Sunday, January 24, 2010

Getting Mom's Perspective the Hard Way

I've been experiencing sandwich generation issues once again as I ponder the adjustments my husband and I must make as empty nesters. There is a need for us to adjust to the new roles we are to play in the lives of our adult children. At the same time the struggle to strike a happy balance between the roles of caregiver and daughter is an ongoing challenge in my relationship with my mother.

These days of course, my mother is no longer able to analyze and provide for my needs as she once did because now, my mother needs me. If I am to have a successful caregiving relationship with her, I must become able to accept that the rules of our relationship have completely changed. To add to my angst, I am simultaneously experiencing a kind of prequel to my own elder years, because although my son is now an independent adult and does not need me, to my dismay I find that on an emotional level that I very much need him. I miss and long for the strength of his little boy hugs and the confidence he once had that I could make things alright. The Lord keeps using this parallel between my need of my son's affection and my mother's need for mine to teach me how to be a better caregiver, daughter, and mother.

It's VERY annoying.

Yes, I am annoyed with the Lord. I'm careful to be respectful with that emotion since He's in charge of things like lightning bolts and such, but I'm not a happy camper right now.

For example, yesterday I was upstairs when my mother called me on my cell phone (I have her phone set on speed dial so she need only press one button to call me). Lately she's been calling often and for maddeningly unimportant reasons. I was busy and let my answering service take her message, immediately dialing voice mail to be certain her need was not urgent. "I just wanted to talk to you," she said wistfully. Assured that she was physically alright, I completed my task and then forgot to go in to visit with her until much later.

Last evening this incident had been forgotten when bedtime rolled around and I felt my customary pangs of longing for our adult son, who has just recently moved out of our home and is off living and working on his own. I've found empty nest syndrome to be most poignantly painful during the evening dinner hour when we used to sit down as a family, then again and even more strongly at bedtime, when we would tuck our children in and read and pray together. I sent my son a good night text message but he didn't reply. My first thought this morning was of him, and I sent another text, but again received no answer. Late this afternoon I became concerned and tried to call him but--no reply. I was feeling very upset when the Lord touched my heart with the memory of how I had ignored my own mother's wistful longing to hear MY voice less than 24 hours earlier.

Well just great. Now not only did I feel upset because my son was ignoring me, I also felt guilty because vexingly, I could see I'd done the very same thing to my own mother.

OK, Lord, I've got it. On the one hand I'm to be more compassionate to my mother because of my recognition of the very real pain that backs the longing a mother has for her absent child. And, out of my understanding of what it is like to have one's mother call in the middle of some important activity (like swing dancing or sleeping, which turned out to be the case for my son last night and this morning respectively) I'm to cut my errant son a bit of slack. He has a new job, a new girlfriend, and a new life. My place in his heart is secure, but he's a busy young man.


I really don't like this sandwich generation stuff very much. But the Lord is with me. He is kind, compassionate, empathetic, loving, and very very good at His job. Thank You Lord, for dealing with me.

Scripture: "...God's kindness leads you toward repentance" (Romans 2:4).


  1. Our lessons often do come from painful moments, don't they? Many years I have simply prayed for no new lessons.

    I enjoy reading about your own life's journey - thank you for sharing it with us through your blog.

    God bless,

    Sharon Brothers

  2. I had to laugh at the "since He's in charge of things like lightning bolts and such." But I also had to swallow hard at the rest of it. This is a tough place you are in right now. Please forgive me for sometimes being blind to that.
    Love you.

  3. Universal truths, lessons, and experiences are never really "universal" in how they feel when happening to self! You share with such humor and truthfulness that we can all feel a little better about having our own truths, lessons and experiences to live through and well, feeling what we feel. I appreciate that you share what the Lord teaches you in the midst of these feelings!

  4. Being the caregiver for those who cared for us so long is very painful, indeed. And, each generation is faced with new challenges as one day your son will be in a caregiver role and I just wonder if he will remember that he, too, forgot to talk to his mother. Lessons learned.