Got a parent who does nothing all day?
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 paper, 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 even imagine living this simple and easy-going existence. 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 on me. 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 one more day. And I will feel guilty.
There are numerous stimulating opportunities for her in our neighborhood–bridge tournaments, book clubs, city tours, lectures — activities galore. I’ve suggested them all, and even offer to go with her; but her response is always the same, “Not today, thanks.” She continues to make it clear 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 91 years old; she raised five children; she suffers physically and endures daily chronic pain; she buried a 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. Doing so made me realize 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. At the end of every show they announce a winner. I just wish that I had thought of signing her up sooner.