A LOVELY HIATUS
I know that there are a lot of midlife women out there who are still caring for little children or for teenagers, and there are others who have the responsibility of aged parents who need extra time, attention and a whole lot of care. But for my husband and myself, we are in a very pleasant stage of hiatus where our children have left our care and are doing well, and our parents are still managing to be self-sufficient (most of the time!)
CHILDREN AND TEENAGERS
When you have young children at home, your world revolves around them - sleep times, play times, doctors visits, starting school, after school activities, holidays during term breaks, and the list goes on. When they reach teenage-dom the list just keeps growing because you add in all the worry about their safety and who their friends are, teaching them to drive, worrying about them when they're driving themselves or out at night.
It feels like your whole life is on hold when you are a parent. I'm sure there are plenty of people who'd disagree with that statement, but for me it felt like my time and attention was hugely influenced by the needs of our children. They were a top priority - I chose my jobs around school hours, I was friends with the mothers of their friends and I spent a lot of time taxi-ing them around to various activities.
ABSENCE MAKES THE HEART GROW FONDER
Now that they have left home and made their own lives, I am grateful for an occasional phone call and an even rarer visit. There are pros and cons to them living a couple of hours away in the city. We miss seeing them every week, but the bonus is we aren't at their beck and call when little things go wrong. They manage to sort it out and we only need to be available for the more major upheavals.
THE OTHER END OF THE SPECTRUM
The other end of life's spectrum comes as our parents start to take the place of our children. They get older and as their health and mobility decrease, so their needs increase. I know many people who have parents who are completely dependent on them, whether it's from age and incapacity or from Alzheimers or from loneliness, they are still taking a lot of time and attention.
We are fortunate in the fact that my Mum is still robust and busy having a great life. She travels and socializes and even has a younger lover to keep her busy. She would be mortified to think that she needed me to care for her, but at the same time, when she needed a knee replacement last year, we were there for her and took her in full time until she was fit enough to go home. The experience gave me great admiration for those who do this sort of thing all the time.
My husband's parents are just reaching the frail aged stage where they are needing more support. They are pretty self sufficient most of the time and so for us, this is the moment in the sun where we can enjoy having no dependents (other than our two cats!) and we have the freedom to only worry about ourselves. We can come and go whenever it suits us and not worry about children or parents who couldn't cope without us.
ENJOYING THE INTERIM
I know that this will change in the years to come and there will be a chunk of time where we are back to care-giving and our time won't be our own. For now though it is lovely having this hiatus where we can enjoy our adult children from a distance, spend short periods of time with our parents, and have the rest left over to spend on whatever we feel like - a true blessing of this stage of life.