Post image for Do I Long to Be a Grandmother? This Baby Boomer Says, ‘No, Thank You’

Sunday, Sept. 7 is National Grandparents Day. I thought about this day of recognition when my best friend told me she and her husband will soon have another grandchild, their sixth. My friend is excited, and she can’t wait to learn if it is boy or girl and what name the parents will choose.

When baby arrives, there will be a shower with gifts of soft blankets, tiny outfits and colorful, tactile toys.

I’m delighted for my friend. I love her children, their spouses and their passel of children. Watching their infants grow into toddlers and on into childhood is fun and often wildly entertaining. I’m always grateful when my friend and her family include me in celebrations of weddings, baby showers, birthdays, family gatherings and more.

I enjoy being there, but at the end of the day, I’m always happy to say goodbye and return home.

Home to my books, music, writing and the adorable puppy I adopted a few months ago.

I am happy to be home and happy to be grandchildless.

Not craving grandbabies is a realization I’ve come to over time. For many years, I’d been playing a bit of a charade with friends and family.   When they would pull out pictures of their grandkids, I’d dutifully look at the snapshots on their smartphone and then say with a pout, “Don’t you think having four grandkids is a bit greedy, when some of us have none?” This little joke always generated a laugh and a comeback from the person, “Oh, don’t worry, you’ll have grandchildren someday!”

I’d laugh along. But all the while I’d be thinking, “I’m not so sure.”

Not so sure I will have them and not so sure I want them.

After a lot of soul-searching, I’ve come to the realization that that while I enjoy looking at the baby pictures and hearing stories about the baby, I do not yearn for the actual baby.

I do not feel the need to rock a baby, spoil a toddler or experience a do-over, correcting mistakes I made in my parenting. I do not care if my genes continue for another generation.

Among baby boomers, of which I am one, I am certainly an anomaly.   My generation has embraced grandparenthood like baby ducklings to water.

Most boomer grandparents, intent on being the best, are deeply involved in their grandkids lives. From the very first, they make their spare bedrooms into nurseries, tote diaper bags and babysit for parent date nights. Later, the same grandparents take the kids to ballet lessons, attend preschool recitals and debate the pros and cons of all-day kindergarten.

AARP reports that baby boomers have even pushed the average age of becoming a first-time grandparent down to a youthful 47.

I’m at the other end of the spectrum. When I was 47, my daughter, Katie, was in fourth grade.

Could my lack of interest in grandchildren be blamed on the fact that I had my only child later in life? By the time Katie might be ready to procreate, I’d be well over age 70.

Certainly, I’d be no spring chicken but then again I’d had a wonderful grandmother who was around this same age when I was born. While my grandmother always seemed elderly, my sisters and I adored her. In fact, my relationship with her was the happiest part of my childhood.

So if age isn’t an issue, what is the issue? Do I want to avoid grandchildren because I’m divorced, which means I’ll never grandparent with my former spouse? Am I set in my ways? Am I selfish or even narcissistic? Am I missing the Nana-maternal gene?

Call it what you want. I can best describe it as a preference.

While I’m no doubt in the minority, I don’t think I’m entirely alone. I’m betting there are other boomers out there who do not feel that burning desire to be a grandparent.

When I told my sister about my lack of interest in a grandchild, she promptly pointed out having or not having a grandchild was not my decision. Of course, this is entirely true. The decision rests with Katie.

Katie, a college student, is currently spending part of her senior year studying abroad. At age 21, having a child is not on her agenda. Her current life plan is to travel the world, live in big cities, have romances, write a great novel or at the very least edit a few great novels penned by others.

When I was her age, I felt much the same. There was so much I wanted to do, and children were not on my radar. Years later, I married and eventually changed my mind about having a child. Every single day, I’m happy I opted for parenthood.

Will Katie change her mind?

She might. I’ve no idea what lies ahead. When I recently told Katie about my lack of interest in becoming a grandmother, she rolled her eyes and laughed. However, a few minutes later she admitted it felt good not to have the added pressure of being an only child and expected to produce grandchildren for her aging parents.

However, if my daughter does choose motherhood at a future point, I’d be supportive and as involved as she would allow. I’m sure I’d fall in love with her children. I’d no doubt take endless pictures and videos and then share them with everyone. I’d probably pick a name like Mimi or Grammie.

But if it doesn’t happen, I’m okay with that path. My daughter and I can travel together and each lead full, happy lives. And, when National Grandparents Day comes around every September, I’ll be happy to enjoy my best friend’s grandkids and then happily go home.

*Photo Purchased From iStockPhoto

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Post image for In Retrospect: Five Lessons I Learned From My Years as an Alzheimer’s Caregiver

Why is life so much clearer in retrospect? With the passage of time, it is easy to look back, see the big picture and think: “If I’d only known then, what I know now.”

I often hear caregivers voice this sentiment. And, as a long-time Alzheimer’s caregiver myself (for my mother, father and other relatives — now all deceased), I feel the same way. In the rear view mirror, the decisions and choices that I agonized over at the time now either seem so obvious or so trivial.

I wish I’d not been so caught up in details that were unimportant.

What is important, as a caregiver, is to treat your loved one and yourself with dignity, empathy and compassion. Not everything will turn out how you want, but care giving is not a perfect situation and you are not a superhero.

Even though no two care giving journeys are exactly alike, I’ve put together a few takeaways you may find helpful. Please feel free to leave comments with your own ideas that may be helpful to others.

Five lessons I learned from my Alzheimer’s care giving experience:

1. Care Giving is a Marathon, Not a Sprint.
The most effective caregivers learn to pace themselves, so they avoid their own physical and mental burnout. Caregivers need to be resilient as the journey can sometimes go on for many years. Taking time to recharge your own well being is the only way to withstand an extended care giving experience. Part of the recharging is learning it is okay to ask for help and to accept any assistance offered by others. Keep in mind that you must keep yourself healthy – both physically and mentally — in order to be an effective caregiver.

2. Adjust to an Ever-Changing Situation.
Most illnesses, especially Alzheimer’s disease, are progressive which means abilities ebb away over time. For many patients, what was successful one day may not work the next. When this happens, it’s important not take these changes personally and remember the goal is to meet the person at their current level of function. The caregiver has to remain flexible to these changing capabilities and interests.

3. Good Enough Can Really Be Good Enough.
I tend to lean toward perfectionism. However, it became apparent that if I clung to perfection, I’d spend all of my time trying to reach this unattainable goal. What a waste of time and energy! Instead, I decided to let go of flawless and concentrate on living in the moment, however imperfect.

4. Look Deep and Find the Joy.
When an individual is immersed in care giving, there can be feelings of anger and sadness. While it is perfectly natural to experience these emotions, there can also be a tremendous amount of joy and laughter in care giving — often at the most unexpected times. The key is to remain open to these moments so you can feel the happiness. It can be as simple as a smile, a touch or shared laughter or it might be a glimpse of clarity from an Alzheimer’s person who is in an advanced stage of the disease. Either way, these small events are touching and can help sustain you during your care giving.

5. Talk is Always Good for the Soul.
Bottled up, unresolved feelings can make for a resentful caregiver. If left unchecked, these feelings can even make a person sick. It’s important to find friends or family who will listen, understand and not pass judgment. Support groups are also an incredible lifeline to can help you navigate care giving and I highly recommend joining one. In fact, support groups can connect you with valuable resources and services that you may not know about. Best of all, you will connect with other individuals, like yourself, who are also caregivers. You may be surprised how much you will benefit from others who are traveling a similar path.

What lessons have you learned from your own journey as a caregiver?  Please feel free to share in the comments section.

*Photo Purchased From iStockPhoto

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Can a Person Ever Be Fully Prepared to Care For Someone with Alzheimer’s?

August 5, 2014
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Earlier this year, I attended a caregivers conference at the University of Minnesota.  The morning keynote speaker was absolutely terrific — an engaging, informed speaker who was also funny and self-deprecating. The speaker’s bio was also impressive.  He was a physician, a teacher, an author as well as a long-time caregiver for his mother who […]

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AARP Feature: When Dementia Symptoms Are Not Alzheimer’s Disease

July 30, 2014
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Although it was years ago, I clearly remember the phone ringing on a hot California morning.  My mother was calling from Minnesota and she sounded a bit frantic.  Earlier that morning, she had taken my dad to the emergency room.  Dad was having a “spell” as she described it, exhibiting confusion, irregular heart rate, muscle […]

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The Mini-Cog, A Memory Assessment Tool

July 24, 2014
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Have you heard of the “Mini-Cog”?  I had read about it several years ago but a recent front page feature in the Star Tribune, our major daily newspaper in the Twin Cities, piqued my interest.  The story focused on Dr. Michael Rosenbloom, clinical director of the HealthPartners Center for  Memory and Aging, in St. Paul, […]

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Mayo Clinic Identifies New Brain Protein That May Cause Dementia Symptoms

July 22, 2014
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Another day, another Alzheimer’s announcement.  This news was announced by a team from the Mayo Clinic at the recent Alzheimer’s Association International Conference in Copenhagen.  Could it be a big discovery?  The Mayo team seemed to think the answer is yes. The four-year study has uncovered a third component — another protein — to the […]

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