Sunday, January 23, 2011

Thankful for My Dad, Husband, and Son

I am currently reading The Shriver Report: A Woman’s Nation Takes on Alzheimer’s which is a study by Maria Shriver and the Alzheimer’s Association. It is a wonderful study and an invaluable read. I am sure I will have many reflections on it in the future.

The Shriver Report focuses on women because 65% of Alzheimer’s patients are female, and 60% of caregivers are women. In the introduction to the study, John Podesta, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Center for American Progress says: “The vast majority of caretakers in America are women; often, they bear primary responsibility for raising the next generation as they care for the last. But for the first time in American history, women now also make up half the work force, and two-thirds of all mothers are primary or co-breadwinners in their families. With American women juggling so many responsibilities already, caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease can become a Herculean challenge.”

I want to mention that I have not finished the report yet, but so far I realize this does not address same-sex couples. There are many questions about gender roles that come up for me in reading this report as well. I am also not sure how representative the study is of different economic statuses. They do represent different cultures in the study.  So, I realize there are many questions of gender, sexual-orientation, class, and culture that we need to be asking. This is a wonderful study from the perspective it was written from and for now I just wanted to reflect on one of the things it has personally made me thankful for. 

My son, me, and my dad
I am thankful for the outlook that the men in my life have on family, gender roles, and caregiving. My Dad is committed to care for my Mom and does not leave caregiving to his female children, as many men do. He sees it as an honor to care for Mom. I love the way he sees this as a group effort which we all do together.

Many people assume that I care for Mom more than my husband does, thinking we fall into those gender roles. However, my husband helps out just as much, and sometimes more, than I do. He too sees this as something we all do together. As often as possible, he also tries to structure his job in a way that helps me care for Mom and have a job I love.

My son is learning, from his two male role models, that we all help care for each other. There is no idea that one gender does certain tasks and the other gender does other things. We all contribute in ways that align with our inherent gifts. It amazes me the ways in which my son notices when Mom needs something or knows how to get her to have fun when she is sad.
My dad and my husband

And all three of them, my dad, husband, and son, fully support me in my work as well. They work around the nighttime meetings of ministry and the fact that I work on the weekends. Never once have they said or implied that as a woman, my work comes second and I should be the one to be there to care for either Mom or my son. I often chose to have a more flexible schedule to be there for family, but that is my choice, not a pressure.

There are many pressures from society about what being a woman is and means, especially in terms of family and caring for our older generation. I am grateful that in my family, instead of Alzheimer’s being a woman’s issue, it is a family issue.


Rev. Katie

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