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My Parent’s Keeper: Reversing Roles as Their Adult Child

 My parents both suffer from a number of health ailments. 

My mother struggles with her balance, walks with the assistance of a cane, and cannot drive. She depends on my dad for a lot more than she used to. 

And then there’s Dad, battling an auto-immune disease for which he takes bi-weekly chemo treatments. With his immune system suppressed, a simple cold can knock him off his feet. And the prolonged use of the treatments themselves has caused a number of other health issues including kidney stones and crystals in his lungs.

So when my dad is down, so is Mom.

Since she relies on Dad to do her driving and essential shopping, if he’s sick that’s not getting done. What’s worse, even if Dad is sick, he pushes himself to get stuff done, the type of stuff Mom can’t do because of her health issues.

It’s an unrelenting cycle they’ve been living for the past few years. This year hasn’t been any easier. Cause, well you know, 2020. 

When Covid started running rampant in the country, they both decided to batten down the hatches. They self-quarantined in order to keep each other healthy and keep all germs out. I stepped up and did what I could. I did a lot of running for them in the beginning. I didn’t do it all. Living a half-hour away made it more difficult than I’d like to admit, but I did what I could.

And just when normal started to redefine itself for us all, the derecho hit.

My parent’s house was struck with tens of thousands of dollars in damage. I sprang into action, cleaning up messes, helping to tarp the roof, and eventually moving them into temporary housing until the repairs on their house is complete.

The moral of my story is as an adult I have felt a strange sort of shift when it comes to the relationship I have with my adult parents. And with that has come the good and the bad.

My Parent’s Keeper: Reversing Roles as Their Adult Child

The good is undoubtedly the peace of mind I get from helping out. Knowing my mother isn’t overexerting herself to get tasks down that she physically (can’t) shouldn’t be doing. It means my dad won’t be making unnecessary trips to the store for groceries.

As the adult child, if I didn’t help my parents when they needed it, I wouldn’t be able to sleep. I’d be worrying about them, rather than the shoe being on the other foot. So, giving my parents my time and my energy is just as much for me as it is them.

But this is where the downfall comes in.

I put a lot of pressure on myself to be available. To make time and to make trips to their house. I hear about my mom going without certain items because my dad was in bed sick and unable to go to the store. I put that on me for not checking in and being there.

I also put my parents in a slightly uncomfortable position of depending on their own daughter for things they used to be able to manage just fine on their own. There’s an annoying combination of pride and stubbornness that makes it rather difficult for them to even pick up the phone let alone ask.

Realizing these two downsides has helped us, though.

Because we talk about it. I remind my parents of how willing and available I am to help out with anything. Anything. I also speak up about how concerned I get for them.

This transition was bound to happen for us. And with openness and communication, the three of us will find common ground and understanding to help us through.

To read more on role-reversal with your parents, go here.

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