This isn’t the kind of motherhood I was expecting
A few months ago a shift occurred in the way I think of my father-in-law.
I was ironing a pile of shirts and fretting over everything to do before my trip home when my sister called. I was on edge because I had this project to finish, that email to write, this thing to buy and that bill to pay. She listened and with big sister clarity pinpointed the one issue upsetting me most – where my father-in-law would stay while I was gone for two weeks. She said it was a natural concern, the concern of a mother. I was shocked. It was not what I expected and she was right. All my anxiety suddenly made sense. Both a relief and an immense burden at the same time, I cried.
My husband and I took in my father-in-law over a year ago when we discovered Alzheimer’s was making it impossible for him to function independently. It was a decision we made without question. Alzheimer’s or not, we all need help navigating the transition out of this human form. I was there when my father transitioned and later witnessed how my mother served in this way for my grandmother’s transition.
Serving as a caregiver for someone as they enter the transition period, however long it takes, is a responsibility I am honored to take. Before this summer though, I didn’t recognize how similar it is to being a mother. I don’t have children but I face some of the same concerns and joys as other parents. I badger my father-in-law to bathe and secretly cheer when he takes the initiative on his own. I’m equally thrilled to catch him brushing his teeth. I’m proud when he comes home from the adult day care service chattering about a new friend. I worry when he goes out alone and I wake up at night when I hear him stirring.
Knowing I am making a big difference in this person’s life is gratifying. Yet, there is also an underlying sadness. Perhaps it is a little self-centered but… this isn’t the kind of motherhood I was expecting! I love children and children love me. I welcomed the experience of motherhood but it didn’t happen. And that’s OK. I never allowed it to be a priority. Money was tight and work was all consuming. I didn’t think it would be fair to bring children into that kind of situation. Frankly, I couldn’t imagine how I would manage the responsibility of motherhood.
And yet the irony is that on most days I manage quite well. Though not the child I was expecting, I somehow find the time to be there for him and protect the dignity of my father-in-law as he becomes increasingly more dependent. He is not growing up… He is growing out of this human experience and I hold the space.
About the Author:
Hi! I'm Marci. When I'm not writing, building websites, or coaching clients, I love walking the streets of Japan and discovering spirit in all shapes and forms. Here on the blog, you'll also get a peek into what it is like to live with and care for my Japanese father-in-law who has Alzheimer’s. Enjoy!