Middle Age Spread
It’s the typical mid life sandwich: ageing parents on one side, growing kids on the other, you spread thin in the middle and feeling the squeeze. Here is advice from Relationships Aotearoa.
Your parents are getting older. They’re starting to need you more. You find yourself feeling sad and responsible. Your kids still absorb all the time and energy you can spare. You feel worn out.
Sometimes it seems like you’re responsible for everyone. When that happens, you can become so absorbed with juggling the needs of each generation (and managing countless other practical issues) that you don’t have a chance to take stock of how you’re feeling. You grow up expecting your parents to look after you. As they start to need more help you can lose that sense of support; you may even start to feel burdened.
You may experience strong feelings of grief as you realise that you and they and your kids are all losing something. At the same time you might feel pressured to get everything right with your own kids. If you add the need to take care of yourself and your relationship, it can seem like there’s not enough of you to go around.
But … you do have a choice about how to approach this. You can focus on your worries about time, money and practical issues; you can focus on feeling tired and sad; or you can pay attention to building the relationships in your family.
What would it be like if your parents and your children became one another’s allies and companions, instead of competitors for your attention? If you can put effort into making this happen, you may find that other pressures ease. When grandparents and grandchildren are awkward together, sometimes it’s because they are struggling to findcommon ground. The kids feel ike they have to be on their best behaviour, and grandparents don’t know enough about their grandchildren’s interests to draw them out.
You might try to get them curious about the ways they are different. The rapid pace of change makes many grandparents’ childhood stories as different and unusual to kids as a fantasy. Most kids love a good story, and grandparents have a lifetime of stories to tell. It’s possible teenagers might be interested in family history too. If they’re busy working out who they are, stories about where they’ve come from might help.
Your family doesn’t stop growing and developing because a generation is ageing and passing on responsibility. The relationships we build with each other are at the heart of our families. Often, when these relationships thrive, our sadness, tiredness, and even some of the practical problems we face become easier to live with.