As an author, and speaker on caregiving issues, one of the great things I get to do is meet other caregivers at conferences, seminars, and booksignings. I have gathered a collection of hilarious stories, and one of the best ones (and this isn’t an urban legend, I actually talked to the wife myself) is about her mother-in-law who lives with her and her husband (the mother’s son).
The son has a home-based business, so he’s in charge of watching his mom all day. He and “mom” eat breakfast, go for a walk, and then she scoots up her chair and sits beside him all day as he works on the computer and makes calls. He gives her little jobs to do, so she feels quite useful.
The problem is….when his wife gets home at night.
His mother thinks his wife is the “other woman.”
She can’t stand her, calls her names, tell her that she should just leave, and “how could she come to their home?”
She even steals from her purse, hides her keys and puts pen marks on her clothes. They have to sneak back to the bedroom at night after “mom” has gone to sleep and make sure not to be affectionate in front of her.
The wife was pretty cool about it all. She smiled and laughed and shook her head.
I asked if their dog’s name was Oedipus.
While that’s a cute story, it would be pretty stressful to live with.
Jealousy comes in many forms, and it isn’t just for the middle-schooler who wishes she were a cheerleader, or the college guy in love with the girl who won’t return his affections. Adults don’t like to admit to jealousy, but we still harbor it.
My mom was jealous of our fourteen-year old daughter.
Rather, she was jealous of the attention I paid her, the clothes we bought, my taking her to swim practice, or helping her with homework. But I think more than the things I did, it was the way I looked at my daughters with such deep love and hope for the future–something I couldn’t and wouldn’t hide or deny.
I “caught” my mom on the phone one time (early on when she could still dial and still knew what a phone was) complaining to her best friend about that “snippy teen girl I like better, and how that girl never helps out, is lazy and selfish.”
I have to admit, it hurt. My daughters were and are such a joy in my life. They infused our home with joy, color, laughter, friends, activities–all the things I so needed to be reminded of. And there was my snarly mother talking behind my back! I tried to dote on my mother as well, reminded her of her beautiful long legs, her elegant “piano hands” and her infectious smile. She would have let me go on all day.
Now, I have to admit on having more than one (to say the least) conversations with girlfriends about my mother…I understand the need to gripe, whine, and make someone the bad guy because life is bad enough and you need bulls-eye to focus all your pain, frustrations and disappointments on. Being a sandwich generation-er, I had to be careful not to complain about my mother and my kids!
But it still hurt.
I understand already what it feels like to look at the “younger” generation with a bit of melancholy and jealousy. Their bodies, their strength, their freedom, their bravado–all the things that begin to diminish over time.
But I’ve seen how ugly jealousy makes me, how ugly it is to observe in someone else–and knowing that it’s pure toxins in my system.
I’ve observed women’s cruelties to each other–how some older women are downright mean and judgemental of the younger set. How sad! We need each other so much–there’s such wisdom, humor, and insight to give each other.
I don’t want t be like that. I lived my 20s, 30s, and now, almost all of my 40s. I seized a few moments, squandered others. That’s life. But I don’t want to be bitter, always comparing, always needy.
Needy is creepy.
I hurt that my mother couldn’t enjoy our daughter’s youth–fiddle with their hair and clothing, listen to their stories of dates, proms, and job interviews with sweet remembrance. I wanted us to be “girls” together.
All I can do is make different choices for myself.
When it comes to being jealous, and of course, I feel it too–I remind myself I’m getting out of “my skin,” and into someone else’s. I can only live my life and make it meaningful and joyous–and that is a conscious decision. I have to shore up my walls and choose “not to go there.”
In dealing with jealousy of our elders, I’m not sure all of them will have the strength to monitor their thoughts and emotions–not toward the end of life, or when diseases like dementia or Alzheimer’s enters the picture. anyway. Reassure them of your love, remind them of the good life they’ve had, give them appropriate attention and deserved respect–and then let it go–get their mind off it.
Reward good behaviour in yourself and others.