You get along fine with Mom and Dad. You have your life, and they have theirs. You do what you want and so do they. Sometimes that means your parents spend their entire day doing nothing more than sitting around the house watching TV, reading the newspaper, making something to eat, taking naps, and watching more television until bedtime.
Most of us who are juggling work and life, and everything in between, can’t imagine living this simple and easy-going lifestyle. No deadlines. No job pressure. No one tugging at our sleeves.
There are days when I observe my Mom in her cozy apartment, kicking back on her over-sized comfy recliner, and say to myself, “Must be nice.”
Here’s the problem as I see it.
For days on end, I am her sole in-person social contact. The pressure is consistently on me to be with her in person. If I do not keep my self-imposed commitment to go to her apartment every evening after my workday, and watch her favorite show, “Wheel of Fortune,” the consequence is that she will have been alone and totally immersed in her passive lifestyle routine for an entire day. And I feel guilty.
There are numerous stimulating opportunities for her in our city neighborhood. She could join bridge tournaments, book clubs, city tours, lectures. There is no lack of local activities. I’ve suggested them all, and even offer to go with her. And Mom’s response is always the same, “Not today, thanks.” She continues to make it clear to me that she does not want the company of others and is happy and content doing her crossword puzzles and watching TV.
The pressure to “entertain” Mom remains. But wait. Who is having a bigger problem with Mom’s homebody rut – me or her? When I look at this situation from her perspective — she is a 91 year old widow; she raised five children; she has her share of bodily aches and pains; she cared for her husband; she endured a long-distance move – I readily admit that I am the one, not her, who is agonizing over her inactivity.
I have been living in the gap of what Mom values versus what I think is important, and realize now how judgmental and negative I had become over this situation.
Once I came to my senses, I immediately put the brakes on running in circles trying to come up with ways that Mom can be more social. I stopped seeing what she does all day as a waste of a life and stopped comparing her with other mothers who are more socially engaged and outgoing. In other words, I started loving her for who she is.
Last week, I signed Mom up online for the Wheel of Fortune $5,000 sweepstakes. We both watch eagerly as they announce the winner at the end of every show. I wish that I had thought of signing her up sooner.