenings while she was in school. She dated ( she was in her late 20s still, and eventually remarried ). During the time that she was in grad school, (and needed me to keep up her home and raise her child in the evenings), she was vey apologetic for her treatment of me in the past and she was actually nice to be around at times. ( She too has a hard, mean, cold, rigid, suspicious nature. ). But now that she has remarried, she has practically cut me out of her life. No reason, just she doesn't "need" help any longer. Weird. Hurtful.
I took a lot of classes in English literature and history during my grad school years because I teach. I remember one class in particular about Mideval Lit. and history. My God, the women then did it all...their only escape from dying early in childbirth or from all the disease and hard wok was to join the church. Besides birthing and raising children, they worked at home, on the farm, sewed clothes, made candles, made medicines, cared for the sick, walked to church, got up early to make the fires, worked along side their partners when necessary, etc. Women also took care of the elderly. And they washed and prepared the bodies of loved ones for burial. If you were/are a woman, that's just what you do....without pay.
One of my aunts, who married in to our family, told me long ago, "Ive made a lot of mistakes in my life, but I've raised two wonderful boys who I'm very proud of. But I know in my heart that they will not take care of me when I'm old. Thank God we live in an era when I can plan and pay for my own care as I age." Which is what she did. Considering my daughter's temperament and her choice of career which is very demanding, I am planning on doing the same ASAP. I think being in "a facility" would be preferable to living with my spoiled, arrogant, cold, detached, rigid, mean- spirited daughter. ( I hope my grandson leaves home as soon as possible and never looks back. ) Life is, indeed, a circle...sometimes it is a warped, scribbled circle emanating from a dark hand.
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Having read several stories on this site, seeing my wife deal with her own issues with a very controlling mother who frankly wanted her all to herself and really did not want her to get married, and hearing similar stories from women down through the years,

For sure a lot of this is probably social and cultural more. Some of it may be more psychological in the difference of the emotional wiring of men and women. We probably don't hear from many male caregivers because they might be so inclined to join an online group for support, but that has to do with social conditioning as well.

However, I think this does take place in the lives of some women because of a more sinister or cynical reason. And we seem to get a lot of these types of mother daughter relationships described on these sites. Most of these stories involve a relationship with someone who has an undiagnosed personality disorder like narcissism or borderline (which we use to call just plain mean).

It appears that some mothers will emotionally choose a daughter to be the chosen one for future full time caregiving when the parent gets old. With the buttons deeply sunk into the emotionally memory of the child, it is almost like an auto pilot goes off in the adult daughter's head and she must abandon everything (career, husband, children, grandchildren, personal health, personal finances and retirement preparation) and go cling to their parents in caregiving until death do they part unless of course they die first.

Some daughters have enough self-awareness that they do not go fully into auto-pilot, but struggle to find a balance between their life and their aging parent's need for care and safety. Some find freedom from the power of the F.O.G. (fear, obligation and guilt) while others give up and give in. It is not by any means an easy battle and the older one is when this takes place the harder it is to pull away from.

Some mothers make their son their chosen one at a very young age, but that does not appear to happen that much and we hardly hear about that on this site. Some wives on this site have lost or are struggling to keep from loosing a husband who is functioning to various degrees on emotional auto-pilot with their mom. Sometimes, dads do this to their sons and daughters as well, but it does not seem to show up here that often either.

All in all, why more women seem to be caregivers overall than man does appear to be a complex issue.
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Yikes! Control freaks? When my husband and I built our house, we had extra land and he asked my mom and stepdad if we could build them a small house on our property so we could care for them when the time came. My stepfather was 90 and my mother was 78. They were not interested I giving up their lives or home but I so loved my husband for the offer. Both of his parents were already passed and he considered my family, his family. Loving not controlling. My stepfather passed away 7 years ago at the age of 94 and my mother was again given the opportunity tipi move I with us although we did not have a lot of room, we did have a room for her. She said she was not ready yet but appreciated the offer. We let her know that it was about loving her and not feeling responsible for her. My husband loves to talk to my mom about her life as she was a draftsman and engineer in a time when women didn't do those things. I moved to Fl 32 years ago to be closer to my mom because she is awesome and has been a loving incredible person and my best friend. She has finally agreed to move in because she had some medical issues that made it a little risky to be alone.both my husband and I are thrilled even though it means some changes in our lives it is so worth giving back and spending the most time I can with her.
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Many sons take care of their parents as they age and do a great job. Many females do it as many families have at least one child that is a control freak and then she usually/sometimes a he complains about having to do it all the while using the situation to their own benefit. Many sons are prevented from helping their own parents as they are married to control freaks that think their parents are the only parents. As females let's do the right thing and stop the male bashing.
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Simple. Caregiving is supposedly womens' work. Men are out earning a living doing meaningful work, right? This expectation is out of date, no longer relevant, and stupid.

The other half of the problem is that a lot of women automatically say Yes to caregiving, forfeiting everything else to satisfy some kind of expectation said or unsaid.

There needs to be more help for caregivers regardless of gender, situation, and circumstances so that those who want to do it can without giving up their life's earnings, and for those who know they shouldn't withouth giving up their life's savings. The whole system is broken if you ask me.
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I know the original question is 4 years old, but I wonder how much has changed since then, or is the stereotype still alive and well?

Not long ago my Dad mentioned that I should retire and help him and Mom around the house. I looked at Dad and said "Dad, did you retire early from your job to take care of your parents"? Of course I knew his answer was going to be "no". He never asked me again.

But Dad still thinks I love to go shopping because I am female and because my Mom enjoys shopping..... NOT !!!
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Andrea 22 ... reread your first sentence ... in the the title. Oops! You typed "the" twice. I guess everyone makes mistakes. But, nonetheless, thanks for the english lesson. :-)
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Andrea 22, Well excuse us!!!!!!!! Are you a retired english teacher or just a jerk?
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I couldn't bring myself to read this article due to the horrific errors in punctuation in the the title. In the title, the apostrophe in "sons" is incorrect. Sons is plural not possessive. It is also the wrong spelling of "then". Than is used when making a comparison such as the comparison between daughters and sons. Then is used in reference to time. For example, we will do this then that.
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I think that in every family the caregiving falls to the one who does not have the heart to look away. In my family, it was my Mom and a few of her sisters. My grandmother was so pushy and self-centered. But to this day, Mom thinks her mother was a saint. When I asked why she took grandma in, she said, "because I loved her." And I know she means it. If I did not step in with my Mom I know for a fact that my sib would have just looked the other way or slapped her in the nearest facility, even though she is in relatively good health.
Although, my Mom is SO much easier to deal with, she still just thinks of me as the unpaid help. Her needs come first (in her mind) and my life is secondary. I had to learn to pace myself and do the things that she really needs first. Somedays I do not really know how I am going to continue - so I just take it one day at a time. It would be soooo much easier if everyone in the family just gave a little bit of their time to help. No one would feel overburdened and everyone would benefit.
I cannot imagine how a child could just decide not to participate in caring for his or her parent. I wonder what would become of my Mom if I didn't exist. I overheard my Mother tell one of her nurses recently, "if it wasn't for my daughter I would not be here today." Of course, she would never say that to me :o)
Peace to all caregiver daughters today,
Lilli
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That's a good question, Lilli. I wouldn't want to generalize so I can't answer if men are as hard on their sons. But men more often than not get a pass in our society.
My mom disliked her mom, I never knew why. When gma could no longer live in the senior housing in another state, she had to come live with mom. What a mistake, what a nightmare! Mom was so mean to her. Looking back, I should've called APS. I've never forgotten what a monster mom was. When mom required care in her home, believe me it was hard to be civil to her knowing how evil she is. I asked her once "you didn't get along with your mother and you don't get along with me, wouldn't it be good to make some peace before it's too late?" She told me I was crazy. She also said it was elder abuse to talk to her like that - that always came up when she didn't like what I was saying. I said well you should recognize elder abuse because that's what you dished out to my grandma. Mom just never got it! It's always she's right and the world is wrong. . . or she's right and I'm wrong.
I agree. Woman or man, step up and give a hand when needed. It won't kill you, might even make you a better person.
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I do not know why mothers are so hard on their daughters (btw, men: are fathers this hard on their sons?)
All I know is that in my family my mother's brothers never lifted a finger to help with their aging parents. It fell squarely on the shoulders of the daughters. However, when the sons came for a rare visit, my grandmother would order my mother around to fix food for the hoard. All my aunts were taught to put men on a pedestal. Men were not allowed to do "women's work" but it was okay for the women to do all the distasteful, demeaning things. I did not get along with my grandmother, mainly because of the way she treated my mom and how she showed favortism to all the male relatives. My mom is infinitely nicer than my grandmother.
In addition to teaching sons to help with their elders, it is also imperative that women do not become "women haters" of their daughters. There is that John Mayer song with the great lyrics: "Girls become lovers who turn into mothers...So mothers, be good to your daughters too."
We just need to stop the stereotypes and pitch in where we are needed regardless of gender. Life is hard enough without drawing these battle lines.
thanks for the enlightening discussion...
Lilli
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Those edicts from the throne are absolutely amazing. I am taking a class in conversational French. My mother asked me if I would like to go to France. I said yes. She said "you can't go until I die." Where did she get that idea? So self- centered.

She is living with me while her house is being repaired after a lighting fire. Her stash of sweet rolls and Nutty Butters and oatmeal bars attracted a whole hoard of ants in my kitchen this morning. She came and yelled at me about the problem. When I pulled out all her hoard there were sticky crumbs and frosting all over the counter. I cleaned it up this morning and sprayed while she did her crossword and ate her donuts. Like I wasn't even there. Hired help.

She's been with me about 6 weeks and I feel like I'm living at the lowest possible level of survival. The dog even leaves the room when she comes in.

Why do people like that continue to exist?
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While I'm on a roll, how about not singling out the oldest daughter or d-i-l? My mother informed me when my dad was diagnosed with Alz that I, as the oldest (have 1 sibling, my sis who's 1 yr younger) was responsible for dad's and her care as they aged. Sis got a pass, wasn't even mentioned. Loving my father as I did, I'd have gone to the far ends of earth for him. But to be honest, the horrendous relationship mom and I had always had, well, it didn't get any better when she sat on her throne and gave me that command.
Thanks, had to vent!
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AMD: cheers to you for not buying into the stereotype and raising both your children to be responsible, caring adults. I, too, bristled at these sterotypes even as a young girl. I always thought one should just be "humane" whether you were a boy or girl.
I just had a conversation with my neighbor who has 3 adult sons. Her mother lived with her family until she passed and her sons pitched in without complaint...even through those "icky" moments. However, as she ages, she says she does not want to be a "burden" on her sons because their wives would be responsible for her care. Huh? I do not understand why she does not think that they will "step up to the plate" for her. They are great boys.
I think it goes back to women being too self-sacrificing and losing ourselves in the midst.
I wish I had more answers than questions to offer. But all here, in this forum, save my sanity on a regular basis.
Today, I pray and wish that all non-caregivers in a family be present and simply ask, "what can I do?" and that caregivers give them a chance to help.
Peace,
Lilli
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Lilli,
Thank you so much for including the fact that our sons need to be educated in caregiving. Believe me, I never bought into that garbage that only women can caregive. I raised my son,who's now 36, that he was going to learn how to clean, cook, stand on his own with or without a woman and be there for others. Likewise I taught my daughter to be self sufficient and be there for others. When my son got married and wanted to finish getting his degree, he stayed home with his little girl and went to school at night.(I admit, I helped a lot but it was for a good cause.) When my mother required medical care at her home, he was the first one there. He cleaned up more poop than the rest of us, took gma to the dr (with little daughter in tow), repaired things around gma's house, etc. He is the no-nonsense type, get in and get it done, not too huggy-feely but the jobs get taken care of. Needless to say, I'm proud of my son and feel confident that when the time comes for me or his father to require some help and care, he and his sister will step up.
I've shared with them all the stories of self-sacrifice and unending duties from this site. The best way to get through this inevitable thing called elderly life be aware, be prepared, be educated.
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I am not at all surprised by these findings. Women are the "silent majority" of caregivers at both ends: taking care of children and then taking care of elderly parents. The U.S. is woefully behind in recognizing the contribution that caregivers make. In some countries, caregivers are paid or at least they are given retirement funds for their work.
I can only speak from experience. In my family the "women folk" are expected to do all the dirty work of caregiving. If a family has all sons, then it is up to the daughter-in-law. If there are no daughters-in-law, then the parents are shipped off to a NH ASAP. My brother pops in and out whenever it is convenient for him. And yes, as much as I know that Mom is getting better care being here, I do resent having to shoulder all the repsonibility.
There are all these "hidden" aspects of caregiving that a non-caregiver may never see (or does not want to see.) There is the stress of having to make medical decisions for someone else, the midnight phone calls or trips to the ER, having to advocate for someone in the medical system, navigating endless paperwork and forms, being on call 24/7/365. Most of us never get a thank you from other family members - in fact, we get grief, suspicion, and indifference. My favorite line is "well, men are just not natural caregivers." Well if there was money to be had, men would jump at the chance.
Maybe the answer is for all women reading this post right now, who are raising sons, to educate them in caregiving in the same way we educate daughters. All children should be responsible for elder caregiving.
Women just take on too much. In the past, when women did not work outside the home, caregiving MAY have been easier. However, in 2010, women hold down a full time job, take care of their children (and sometimes, grandchildren), take care of aging parents, and fail miserably at taking care of ourselves.
Personally, I cannot do this much longer......
thanks Pirategirl, for posting this information.
Lilli
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TUESDAY, June 8 (HealthDay News) -- A new Canadian review finds that adult daughters suffer more than adult sons from poor relationships with ailing and aging parents who need their care.

"Adult daughters place greater emphasis on their relationships with their parents, and when those relationships go awry, it takes a worse toll on the adult daughters than the adult sons," said review author Marina Bastawrous, a graduate student at the University of Toronto.


An estimated 44 million adults in the United States provide unpaid care to another adult. A 2004 study commissioned by the AARP and other organizations estimated that caregiving is more stressful on women, who make up more than six in 10 caregivers: 40 percent said caregiving stressed them at high levels, compared to just 26 percent of men.

In the new review, Bastawrous examined 42 studies that looked at the effects of caregiving on adult children who take care of their parents. More than half of the studies looked at daughters who served as caregivers.

The studies didn't allow her to draw conclusions based on numbers, Bastawrous said, so she wasn't able to provide a statistic about how much worse things are for female caregivers.

But, she said, it's clear that "things tend to be different for females."

Overall, the studies suggest that daughters suffer more than sons when they don't get along with their ailing and elderly parents. The relationships rupture, she said, when there is less cooperation, less communication and more conflict.

"The quality of the caregiving relationship often is dependent on what the relationship was earlier in life," said Barry Jacobs, a psychologist in Springfield, Pa., and a spokesman for the American Heart Association. "If you've had a bad relationship with them and felt victimized, then suddenly you're asked to step up, that caregiving role may seem like a revictimization."

Why do women get hit harder by strained relationships? "In terms of society's norms, the responsibility to care for parents tends to fall on the women," Bastawrous said. "It almost becomes ingrained as their responsibility. When they can't meet those expectations, the toll is worse on them than on sons who aren't expected to take on that role."

Men, in contrast, may not see caring for parents as their primary concern, she said.

Jacobs said there's another factor: Men who become caregivers hold on to their jobs longer than women, who are more likely to quit to take care of their parents. "Often the sons get off scot-free, and the daughters are resentful about how little their brothers are doing," Jacobs said.

In the future, the findings can be used to guide programs that help caregivers, Bastawrous said. There could be more focus on poor parent-child relationships, she said, and how they can take a heavy toll on adult children.

"They maybe need more counseling that meets those needs," she said.

Meanwhile, the U.S. population continues to get older, meaning that more children will be taking care of their parents.

The results were released Monday at the Canadian Stroke Congress in Quebec City.
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