It's a Girl's Job... My Mother's Prejudices Are Hard to Swallow

It's a girl's job. I've got brothers, but they, it seems, aren't good enough. It needs to be her daughters helping with home care and emotional support. Not her sons. Just her daughters.

As a full-time working mum, I'm used to battling inequality on many fronts. For many of us in professional jobs, there are still regular struggles for equality. I think we're all aware that discriminatory preconceptions are still kicking about - perhaps not as blatantly as before - but they are still there, lurking under the surface both in the workplace and at home when juggling-owning-sharing the mental load and balancing jobs with family.

Challenging Preconceptions

But this scenario is one I'd not come across before or expected: challenging the older generation's stereotypes of how - and more specifically who - they should be cared by.

I find it hard to respond to my mother's expectations without dismissing her opinions. She is, after all, nearly 80 and has challenged many a stereotype in her lifetime. This is, however, where she is at now.

When she needs physical or emotional care and when planning for her personal welfare Lasting Power of Attorney, she wants her daughters to do it. Full stop. Not her sons. Just the girls, because, as she says: "That's our job."

The Emotional Load

We are expected to bear the full emotional load, while her sons - admittedly - are expected to look after the finances as that's "a boy's job". But when it comes to emotional and physical support, they get off scot free. Our 'girls' job' means:

  • We always get the early morning and late night tearful phone calls
  • We always get the emergency calls for help when a crisis arises
  • We get the expectation to pop over, just for a chat
  • And we always get the blame -  and guilt - for not providing enough emotional support at the moment it's needed.

The resentment that's associated with this is becoming really hard to manage. My sister and I feel we are constantly failing the increasing demands for emotional support and calls for last minute visits. Just like my brothers, we both work full time too and both have kids, so it's tricky to always be there at the moment of need. I don't see why my brothers shouldn't also have to shoulder some of this load. They have emotions too, after all.

Although we care for our mum, we are getting really frustrated with her prejudices and don't know where to turn.

Expert Advice

How can or should a family deal with this? Here's what Debbie Harris from care advice experts Chosen with Care had to say.

  1. Hard though it is, it's important to try and accept she won't change her views. She's in a very vulnerable situation, as people are when they get older and their mental and physical health deteriorates. To try and change decades-long held views at this stage is nigh on impossible.
  2. It's quite common for elderly parents to call on one family member more than others - whether it's because of gender, location or availability (often a stay-at-home parent or freelance worker will get more calls). Everyone needs to be aware of the pressures being put on everyone else. It's important to try to get the whole family involved, even though it can be difficult to get buy in from some!
  3. Once you accept these two premises, it becomes about how you manage the situation as it progresses, so the responsibility doesn't rest on one or two people - girls or not - as it's impossible for a small number of people to manage this over a long period of time.
  4. The main starting point is to try and have a family plan of action. Talk to brothers and sisters before things get to crisis point and the situation becomes an emotive or divisive issue.
  5. Try to agree a share of responsibility between you, so that the same family members don't always end up being the ones who have to do the running.
  6. The onus is on other family members to step up for certain jobs - proactively calling, visiting and helping with some tasks.
  7. Get external support in place - carers from the local authority, church, local community or other networks - so that the daughters (or other family carers) aren't the only ones providing support.