Tomi writes regularly at Think, Write, Inspire – consider stopping by to see what she’s been up to.
First, I would like to share some background information with you that is a little humorous and perhaps something you can relate to.
My young daughter and I had just settled into the student housing at the university I was attending for graduate school, and there was a knock on the door. When I answered it, a young woman handed me a loaf of bread and said she was welcoming me and my daughter on behalf of the nontraditional students’ organization on campus. I thanked her, but I was also a little taken back and confused. I didn’t think I was a nontraditional student.
Okay, let’s think through this, I was almost 28 years old, divorced, and had a child. The more I thought about it, I realized I was a nontrad. I had just never thought about it before.
Approximately 20 years later I questioned whether I should join a Facebook group for midlife women. Once again, my first though was denial. I don’t see myself as being in the middle of my life. I thought about this briefly, and I realized I am middle age. Who knew?! Well, probably everyone but me.
So, here I am in the middle of my life, and I am happier than ever. I remember very well how I didn’t want to turn 40. In fact, I asked my husband if we could leave our children with my parents so we could go on a trip and be far away from my everyday life and anyone who might acknowledge the new decade I was entering. When I was at a pool party the next summer celebrating my close friend’s 40th , her mom exclaimed, “Oh, I loved my forties; they are the best!” This gave me hope.
Well, my friend’s mom was completely accurate in her claim. My 40s are wonderful, truly wonderful. I’m probably more comfortable in my own skin and truer to myself and what I want than ever. I’m calmer, more decisive, wiser, and more settled than I have ever been. I am also incredibly thankful – more so than at any other time in my life. Now that I have experienced so much of life, I realize that things can change in such a short time. I try to take nothing for granted. I am very aware of all the good in my life and I seek it out. I am also aware of fears that I have: will the good last, how long before I lose another loved one, can and will my health stay good?
The other day I became aware of something that I really hadn’t thought of before. I realized I haven’t had the role of caregiver except for my children. The same has been true for my mom and her mom. My hope and intention is for it to be the same way for my children. Let me explain.
My grandma lost her mom when she was younger and she helped her dad in raising her four siblings. My grandma had a very close and good relationship with her father. When he got older, one of her brothers moved in with him and my grandma was never a caregiver for him. I never heard if he needed one or not. My mom just said she knew her uncle had moved him with him. My grandma was, however, a caregiver for her own family that included five children.
My mom lost her dad when she was a young mom and wife. She had a very close relationship with both of her parents. She always felt like she was the apple of her dad’s eye (and probably her mom’s, too). When her mom got older, she lived on her own until she felt it was time to be in a retirement community. My mom and grandmother lived about three hours away from each other. They maintained their close relationship with my grandma coming up for different holidays; and my mom, and often me along with her, going to see her. She passed away while living in the retirement home.
Now I am in the middle of my own life. A couple of years ago I lost my dad, which still breaks my heart. I have friends who have lost parents and other friends who worry about their parents’ declining health. Just like my mom with her mom, we live three hours away from each other and see each other when we can and talk often.
My mom will be 70 this summer. If you were to ask her, I am sure she would say she feels much younger than her actual age. Even though both my sister and I have offered for her to live with us down the road, she has no plans to do that. She loves that we want her and that we have extended the offer, but she plans to be as independent as she can. It’s what she knows.
I also have no plans to have my children take care of me when I get older. My husband is the opposite. For years he has been joking about which kid (we have four) will put him in the best nursing home. I am always quick to reply that I don’t plan to be in a nursing home.
I know I can’t predict the future for my mom or for myself. I may become a caregiver for my mom as the years go by. My kids might become caregivers for me. My oldest child is almost 25 and my youngest is 12. I have spent almost 25 years being the best mom I can be and giving my children the best care I can. I never think about them taking care of me. I do think about being a grandma and how wonderful that will be someday.
I feel really fortunate to come from a long line of loving people. I have had role models of moral, independent, and caring individuals. I know that each one of us would be there for the other, but each of us strives to not be a burden to another.
No one can predict the future. The key to happiness is living in the moment. I do realize I am in the middle of my life; and I also recognize that for what it is: a time of change, reflection, growth, peace, challenges, and joy. I am thankful.