Today something happened which, in itself, does not speak volumes but it opened up a whole door of sadness and guilt to me. I was over at my mum and dad’s for lunch (hubster working a weekend shift) and I know that mum had a hard time with both the kids on her own earlier in the week, injuring herself falling in the garden twice. The hot weather and the fact that JJ was there when normally he is at pre-school pushed things to the brink of manageability. I immediately searched for an alternative to try and take the pressure off and booked JJ in for a session with our childminder every wednesday morning for the rest of the school holidays.
Since EJ has started crawling and entered what I generally refer to as “the danger phase” (the bit where you need eyes in the back of your head just to ensure he hasn’t swallowed 12 pebbles/stuck his finger in a socket/abseiled off the upstairs landing) things have become a little more fraught over at my Mum and Dad’s house. One thing that never really caused an issue when JJ was in “the phase” (or for that matter my two nieces at the same age a decade ago) was him having any interest in their lovely, retro standing lamp, complete with large round glass shade. This lamp is something I remember as always being in our house as I was growing up. Its part of the general scenery of our lives. Unfortunately EJ took a bit of an interest in it a couple of weeks ago and so Mum decided it best to remove the temptation and put it out of harms way in the laundry room. Today I took some laundry over as I feel like I am in a neverending cycle of drawn out washing and drying and this was one way of getting a bit more done. At lunchtime my mum went to turn the washing machine off and in a moment of distraction bumped into the lamp sending it flying towards the kitchen only for the shade to shatter into a million little pieces.
Firstly, I knew that Mum was going to be devastated and emotional about this because she loved the lamp and when you have something iconic living with you in your house for thirty or so years its practically part of the family. Secondly I felt responsible on several levels: the lamp was in the laundry room because of my mischevous baby; my mum was in the laundry room because of my washing; Mum was probably feeling less herself this week because of her experiences looking after my two, very demanding small children earlier in the week and this may have contributed in some way to the accident. Either way my instant reaction was to assume that I should leave with my children and never darken their door again. Of course that would have been a bit melodramatic and needless to say that didn’t happen but I am definitely left feeling particularly sad and uncomfortable as if me and my children are now becoming responsible for causing my Mum both physical and emotional pain which is something I would never want to do as she has been so loving and supportive and given way above and beyond the call of duty when it comes to being there for us.
I wonder if anyone else feels this pressure that we put on our parents? Its been well documented that our recession-laden generation expects more and more from our children’s grandparents and the cost of childcare in the UK is apparently the highest in Europe. As I am an older mum myself, naturally my parents are older than the average grandparents to tiny tots and this also has an impact. Have I made all the wrong choices? Have I expected too much? Have I shortened my Mum’s life expectency by asking her to perform these duties and taken away some of the joy of her much-deserved and well-earned retirement years?
Guilt doesn’t really cover it…