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Tammy Hader Offers Her Quick Start Guide to Parent/Child Role Reversal

By Tammy Hader for the NABBW:

Tammy Hader

I knew it was out there, stalking me from the shadows of time. Parent/child role reversal is nothing new. It was easy to ignore until it became the reality of my life. Pausing my thoughts, I swivel my head left then right just in case any other ordinary inevitabilities might be sneaking up on me. Other than a slight midlife crisis, the coast is clear and I can return my focus to helping my mom cope with the problems of aging.

“Mom and I are knee-deep in the inevitable swapping-of-roles segment of life, switching places as we reminisce about favorite memories, travel together to doctor appointments, and discuss how to operate modern technology. Unconditional love includes repeated tutorials on navigating the internet and accessing voicemail messages from a cell phone. Helping her while not stepping on the toes of her independence is tricky at times.” – Excerpt from Walking Old Roads

If you know what I’m talking about, then you can nod in agreement with the rest of this article. If you aren’t quite there yet, then you may want to make note of the points I’ve figured out in the last few years.

  1. Allow Yourself to Grieve

You can’t experience the true emotional depth of losing the last thread of your childhood innocence until it happens. Knowing it’s coming isn’t enough to prepare you. Allow yourself to feel that grief. You have the right to wish it away but know this. Change doesn’t always equate to bad. Life will be different and different can hold unexpected rewards. Feel sorry for what will be lost and feel hope for what will be gained.

  1. Transitioning from Obligation to Honor

The weight of caring for a parent adds a layer of responsibility to a child’s adult life. Reminiscing about the past with my mom reminded me of how much she did for me without the need for anything in return – An important lesson to remember when the tables are turning. Memories define the time I spend helping Mom as less of an obligation to fill and more of an honor for the blessing of a life together. I suspect your memories can do the same for you.

  1. Extinguish Guilt with Acceptance

There will be guilt. When life piles too much on your shoulders, there will be frustration and anger which will lead to feelings of guilt. Try not to get sucked too deeply into the quicksand of guilt. Learn to accept that it’s normal to feel everything you are feeling. Take a moment when you need it. I use the drive from Mom’s home to mine as a way to shift gears, to switch my focus from her world to mine. Find a place or an activity that allows you to decompress and keep things in perspective.

  1. Rinse and Repeat

These steps are not a one and done solution to navigating parent/child role reversal. With each activity your parents lose, with each responsibility you gain, and with each curve ball life throws at you all at once, you’ll likely find yourself starting over with the process several times. Life in general is a moving target and this aspect of life is no different. Don’t forget that you are not alone. Reach out to those you know who have already maneuvered this well-traveled road.

Despite the challenges of parent/child role reversal, you and your parents can make good memories as you move forward together. You will find strength in carrying a changed perspective out the other side of this time of your life. Making peace with change is how we keep moving forward along the circle of life.

Tammy Hader is a retired accountant turned essay writer at BizCatalyst360, Medium, and WebMD. She is an editor for the publication Journal of Journeys, and she is a contributing author in the Daily Gift Book Series. See more of her work here: www.tammyhader.com, mtdewers@outlook.com 



Anne Holmes NABBW’s “Boomer in Chief”

As "Boomer in Chief" of the National Association of Baby Boomer Women, Anne is passionate about educating, empowering and enriching the lives of Baby Boomer Women, as we now begin to age beyond our middle years and enthusiastically launch ourselves into life’s next stage – which most people call old age. We Boomers know aging doesn’t have to diminish us. We still have a lot to offer the world, and we continue to be ready and willing to enthusiastically participate.

Actively involved with a number of Boomer-focused organizations and committees, Anne keeps a steady finger on the pulse of this still-spirited generation, with the goal of helping us all to enjoy life, stay healthy and continue to live lives that are rich in every sense of the word. Beyond that, Anne is dedicated to helping facilitate the positive interaction between Baby Boomers and the hard-working younger generations who are readying themselves to “take the world’s reins” and continue our efforts to move society in a positive direction.

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