The Emotional Burden of Aging Parents


I am crying. It’s not unusual. With the lack of sleep, my third (unexpected) pregnancy, and my mother berating me again, I am a ball of emotions. I feel the burden on my shoulders every day. It’s all the needs. My son needs to do his homework, my daughter, now able to read, wants to read to me whenever she can, my mother needs another favor, and I’m drowning in all that I can’t do for these people in my life.

I am aware of the sacrifice of being a parent; it’s a thankless job requiring me to set aside my needs for the kids. It’s a role I was ready, willing, and able the play because I wanted to be a mom. But the emotional burden of being an adult child to parents who are not only getting older, but more stubborn with age. This is the thankless work that tests my patience, marriage, and sanity. Nobody told me about this.

aging parents

Dealing with parents is surprisingly harder than managing my growing kids. With kids, I have things like time outs, counting to five, threatening to take toys, and straight-up bribery to give me full power in my household. As a shirt I own says, ‘I am a wife, mom, boss, and my kids and partner are fully aware of this.’

When I walk into my parents’ house, on the other hand, it’s a full 180-degree switch. I am transformed back to being a child (their adult child). My needs are remotely unnecessary and my mom’s list of demands (cell phone issues, help around the house, something to pick up or drop off) and her desire to make me feel incompetent and guilty about all of the things just make me feel powerless. My father complains about his leg; it’s arthritis. It hurts him as he walks up and down the stairs of their three-story home. I insist he consider downsizing their house or moving his bedroom to the main floor, but he says it’s not necessary. I am speechless. 

I wonder if my feelings are extreme, but as my mom complains that my kids don’t spend time with her, I feel a lump in my throat and the reality sets in. I am not nor will I ever be enough for her. I am probably exaggerating but I can feel the tears streaming down my cheeks anyways. I am not sure how much more I can do for everyone else. 

Is this the emotional burden of aging parents? Of being an adult child? Will it ever end? I am very aware of all my parents did for me by raising me, sending me to good schools, supporting me through college, and overall producing a decent human being. But the guilt and stress from how little control I have over my desire to help them while preserving my sense of self is overwhelming. 

Do you struggle with pleasing your parents as an adult child? How do you handle it?