Who is your love? Nutrition and middle age
Webster’s Dictionary defines parenting as fostering the development of another. This article looks at the broader topic of parenting rather than focusing more strictly on parenting because there are so many options open to us at different stages of life. We can be involved with elderly parents, as well as children who are leaving home, postponing departure or return home. Some will be raising their grandchildren. Some have given birth; some have adopted; some have been wonderful aunts, mentors, teachers, and friends. Some have rescued and raised animals. Some have cultivated magnificent gardens. Each and every one of these represent parenting.
Too many options?
Women with children at home and elderly parents or time-consuming careers are often great jugglers. Those who have decided to have children may have concerns ranging from selecting a preschool to sending their last child into the world. They may be concerned about paying for daycare and college at the same time. Some also provide a higher level of care for their own parents, and some may be dealing with health issues of their own and contemplating retirement or a second career.
In middle age, some women are still caring for their children, especially women who have postponed childbirth, have their first grandchildren, and spend more and more time caring for their parents or another elderly relative at the same time. Our parents provided support, support, counseling, and sometimes even financial assistance, but now we may be providing all of these things to them as we continue to provide for our children.
Some women give birth or adopt late in life. Some who have remained childless, by choice or circumstance, may find themselves involved later in life in relationships with a partner who has children or grandchildren. Some may be enjoying the so-called empty nest, while others may mourn the loss of nurturing possibilities. Whatever the situation, women can find many creative adaptations to meet their parenting need.
According to Tori DeAngelis, writing for the National Association of Social Workers, the so-called “empty nest syndrome” is far from inevitable. “Most of the time, the positives of this period of life outweigh the negatives.” Studies show that women in their 50s often feel satisfaction in having successfully raised and given birth to their children, a new sense of freedom and well-being, and a desire to tap into latent talents and abilities.
Many of those who chose not to have children are just as happy as parents who had good relationships with their children. And they were happier than those parents who described their relationships with their children as distant. This image of happy, well-functioning, childless women is obscured by society’s discomfort with women who don’t fit classic role stereotypes. Women who don’t have children, says psychologist Mardy Ireland, are supposed to be either career-mad copycat men or sad, sterile spinsters. Neither stereotype recognizes that women can lead rich and balanced lives without children of their own.
What do you need?
Why not take a little time to take stock of what you need? Are there too many demands for you or are they not enough? Do you want to find more opportunities to nurture or find ways for others to share your current load?
If you find that you have too many people to care for, here are some simple tips:
- Create dates to play. These can work for both the elderly and children. Make it a playdate for yourself too – kick back and relax with the other caregivers.
- Barter. Trade free time by changing care or grouping household chores. Perhaps you will make a big purchase or weed the garden in exchange for tending it.
- Find respite care. Many organizations offer free or low-cost opportunities so you can get a day or two off.
- Find activity centers. This can range from classes and trips to daycare or senior centers. Why not provide your loved one with socialization while taking some time off?
- Hire a babysitter every now and then and run away from home. Something as simple as a solo movie or a manicure can go a long way toward nurturing you.
For more opportunities to nurture yourself, try these tips:
- Voluntary. Senior centers, hospitals, and child care centers are always looking for a little extra help. If you prefer animals to people, shelters and rescue programs can use it. Aquariums and zoos always need help. Plant yours? Your local botanical garden or community garden can use it.
- Consider taking in a child or an animal.
- Become a home visitor for the homebound.
- Deliver food for Meals on Wheels or the love of God we deliver.
- Help out at a soup kitchen.
- Become a mentor through Big Sister or similar programs.