When you live in a multigenerational household you have to juggle a lot of emotional “china plates.” Caregiving can bring out the best–or worst in family members. Sometimes it gets too much and one of your plates comes crashing to the ground. As the Alpha dog, (Mom or Dad) you’re the barometer for the family. You have to know who’s depressed, who’s angry, who’s hurt, who’s scared, and who’s mad at whom. It’s chaotic and crazy but that’s your life.
In the last years of my mother’s life when she lived with my familyand me I found that much to my surprise she was the trouble-maker. She was jealous of my children and the bond we had. She was jealous of my husband and the fact that I’d rather sleep with him than with her. She was even jealous of the cat–and took great joy and giving my chubby buddy a slight kick when she thought I wasn’t looking. I’d like to blame the Alzheimer’s but honestly, that was her personality!
I felt like I was in the WW wrestling ring trying to keep two tag-team duos from duking it out most days. It was exhausting. Everyone needed me–and there clearly wasn’t enough of me to go around.
It’s your job to keep everyone on a relative even keel. Not that that’s easy. Hormones, teen years, Alzheimer’s, marriage issues, sibling issues–everybody’s got issues. I used to have a crossstich saying in my kitchen, “Blessed are those who are easy to get along with!” If that’s not Biblical I don’t know what is. ‘
Pick your battles–sometimes it’s worth it to “raise the roof.” As much as you dont’ want to yell or demand attention, sometimes you have to. Some things are worth fighting for. If someone isn’t be safe, then it’s time for Mama (or Dad) to step in, speak up, and lay down the law.
Know when to let it go. Not everything needs to be turned into a battle. Life as a multi-gen family is crazy, chaotic, and from the outside it can look like pure bedlam. Who cares what “they” think! This is about survival–and caregivers know how to live on the front lines. You do what you can, you let the rest go. End of story.
Caregiving isn’t always pretty, but multigeneration families know it’s needed.
Hope you’ll check out my book, Mothering Mother–it’s my day-to-day account of living a multi-gen life. I bet you’ll recognize elements of your family on the page.