Older Parents – something to remember

Mum & Dad & Me

So there’s been lots of chat about ‘Older parents’ recently.  An Indian couple in their 70’s became parents for the first time.  Tessa Sanderson (60) adopted twins.  Janet Jackson is pregnant at 49.  And a good friend of mine ‘older single mum’ was asked to write an article about it for Newsweek.

Technically I was ‘geriatric’ when I fell pregnant with Curly headed boy at 36 in Peterborough and but perfectly acceptable at 40 with Little Dimples in St Albans; geography does that to you apparently.

My Mother was 43 when she had me, which was very unusual 47yrs ago; I certainly didn’t have any friends with parents that age.  She would have been the same age as the Queen this year (90), and Dad would have been a few years older.  I have 3 brothers who are 20yrs older than me (same parents).

So I can see the arguments from all angles.

Dad died when I was 21 a few days before Christmas, so I never had a ‘grown up’ relationship with him.  Mum died just after my birthday, when I was pregnant with CHB, so I never had the chance to bond with her on being a Mum; I think it might have helped me to understand her more.

Losing your parents is tough.  But we are programmed to lose them at a certain time in our lives and it is a lot tougher to lose them ‘early’.  My parents were in no way perfect, in fact they were a long way off perfect.  But I would have liked them around in any case; it’s lonely without someone.

If you are an older parent, I’d like you to think about a couple of things.  In fact if you are now an ‘elderly’ parent or a hoarder, some of them are relevant to you too!

You see I’ve realised that I’m angry with my parents.  I’ve been sad, teary and stuffing myself with carbs for a few days now.  I don’t think I realised until today what the problem was though.  So I’m having a proper foot stamping strop about it in an effort to get it out!

This is what I wish I could have told them:

  • Stop smoking – it will shorten your life, and that’s not fair
  • Don’t drink lots – not enough to do damage – it shortens your life and that’s not fair
  • Exercise – is not about sport, it’s about still being able to get around when you are 70 and without it your life is cut short and that’s not fair

You get the general stroppy gyst of it?

For myself and the other ‘older parents’ out there:

Stop moaning about ‘lack of time’ – your kids won’t think that was a good excuse when you aren’t around and there is no more time to have with you.  The same counts for ‘lack of money’ – walking and press-ups don’t cost anything.  Then ‘lack of childcare’ – find a way of including them in being healthier.  Or there is the ‘I don’t know how to put myself first’ – that’s fine, don’t do it for you, do it for your kids, it’s not for you!

You can’t stop accidents from happening or illnesses.  But you can have a jolly good attempt at looking after yourself.  As long as you tried your best, that’s all your kids can ask for.  It’s not my ‘fault’ I got Lyme disease; although I suspect having children later didn’t help and I could have taken better care of myself and had a stronger immune system that fought the Lyme buggers off.  However, it is what it is and I will try my best to be as well as I can.

Kids are not a good replacement for proper medical care either.  It’s a difficult balance and I’ve not always got it right with my kids.  I actually feel that some of the potential extra responsibility that comes with an older or less well parent, can be healthy for a child.  They will learn empathy, thinking ahead, compassion, patience, gratefulness and all sorts of ‘character building stuff’.  But my parents could have afforded help, gone to hospital for proper medical care in certain circumstances or asked my brothers for help; instead I was a ‘young carer’ from about 5.  I didn’t have to do lots of cleaning, but I did lots of the care, and at one point all the cooking.  It tipped over the edge from ‘useful life skills’ to ‘too much responsibility’.  For instance, I was left with a very ill mother and had to call an ambulance for her at 5; without it she would have bled out.  I also found my father one night after he had been mugged; without it he would have died.  I spent a whole summer after GCSE’s nursing them; Mum after breaking her pelvis and my Dad after a heart attack.

Then there’s the STUFF.  Please sort your stuff out.  When decluttering, think about your kids and make sure that you’ve only left behind the stuff that will be relevant to them.  If you leave too much they won’t even be able to access it or use it to comfort themselves.

Do you know how hard it is to throw away the crap that belonged to someone who died?  Especially if you were younger when they died; you don’t know who the hell the photo is of, but there’s some weird worry that by throwing away a photo that your parents kept, that it means you didn’t care about them.  Or you are throwing away the chance that you will eventually find someone who can answer all your questions and know who the photo is of.

There are so many questions when you parents die younger; so much you forgot to ask, so much you didn’t know to ask, so much you were too bored to remember at the time.

Select your favourite things and put them together; your photos, diaries, momentoes – the things that will remind your kids of you and give an insight into you.  That’s what they need and want.  Probably about a box full, with some other bits and pieces that go elsewhere.

Decide what to do about furniture, pictures etc.  I was too young for any furniture when my grandparents died and living in too small a cottage when my mum died.  So I only have a couple of pieces.  If you’ve lost your parents, I know their stuff might not suit your house, but consider if it could be adapted or up cycled.

So what do I think about the recent news stories?  If you are too old and your body can no longer produce children, then do what Tessa did and adopt.  Maybe you can’t be as fit as her, but try!  If you happen to fall pregnant older, then that must be what’s meant to happen, but take responsibility to look after yourself.    The 70 yr old Indian parents should be ashamed of themselves, I hope that there is a large extended family.  Janet; hmm I think that family has more trouble than just her age, but at least she’ll be able to afford care.

Being ‘older’ is not bad.  It comes with lots of advantages.  But it’s important to try to counteract the disadvantages as much as you can too.

Thanks for listening, I feel a bit better now.  Still a bit sad, but not as much as before x

10 comments

  1. Oh Lisa. What a thought provoking subject this is. Thank you for shedding some real light on the matter from the child’s perspective. Absolutely brilliant, as always. So glad you feel a bit better for it. I will take a longer term view of my health from now on, rather than the ‘getting through the day’ shorter term measures and crutches, thank you xx

    1. Aww thank you lovely – it’s come as a real surprise to me the huge influx of grief I’ve felt this week.

  2. Good rant, relevant points and you must feel a bit happier to have got big off your chest xxx hugs xxxxx

  3. And that’s a nice photo of you and your parents. I remember your mum quite well – she was always kind and smiling to me ?

  4. Thank you for the useful advice. We have all been taught to “manage” our emotions and energy rhythms with food and drink (sugar, alcohol, caffeine, the most common addictions) and most do it daily which is not healthy. Look at the movies, this is how everyone in the movies is shown to handle the stress of the day, especially in American movies. What a helpful reminder to take care of your self for your kids sake if you can’t mutter up the self love to do it for your self. That is often difficult to do because our culture has never supported self care in our whole life. People have to come to it for our self. So many people in America have to downsize due to the economy these days so many are forced to get rid of stuff to fit into a smaller place, but for those who can keep all of their stuff till the end, and many can, it’s good advice to not leave it for your kids to do. I think this post was so genuine, so thank you for putting it out.

    Just remember though that everyone has issues with their parents as no parent is perfect. When my dad died when I was 40, it took me a year to work through my feeling of abandonment, not due to his death, but due to my life with him. It is difficult to lose your parents no matter what your age, but it must be even more difficult when you are young. No matter what, in life there are pros and cons for everything. It is very good to work it through, a very healthy thing to do for everyone. Sending hugs. Expecting kids to be little adults always causes pain in the kids, always. But parents do the best they know how at the time, and make unintentional mistakes. It is best to forgive them.

    1. Thankyou lovely Janis. Yes I totally get what you are saying and the reality is that my imagined fantasy of what it would be like if my parents were alive isn’t real at all, so I can definitely see the flip side. I think it just took me by surprise – I just have been feeling this way for a long time but hadn’t realised. Feeling much better now it’s out!

  5. I’m here on the recommendation of my friend Anya, who thought this post would resonate with me, and she was right. I’m an older mum too, I was 36 and 39 when my girls were born, they’re 16 and 19 now. I definitely agree with the ‘sort your stuff out’ as when my parents passed away we had to sort through a home with 40+ years of possessions. Not easy to do from a physical point of view, and heartbreaking from an emotional one. Great post, loved it.

    1. Aww Thankyou ‘NotSupermum’! It’s not that we mind doing some of the sorting is it – in fact that’s part of the process, it’s when it’s a huge job that drains us as well as the grief that it becomes a problem. I think I just boxed my emotions away with the boxes in the loft. Feeling much better now they are out!
      Take care x

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