I have been caring for others in my life for nearly 50 years. How does that work when one is only 57 years old. Well, for one thing you give or in this case you take a few years but just a few. The simple truth of the matter is that my 10th year of life was a game changer in every way. But one of the biggest ways it changed things is that this is roughly the year that dad had his first heart attack, and my mother was ran over by a car and permanately disabled by it. The consquences of these two happenings made it so that I became the chief cook and bottle washer in the home for a good while. And while thinking about it today, I realized, I really never gave the title up, and still haven’t yet. So what are the consquences of that?? Anger, Frustration, deep down exhuastion, and the need for a very long vacation– the urge to run away from my reality–and never come back. And yet the truth is from the age of 18 on, most of my ‘caring’ for others was of my own choosing and therefore a mess I made for myself.
My dad had two heart attacks from the time I was roughly 10 to 15 years old. During this same time period, one night before a bright Christmas Day (yes, Newark California has bright Christmas days) while my mother and her best friend were out shopping for christmas presents and standing in a Radio Shack store in Newark, a older woman racing for a parking spot accidently pushed down on the gas rather than the brake. The car under the guidance of the floored fuel control, the older (all metal and heavy) Oldsmobile pushed over the curb and into the Radio Shack store. The automobile plowed through the store somewhere around 30 feet, taking display cases and my mother and her best friend with them. The only thing that stopped the car was a concrete support pillar.
My mother was laid up for months if not years. The truth is, she’s been laid up for the rest of her life. I do not know what she is or is not capable of at this point. But, I know she’ll be in pain the rest of her life. What I know was that the night we brought her home from the hospital (dad and we two girls) dad cooked that night, and then I cooked for quite some time. And while I wasn’t allowed to ‘rule the roost’ with my younger sister, a LOT of household chores fell on me. And what did not fall on me, I was never taught to do. I left home not knowing how to operate a clothes washer or dryer for example. I had no clue how often the sheets were changed (if ever). Did mom ever scrub the tub?? I have NO clue. I learned in my 20’s that a stove comes apart for cleaning. But, I did cook, I did vaccum, I did to a degree watch over my sister, I did become the head back massager for my father, I was the chief dish washer….get the message?
Previous to this my father had already had his first heart attack and had one of America’s earliest triple by pass surgeries (His surgeon? Look up Shumway). I could not really take up his jobs for him, thank god. I never was interested in concrete work. But, us girls were recruited to help in his new foundation stake business. Dad simply could not do all the work (this is based on my own experience with heart disease). If his experience was anything like mine and I’m positive it was, then there was NO way with 1/3 of his heart dead load the dunnage onto his pick up and then unload it into the yard at home. Nope, two girls aged, TEN and SEVEN did that, plus they pulled all the nails and screws out of the boards to boot. And then we restacked the lumber nicely and neatly. Dad ran the wood through his table saw and banded the stakes together into nice little bundles. He then loaded the little bundles into the pick up and drove them over to the local lumber yard (who supplied the dunnage). That was really hard physical work for little girls, and I can tell you, there’s never been a day since that I did not have a backache. I’m pretty sure that permanant damage was done to my spine. This worked continued for us until Dad left ‘us’ when I was around 15 years old.
All this and I pulled pretty damn good grades at school too!!!
Combine school, housework, and the stake business and one wonders if I had a childhood. Well, I did. Not much of one really. But, there were some fun times. Fishing trips, roller skating beside the house, baseball games (Go A’s), a pony named Pickles, Barbie dolls, and Monopoly and that’s just a start. It was not all work, but it was enough work that at one point, I was ready to go on strike. It was partly because the work was hard, and partly because all that wood and nails were messing with my fingernails and I for one, was ready to be a real girl!!! I can tell you now, without embarassment, that I did not get much sympathy.
I met my first husband when I was almost 16, so yes, technically, I was still 15. I made a promise to him within months that I would marry him. And because a promise was a scared thing, I kept it. Even after he’d gone back home to Ohio and we’d spent nearly two years apart, and when my plane touched down at the Cincinnati airport, and I got off the plane looking for the young man, I came to a stunning revelation. I no longer recognized him. I was unable to pick him out of a crowd. He picked me out of the crowd.
I was in essence running away from home. When my mother found out she protested LOUDLY. Which made me want to leave all the more. Had she protested in a move loving way, there is a good chance I’d never left, but that is neither here nor there at this point. The fact is that I left, and once I got there, I didn’t recognize the boy that I promised to marry. And I did, marry him that is.
I spent 15 legal years with that boy/man. Nearly enough months to make 16 years. Kind of like my age when I met him. And I will tell you, he was so frickin lazy when it came up to getting out of bed in the mornings and getting ready for work, and I was so worried about him getting to work on time, that I literally put his socks on for him while he laid there in bed. And I started his pants for him. He need only stand up and pull up (onesies?) The young man either could not or refused to cook or clean. Of course, I was used to doing the work, so I just kept up what I knew and never expected much out of him. And he never gave much either. His work ethic was atrious. While I worked nearly 60 hours per week, and then came home and cooked and cleaned, and gave him (what for me was hurtful and sickening) sex. He worked his 20 to 40 hour week, came home and went back out and played Dragons and Dungeons, and smoked weed, fucked the neighbor girls, and got into trouble in general.
This went on in general until we were aged 23 (him) and 22 (me) when after I’d had my first child. I wanted the drug scenes to stop. I wanted to not be lonely at night while he was out partying with his friends. I wanted him to get a steady job (he’d lost the job he had in Cincinnati, I don’t remember why). I wanted him to have a GED so that his daughter would be proud of him. If he could not conform to those ‘demands’, I was ready to put feet to pavement and leave. Since I did not have a drivers license that’s exactly what I had to do. Nevermind that we lived out in the middle of nowhere in Clermont County, Ohio. It was during this time that he admitted he did not want me to have a drivers license because he was afraid I’d leave. It was during this time I lost my temper for the first time. One of his friends came by and wanted my ex to get drunk with him. I said NO because I had bought and paid for the home, and I was the one who would be cleaning up the puke. The ‘friend’ had the nerve to say, “…IF she were my wife, she’d be out the door.” To which I answered, “I’m not your wife, and you are out the door.” He came back another day looking for us to charge a bunch of stuff. It was credit cards after all. It didn’t take any money. The kid had no concept of paying the bills. And my husband was so grown up, he really had no issues with the kid. I was the trouble maker in the situation.
I stood up for myself in someways. But, I utterly failed to stand up for myself in others. I’d heard my father say that my mother’s car wreck (the one mentioned above) made it so that she could not ‘perform her wifely duties.’ I did not know yet, what wifely duties were. But, knew that I was told not to repeat the words, and I knew that my dad waited until he was alone with my uncle (except me) to tell the ‘secret’ and I KNOW now, that the empathsis clearly made ‘wifely duties’ a big deal in a marriage. Therefore, even had I known that I had a right to say NO to my husband, when it came to sex of any kind, I did not. Not when it was abusive, not when it was extremely painful (I found out later) because he’d brought home an STD to me, not once but twice. I did not say no or stop even if it was painful from the fact that a foreign object (as in a glass coke bottle, and other things) was stuck up there for HIS pleasure.
My childhood, and the way I was taught to work and submit (when I fought it, i.e. go on strike) taught me to grin and bear it all —- and I did not leave it until I was 32 years old, nearly 33.
After I left him, the name of the game became survival. I was now a single mother. I could not even pay the rent with the money I made at first. I literally signed my paychecks over to the daycare sitter which meant I could not pay my rent. In order to find a remedy, I ended up going on public assistance (which believe me, I hated), and went to college for three years. After recieving a certificate and an AS, I began my own business, and worked up to three part time jobs at a time. With the help from the state in the form of health insurance and food stamps, I barely made the rent in Sonoma County, California. I spent 8 years during this time with a ‘boyfriend’ –an abusive one. The relationship was mostly off. But, it took me nearly the whole time to actually get him out of my door after he moved in without my permission. And during this time, I finished school, and began my business, and worked my ass off, while he continued school. And after HIS baby arrived, he had me know that I was to stay home and care for the baby (girl) while he continued in school because that was HIS JOB and he’d bring in the money. Ho ho ho, ha ha ha. That went over with a HUGE thud. I was slowly finding my voice and my power. Eventually, after many a fight, and after finally reaching the point of hate and resentment, I tricked him out of my home and never looked back. (He was asked to leave many, many times, and he flat out refused). There was NO passive agressiveness from me when I was asking/telling him to get out and then actually locking him out, etc. etc. etc.
After getting rid of him, it was a short time later, that I met my current husband. I told him to not get attached because he’d be a rebound, and I was not in business to hurt people. But, we both got attached. I have KNOWN since day ONE, that my current husband has inherited heart issues. He has worked as hard as I have and probably more so, because he has let me not work or work as I please. Any money I make is basically my spending money. But, when it comes to working in the home and caring for others — nothing has changed. I am at age 57 still chief cook and bottle washer.
And I say this -as my 28 year old son and 20 year old daughter sit here waiting for me to finish making pasta salad like a couple of vultures, neither of them lifting a hand to help, and that is with them knowing at this point, that I have heart health issues too.
I mean how many times should a kid have to hear that their mother’s heart is still weak and she can’t do everything she did before—before you offer to actually help around the house??? Rarely do these two adult CHILDREN do their own laundry, let alone a dish. Flat out forget about anything else.
My husband has a significant portion of his heart dead now. My 20 year old came to me the other day and asked if he were a ticking time bomb. My answer was, “he’s always been a ticking time bomb.” And yet, she still does not offer to help with yard work or anything else actually. Both kids still at home, do as they please, when they please.
I do the cooking (the full meals) and I clean my house. I clean the toilet. I wash the sinks. I do 99% of the laundry. I mow the grass. I sweep. I vacuum. I wash the walls.
I feed and bathe the dogs (except the hubby’s of course). I trim the bushes. I pick up the garbage. I take the garbage out. I pick up the dog shit until I get tired of it and tell her (owner of one of the now three dogs to help) Do you get the picture….. ??
So, where does that leave me? Well, for one angry. I am angry that I set such a good work eithic example for my kids and this is what I get back in return. I feel used at this point. Even though they say ‘thank you’ for the pasta salad. Of course, it did not help that my youngest pointed out that I said, I’d make pasta salad today. I did not need reminded, and because of the circumstances I highly resented being reminded.
I have kids who don’t think twice about lying and then have the gaul to call me a liar. But, looking at the whole picture, what they all have turned out to be are people who live in their own realities—one’s that do not jive in the least with real life.
Where does a 20 year old get off, thinking that she can move out at 18 years old (because she did NOT want to clean up her space and I was forcing it, because it was MY house) and then move back in at 20 and expect to be fed, watered, cared for, and 100% supported. The girl had a job making more money than I ever have (except a few computer jobs where I had clients wealthy enough to actually pay what I was worth). When asked when she was going to get a job, she informed us she was going to take a much needed break first. The truth is, it looks like, she has no intention of looking for a job. So, yes, my husband and I both feel very, very used.
It looks like that as much trouble as my son has gotten into that he perhaps is the healthiest of them all (emotionally). At least he’s saying thank you, and he’s beginning to do his own wash, and is trying to learn what is right. What I get from the youngest is total disregard. What I get from the oldest is total silence — and no gratitude for anything, even the mistakes I made trying to do the right things.
So, it leaves me angered, resentful, feeling used. But, most of all, it’s been a growing realization that this has been a theme my whole adult life: I am tired. At first I thought I was tired because I was so badly abused by first husband. I’m sure that played into it. But, what the real cause probably was the lack of voice that lived with, and the fact that I was caring for three people day in and day out, and that would be one adult besides myself, and two children.
Even when I was sick, legitimately sick, he called me a hyperchondriac. I recieved NO help whatsoever from the man. Even back then, I was doing the dishes, mowing the grass, carrying the water from the cistern to the kitchen or bathroom in 5 gallon buckets (summer or winter in Clermont County, Ohio). And no, I was not Wonder Woman and it wasn’t a ‘wonder I was a woman’ as my ex used to put it. I was trained by life to do what was needed to be done to get through life, and for the longest part of my life, I knew no different, and because of ignorance had no recourse that I could see.
When you have young people in a house hold that refuse to so much as try to help. And my 20 year old has a sunburn right now, so she is 100% incapable of doing anything. After all it hurts down to the bone. I’ve had sunburns just as bad and worked right through them without complaint mind you. Where is the effort? Recently she was telling me how her boyfriends mother just cuts the bugs out of the apples she processes and uses them in her homemade foods anyhow. So, I ask doesn’t it hurt her? I have arthritis and have for a few years now. I have quit processing buggy anything. If I can’t simply peel it or better yet cook it with a peel it won’t be done. My youngest informs me that the mother of the boyfriend must ignore her pain and work right through it. You talk about one angry mother. Especially in light of her failure to ignore her sunburn pain and work right through it. I have raised some whimps that is for certain. And I did it with the frame of mind that I was doing all the right things for all the right reasons.
Keep in mind that I purposely spread my children out 7-8 years. At one time, I read David Elkind’s book, “Miseducation”. I thought it would be a good idea to give each child it’s own time with their parent. Each in a dream world would get one on one attention, etc. etc. I have four kids, but one is adopted. That is three spread out by those years. My eldest is around 34/35 yrs. old. My youngest still at the Junior college level and 20 years old is still at home (or rather back at home) and being supported. That has stretched motherhood out for a full 34/35 years. To raise three girls and a boy, two girls that have emotional issues, and a boy who is bi polar and autistic (and has emotional issues) has left me utterly exahusted. I am ready for a break, and actually for my own mental and physical health, I NEED a long break if not full fledged retirement.
And at nearly 60 years of age, I am angry, resentful, hurt, and feeling used. I have four children who take all the help for granted. Feel like they owe no one anything. And see me as if I am the one who is insane. They even lie about myself and my husband about their circumstances to make themselves look better when they know the truth will make them look pretty bad–er lazy, helpless, whatever. ( You blew your head gasket, no one else did— you refused to help with utilities even after blowing money on electronics, that is why he asked you to leave, which puts the blame squarely on YOU.”You’ll get it when I get it” are the exact words that got you asked to leave, after watching you charge that bunch of electronics)
I signed my youngest up for public housing the other day. She got the thank you email. After verifying that I did it, she asked me if I was trying to get rid of her already. My answer, was, “not exactly”. It’s not getting rid of YOU. It’s putting you in your own space and forcing you to become responsible away from myself thereby giving me the rest and relaxation I not only deserve….but NEED.
But, its also getting rid of a person who won’t pull their own weight. Two grown ups willing to pick up after themselves on a constant basis have NO issues keeping a home clean and picked up almost 100% of the time. Two adults and two children where two adults pick up after themselves and the grown children expect to be picked up after even though the two adults have failing health makes a house become more and more full of mess and chaos, which leads to a house full of emotional mess and chaos. And that makes me pretty angry. And feeling pretty used.
So, what happens when you care for people too much, for too long, all your life??
They become spoiled brats. And I become angry, resentful, feeling used….which
is going to end up making me the thing I swore I’d never be as an older person:
Feeling very disrespected and unloved. And the truth is, that is exactly what I am, disrespected and unloved by my own children. No wonder why I’d like to run away and never come back (and probably will, as soon as I can–when I no longer have prevailing responsiblities, and I do have more disposable income).
I am 100% positive after my kids read this one, they’ll hate me all the more. But, the truth is I really have reached the point where my own sanity means more to me than they do. Unfortunately, that is just what it boils down to.