Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Grown Up Millennials and Their Parents

There's one topic I've seen come up a lot this week: how grown up Millennials are going to deal with their aging parents. Many of us are already in our mid-late 20s into early 30s and we're starting to either see parents in a new light or (if you have an older parent) you're starting to see them slowing down due to age. I fall into the latter category.

My parents were not "young" when I was born. I got to see my dad reach his 66th birthday before passing away after a 7 year battle with cancer. My mom is just starting to slow down. Her memory is not the best, which is why I go everywhere with her and why I've had to rearrange work and school schedule so that I'm able to drive her to work at 5 a.m. and pick her up when she gets off of work. She's very active but she's exhausted at the end of the day... and even goes to bed much earlier.

The topic of what I'll do when I get married has been brought up a couple of times lately with questions such as: will I take my mother with me? Will she be nearby so I can keep an eye on her? Why is it even my responsibility? Why doesn't someone else take care of her? While attempting to answer these questions myself (I do have an idea of what I would like to happen when the day that I get married arrives), there was an even bigger issue we all noticed: it's unfortunately becoming clear that many Millennials just don't want to "deal" with their aging parents.

Let's face it: we live in a world where our independence and our "me, me, me" mentality is the norm. Millennials have the sad stereotype of being lazy, selfish brats who rely too much on our parents... and (don't hate me for saying this), it's pretty spot on for a number of us. I include myself in this because I do still live at home (though this was decided at an earlier age because it's a cultural Hispanic normal I grew up with; unmarried women live with the parents until they marry) and, yes, I do contribute to the running of this household but it's nowhere near how much my mom does.

We (those who I've talked to about this issues and I; all Millennials between the ages of about 23 through 31) have all remarked how rare it is to see children wanting to take care of their parents. It's not really done. It's not "cool" and it's certainly not easy, so, of course, let's get rid of the problem. Sigh.

Just as it's weird for many Millennials to hear that I chose to take care of my parents (my dad while he had cancer, my mother as she's aging), it's weird for me that some just don't want to do it. My parents brought me up with old fashioned Hispanic values. I don't call elders by their first name; it's always "Mr.", "Mrs./Ms.", "Sir", or "Ma'am." I use the formal "usted" instead of "tu" when speaking Spanish because that's how we show respect. A coworker of my mom's made a joke about how he has to show me because I'm his elder (and I'm only 6 months older than he is.) It's just how we were raised. In the family, someone (son or daughter) takes the parents in as they're aging, whether they have a family of their own or not. Even if both parents are alive, they still live with someone. It's just how it's done (or was done; I'm not up-to-date with current Hispanic culture.) When my dad had cancer, I had no problem taking on that role. I had just turned 17 when my dad was first diagnosed with cancer and I was 24 when he passed away. With my mom, I still have no problem with the idea of helping take care of her as she ages. Like I said, this is not even an issue for me but it honestly bothers me that some people are willing to, basically, dump their parents because it doesn't fit in with their lifestyle.

If you think I'm being harsh with my assessment, I'd invite you to go visit a convalescent hospital to do volunteer work. I guarantee that you will meet patients whose family have abandoned them. My mom has worked at a convalescent hospital since before I was born so I've grown up around that environment. I've seen patients whose sons and daughters have left their parents at the hospitals and then do not return to see them until they get the call that their parents have passed away. I have had so many adopted "aunts," "uncles," and "grandparents" in my lifetime because of this.

While I know that not everyone has the means or time to personally take care of their parents themselves, it doesn't mean that they should be abandoned just like that. I'm honestly worried that that is what we're going to see with my generation: many people dropping their parents off at convalescent hospitals, senior living apartments, etc and basically forgetting about them. If you need (or will need) help taking care of your parents as they age, there's nothing wrong with that. Seeing that they get the best care they can get (with help from others who are trained to do it) is still noble; just don't abandon them because you think they're "just fine" with the help they get. Trust me, you still need to make sure they're getting the best care possible, even if it's at a nursing home; not all nurses or places are the best fit for the patients. From my experience, I know some nurses have no business being nurses. I still think of that awful nurse who made my father cry in the final weeks of his life, telling him he was there because he was an undocumented illegal who caused pity -- said this to my father who was a naturalized U.S. citizen.

If you still think you don't have a duty to your parents when you grow up, remember the fourth commandment: honor thy father and mother. I know this opens up a whole can of worms when brought up because I do know some who don't have a close relationship with their parents due to family friction that is irreparable. Some people have chosen to separate themselves from a parent (or both parents) because it's not a healthy relationship for them... but that doesn't mean we can't still, in a way, attempt to take care of our parents. You don't get along with your parents? You live too far away? Pray that God will put the right people in their path so that they can be taken care of. My mother, who didn't really know her birth mother, added her to the All Souls Day list. You don't have to like someone to wish the best for them. I know some parents are horrible to their children growing up but they can still try to forgive (which is not easy, I know) and pray for them. Want to work on reaching Heaven? Pray for your parents even if you aren't their biggest fans.

Anyway, these were my thoughts on the subject since it's come up a lot (like, a surprising amount of times) this and last week. Millennials, I dare you to defy the expectation that our generation (being so stereotypically selfish) won't give a hoot about what happens to our parents as they age. I dare you to pray for your parents, even if you don't get along with them. While my mom and I are pretty close, we don't always get along. I've prayed for her when I've been upset with her over typical mother-daughter breakdowns. Differing temperaments (she's very much an extroverted open book and I'm very much an introvert who is a lot more reserved) make it hard for us to communicate at times but, when it comes down to it, I'm always going to be there for her and make sure that she gets what is necessary as her needs change with age, no matter what. Just some thoughts for y'all since, let's be real, we're going to start seeing our parents aging soon.

Alright, I need to go do some beta reader email reading. ;)

As always, thanks for reading and God bless! :D

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