I hate to admit it but I am a Gen-X-er. Not a hippy or yuppy and that puts me and my friends in a strange place. We are the generation that the government informed ,you will not have money from social security, you will not make more money then your parents and you will need a college education if you some how are able to make more money then your folks. Chances are that you will not live in one place more than seven years and you will have to care for your children and those ageing parents of yours at the same time. The generation of “The Big squeeze” really.
I guess at 45, I am now really in the middle of my own personal “Big squeeze”. I have found over the years that anything promised to past generations is all but gone for mine. Pensions, unions, Insurance, retirement, job security, homes, have dried up blown away. My generation, the “Me” generation, had fun while the party lasted ( it was a big over blown drug induced ego trip for years) but some how the hangover just never really went away. I am still waiting to say “yea things are going great I have my dreams and security too”.
The last few of years of my life have been a lesson on, “do what is right”, not for money, fame or glory. Just do what is right and except the blessings from that lesson. As most of you already know I have a young son who I gave birth to about two months before my 40th birthday after 17 years of not getting pregnant. It seemed almost impossible to think that I was going to go through the whole process again. Then about the same time my Mother who was about to have her 80 birthday informed the family that she wanted to move out of her home into a senior community. She had grown tired of home ownership and of the up keep. That same christmas my step father in law who was 79 began the slow decline into dementia, then Alzheimer’s making my mother-in-laws life a daily struggle. This began my step into the life that america predicted almost 25 years ago. I am a worker/care giver who doesn’t receive any pay for most of the things I do.
So now 4 years later, I still do “what is right”. I quit my 40 hour a week job to stay home more for my son ( the best for him) and lost half my income to work part-time in the evenings. My family helped my mother sell her home in the worst of the economic crises, and lost about 40,000$ in the process, to make sure she was happy and well taken care of (the very best for her). I have helped with my mother-in-laws and father-in-laws care( the best I could do for them). The Hospice nurses took over much of grandpa Jim’s care this week, but mom will not leave his side. Leaving me and the other kids to do the shopping, cleaning, bill paying, yard work that has totally over whelming them ( the very best I can do for someone who is dying). These duties are like a job added on to a list of things I already do. I am feeling the “Big Squeeze” of less money and more demands placed in front of me. It is hard to balance childhood and old age with little or no pay.
I am sure that at some point I will be a full-time care giver to my mother-in-law also. I am now wondering if I will get any type of retirement benefits at all and will I in the future have enough money to live comfortably on. Care givers rarely get paid for their time and if social security dries up 25 years from now what about me? What happens to those of us who choose to take care of the children and elderly. What kind of future do we have. I hope to have a husband who keeps a good income into his 60’s but, I maybe the wife of a man who is suffering. It is likely that I will be his caregiver in his time of need. That I will spend the rest of my life dedicated to the people I love and not the things that the world says I should have.
It is a future that is full of hard work and frustration and low wages but it is “the right thing to do” for my family. I am not sure why I couldn’t get that abortion and continue to have a banking career that would lead me down the professional path with more money and better benefits. I am not sure why my brothers and I couldn’t make my mother stay in a house she hated so we could have sold it for more money and received more of an inheritance. I am not sure why I can’t say no to my mother in law if she calles me to help turn her husband over in his hospital bed and run to the store for medications and baby powder. I am not sure what I did to end up this type of woman, God just opened the door and I just grew into her.
All I know is this, when you squeeze grapes and let them age you get some of the finest wine in the world. Maybe, In my “big squeeze” I will bear the finest gifts for those I love and that is my aim. I just hope that others of Generation X know that they are not alone in the struggle to leave behind the “Me” part of our generation. It is not easy and I am not rich in material things but I am happy and content with my change from caring only for “me” to caring for the “we” in my family.