Midlife crisis has typically been defined as a period of emotional turmoil in middle age that generally hits around the ages of 40-60. This transitional period is characterized by a strong desire for change. There’s some question as to whether mid-life inevitably equates to a midlfe crisis but we can all agree that in your mid life you start to question what it’s all about…
This time of reflection comes at a time when the nest is emptying out, our hormones are changing, we’re struggling to maintain our careers, worries about retiring …
For some, this time does become crisis time and can lead to depression or major life changes.
But more and more baby boomers see midlife as a time for transformation. A time we start exploring the possibilities of our lives and taking time for us. Perhaps it’s our last chance to transform ourselves, have a baby (my midlife crisis), change careers, go back to school, travel around the world … We start exploring the possibilities!
Enter the Elderly Parent
Just as we start to find time for our own lives comes the realization that we can’t rely on our parents for advice and a shoulder to lean on like we use to. That in fact our roles have reversed and they are leaning on us emotionally, financially and physically to get around. Our midlife plans get put on hold.
When we first realize our elderly parent needs help, we are confronted with our own mortality. We look in the mirror and see our wrinkles, gray hair and age spots. We start to reflect back on how well we have lived our life so far. We see our elderly parents struggle day in and day out; we worry about our future. We want to make changes…
The constant phone calls, trips to the doctor, worry over if they should move, long distant treks across the country to check on them. It all starts to wear us down and we hit crisis mode. The next thing you know our elderly parent’s lives have become our midlife crisis.
Some Helpful Tips…
Do what’s right for you and that will be what’s right for them. My clients get so sick of hearing me say this but it’s the foundation of my work. As an adult child, you must care for your elderly parent in your own unique way. You may get looks from others and your love may be questioned. But this is not the time to overcommit to something you’re not capable of!
Avoid becoming enmeshed with their problems by setting healthy boundaries. It’s real easy to become so busy dealing with your elderly parent’s day to day life that it becomes hard to tell where their life ends and yours begins. If you can’t learn to set a health boundary with them, you will hit a brick wall and their life will become your midlife crisis.
Be aware of the sadness you feel around them growing old and dying. Along with this, be clear on how you feel about your own mortality and your vision for the rest of your life. These two emotional pieces can collide and become messy in a big way. If these issues are bogging you down, I would recommend counselling or spiritual support.
Don’t use your elderly parents as a scapegoat to avoid working on your own life. Are you using your eldrly parents to avoid making some tough decisions about your own life? Is it easier for you to play the martyr versus be responsible for your own happiness in life? This is an easy trap to fall in to so be keenly aware when you are avoiding your own problems.
Don’t do it alone. Whether it’s deciding to get help with your recent arthritis diagnosis or help caring for your elderly parent, this transition will require help or it will become a crisis for you and your elderly parent. The ability to reach out and get help requires awareness, acceptance and flexibility. Start practising these attributes on a daily basis.
Chances are your midlife transition will coincide with your elderly parent needing more of your time and help. It can be overwhelming and challenging but it can also provide you with the opportunity to explore your own aging process and get clear on how to envision your late life.
Your time of midlife transition doesn’t have to be put on hold completely as you care for your elderly parent. Take take the time to be clear on your own intentions and emotional transitions; don’t let your elderly parent become our midlife crisis!