Are you a wife, mother, grandmother, or aunt? Chances are you may be in one or more of these important family roles at some time in your life. Traditionally, women are the nurturers and caregivers in their own families and in our society at large. As a result, a woman may find herself caught in the “daughter syndrome,” which can become a trap if she does not recognize it and prepare accordingly.
What is the Daughter Syndrome?
A woman may begin her “daughter syndrome” experience early in life, if she helps rear her younger siblings. Thereafter, when she has children of her own, a woman may assume the major role in “mothering” her children to adulthood. No truer words were ever penned than these: “The hand that rocks the cradle rules the world.”
Once the empty nest years arrive, a woman may find herself helping her parents and in-laws with life’s “golden years” transitions. This may include assisting while they are still living independently, chauffeuring to and from medical appointments, and eventually transitioning to the next living arrangements. Eventually, a wife will honor her wedding vows and may take care of her husband until his death.
Surviving the Daughter Syndrome
If you find yourself at any stage of the daughter syndrome, the first move you can make to survive its downside is to take care of yourself first. Think little yellow oxygen mask. You know, the kind the flight attendant demonstrates during the preflight briefing. In the event of a sudden loss of cabin pressure, the little yellow mask will automatically drop from the compartment and be suspended just above your head. On whom are you to place that mask first? On a small child traveling with you, the elderly passenger next to you, or on yourself? If you answered “on yourself,” then you would be correct. Bottom line: you cannot help anyone else, unless you first take care of yourself.
Do not go it alone. You should not be required to do it all. There are others in the household and family who can pitch in and help you at any stage of the daughter syndrome.
In addition, there is institutional support available from private and governmental agencies. For example, what if you are a caregiver for your elderly in-laws who live nearby? Consider contacting their church, synagogue, or local support groups for such things as adult day care to provide respite care if an in-law has dementia. Instead of taking meals to your in-laws every day, contact the local meals-on-wheels for delivery of hot, nutritious food to their home.
Do not feel guilty about asking for and coordinating such help. You are not Wonder Woman. If you try to be everything to everyone, then you will burn out, sacrifice your health, and, perhaps, become resentful.
Planning for the “Last Leaf”
Oftentimes, a woman finds herself the “last leaf” left on her family tree. Siblings are “seniors” themselves. Children are grown and may be time zones away. Parents, in-laws, and husband are no longer available. One consideration is to acquire long-term care insurance to pay for in-home, assisted living, and nursing home care. The key is to plan now, not later.