Seff: Expecting thanks may disappoint you

By Marsha Kay Seff

The other day when my friend visited her 88-year-old mother in her retirement home and told her — again — that she couldn’t live on chocolate alone, her mom gave her “the finger.”

Marsha Kay Seff

Not funny after all Jane had done for her mom, including inviting her into her home for two years, then finding her a succession of appropriate retirement facilities as needed. But I did laugh when I heard the story.

Much of caregiving is frustrating and unrewarding. Often, it’s just plain tough. And we’re certainly not always appreciated for our efforts.

None of us adult children had the luxury of sitting down and deciding whether we wanted the job. It just landed on our plates.

But take on the job we did — some more graciously than others. And I suspect that many envy siblings who choose not to pitch in.

Family caregivers do this often thankless job for an assortment of reasons. We believe we owe it to our parents. We feel responsible for them, because someone needs to be. We’d feel guilty if we didn’t step in. Many see the job as an honor.

If we’re lucky, we love our parents and really want to help. And if we’re very lucky, we find some pleasure, satisfaction and joy in the job.

When I first started caring for my parents, my mom and I argued a lot. Eventually, I realized that as long as I was doing the job, it didn’t make sense for both of us to be miserable. This ah-hah moment made things easier for both of us most of the time.

Sure, Mom resented the fact that she’d lost much of her independence and was increasingly dependent on me for her health and welfare. But because of the inevitability, we tried to see the positives.

I made sure we had fun when we were together. When I had to make a decision she didn’t like, we both tried to laugh about it:

“I’m still the mother,” she used to say.

“Yes, but I get the big bucks for making the big decisions,” I answered. “Besides, I’m always right.”

If you’re as fortunate as I was, you’re able to enjoy parts of this roller coaster journey. You might get to know your parents better. You might even garner some insight into why you ended up the way you have. In the end, you’ll probably be satisfied that you did your best.

Like me, your parents might tell you how much you’re loved and appreciated. You might never get “the finger.”

Sponsored by Right at Home In-Home Care & Assistance,, 619-200-2110, Contact Marsha Kay Seff at

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Posted by Staff on Jul 19 2013. Filed under Columnists. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

1 Comment for “Seff: Expecting thanks may disappoint you”

  1. Clariece

    This is a great article. My husband and I recently moved next door to my mother in law. My father in law had recently passed away and we didn't want her to be alone. My MIL and I often joke about us being two crazy old ladies with little dogs. We share meals together – but also have individual privacy. She lets us know if she's going somewhere and we do the same thing. It is a challenge but then again so was her raising two sons. When raising kids I'm sure no parent asks or even begins to comprehend the challenges to child rearing. It's the same with caring for our parents. Is it challenging yes, but the rewards far outweigh the struggle.

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