Thursday, April 12, 2012

"I Don't Know How You Girls Do It"

One of the joys of my job is that I have the privilege of working with people with 8+ decades of life experience under their belts. I make a point to tap into that experience whenever I get the chance. Functionally I'm assessing their speech, their thought organization, their pragmatics. But really, I'm looking for advice. Nuggets of wisdom. Recipes.

Most of my female patients are mothers. I ask about their kids. The number is usually in the 4-10 range. So I ask for advice. "How did you do it? I have 2, and they keep me plenty busy. What's the secret?" They usually just chuckle and shrug. "I don't know, I just did it!"

But some of them turn the tables. I was actually surprised the first time I heard it: "I don't know how you girls do it these days - kids, jobs, the busy schedules you all keep." They say things like, "Oh it was easier back then. Everyone had kids. We sent them all outside and they entertained themselves." They talk about having their moms and sisters nearby to help. They didn't take the kids to the grocery store to have meltdowns in the frozen food aisle. They didn't drag them to play groups and story times. Their three year olds didn't play on soccer teams. They didn't work when their kids were young, so pumping breast milk 3 times during a work day wasn't a concern. And they certainly didn't worry about whether they were making the best choice in the career/family balance.

I have no doubt that momnesia has kicked in during the 50+ years since they had small children at home. I'm sure they had plenty of struggles of their own. We won't even get into the gender issues and educational and career opportunities available to these women when they were our age. But their words are kind. And maybe even true. And it's the kind of encouragement I need from time to time.

1 comment:

  1. I do this too, but I'm much more shameless. The geriatric patients I see are coming to me to work out their mental health issues, so, ostensibly, the questions that I ask about their time as young mothers with 4-10 kids is designed to get at deep seated patterns, the roots of emotional vulnerabilities, or clues to their late-life personality development. But sometimes, when I'm asking "It must have been really hard for you, with 5 small children and your husband laid off. How did it make you feel?" What I'm really asking is "It must have been hard for you with 5 young children. TELL ME HOW YOU MANAGED THE CHAOS?!" haha. I'm the worst geri-psych clinician ever.