Guilt as a Young Adult with Ailing Parents
Hello fellow caregivers. I haven’t felt comfortable talking about this in my column but I thought it might be helpful to bring it up here and see if anyone can relate. I was in my late 20s when my mom’s IPF got really bad. I wasn’t really aware of the prognosis until she was already in the ICU fighting for her life. In a few short weeks, I had to really reckon with my mom’s mortality and everything that meant for our relationship. I thought about what we would miss if she didn’t survive. For example, my husband and I eloped, but we were trying to plan a wedding party to celebrate with family and friends. It broke my heart that my mom might not be there when it was something she was so excited to do with me. There were countless other things that made me sick to think about, imagining her absence.
But one particular thing made me feel not only heartbroken but guilty: kids, and how I don’t have them. My husband and I have been together for almost 11 years, married for 5, and we still haven’t had kids. I’ve always wanted to take my time in that department and try for a family when I felt ready and excited to do it. For most of my 20s, with financial instability, and other chaotic life stuff, I just felt terrified at the thought of bringing another human into the world. But when my mom got sick, I felt so guilty that I had been selfish with my timeline and my body, and that my mom might never meet grandchildren.. likewise that my possible future children might not meet their grandma.
My mom and I talked about this while she was in the ICU but it didn’t make me feel better. I put a lot of pressure on myself, and still just didn’t feel like that time was right to have kids. I didn’t want to do it just because my parents are aging and ailing. I really wanted to be committed to parenthood from my own heart.
Once she started to recover from her transplant complications, the guilt kind of went away. Recently she has had some inflammation and funky stuff showing up in her workups. She had been doing so well the past two years that I didn’t want to truly admit that she might be at risk of further lung disease or transplant comorbidities that could make her very ill. Now that I am facing and accepting this, the guilt about having a family has returned.
Can anyone relate? How do you live with this and stay true to yourself?
Are there other things that have caused you guilt as a caregiver? Please share and let’s support each other.
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