Before my brother passed away we both knew that we would both split responsibility in taking care of our parents. He would likely take care of my mother, because they had a close relationship, and me taking care of my dad, because of our relationship. My niece was young then and would take care of both equally the same. Sadly, it didn’t turn out that way. When he passed in 2007, I was 22 and knew I had a long road ahead of me with taking care of my parents and his daughter. I was semi mature, having graduated undergrad and on the way to graduating from grad school. But I still hadn’t worked things out in my head as to what I was going to do for the rest of my life and getting things in order. This was right at the beginning of the recession and looking for work was mostly impossible. There were menial jobs here and there but they were being scooped up by folks who had just been laid off from jobs they worked for 10+ years. I was in a rut. I thought to myself, how on earth am I going to take care of myself and attempt to show my parents that I can take care of them with really no signs the economy would get any better?
I had to be creative and use what I had. I had gotten a settlement from a car accident I had my sophomore year of college. I had a little left saved after I paid the down payment on my first car and what I used to pay for graduate school. I took some of that money and decided to take over payment for my cell phone that my mother was paying for. I paid for both our cell phones bills. Then I decided to make payments towards my car. It was over $300 at that time and I knew I had to refinance to get it at a rate I could afford. So I was working on becoming responsible in some way, helping out in anyway that I could.
I started to see some of the weight being lifted from my parents. I decided to step it up even more and clean the house when I would go home to visit. I never minded cleaning but, let’s face it, I was lazy and the idea of cleaning when my mother told me to seemed…wrong, LOL! But my niece was of age at that time and could take some of that along with me. I was slowly coming into my own and realizing how I was able to take care of my parents. I bought them two cards for every occasion, one from me and one from my brother. And when I had the money, I bought them one gift each, of equal or lesser value because I didn’t want them to fight over who got a better gift, etc., and I’d buy a gift for the house to share. I was starting to feel like the roles were reversing and I was the parent. Of course my parents would not give up total control; I would still get phone calls if I was sick and ask if I needed to be taken care of. But for the most part, I stepped up to the plate and decided my parents needed me not to whine and complain about being left alone to take care of them, but to figure out a solution that worked for everyone so that I was able to take care of them.
Now I’m 33 and I’ve been taking care of my parents for a solid 11 years now. There were some off and on times there when I would didn’t have enough money, but it’s not always about money. Sometimes, taking care of someone means talking to them, visiting them, cooking and cleaning for them. And when I had a chance to splurge I went all out. What helps me to be able to parent my parents the way that I am is because I saw first hand how they parented. They were great. I wouldn’t admit it then but I can see now that raising two crazy kids in New York and then Georgia was not easy. They made do with what they had and created an opportunity for me to provide for them the way they did for me and my brother.
It gets to be a time when the roles reverse and you are in the parental seat taking care of your parents. How are you going to manage? Do you have a plan? What are some things you’ve done to take care of your parents? Talk to me!