By Carol Bradley Bursack, AgingCare.com
There’s an image of holiday perfection that our culture encourages. Starting with Thanksgiving, we areinundated with fantasy images of perfect families happily enjoying each other’s company during a holiday meal. Most of us have memories from our childhood that feed this drive toward the Norman Rockwell nostalgia of holidays past. If we lived it, we want to duplicate it. If we didn’t, we want to create it.
Few of us can measure up to the fantasy – caregivers least of all. There’s so much denial of today’s reality in these images resurrected each holiday and thrown at us by every means, from advertisements to blockbuster movies. These images feed expectations that are impossible to meet.
The “average” family is vastly different than the average family of yore. Today’s families are often a patchwork of children, step-children, step-in-laws, step-siblings and elders of varying degrees of relationship and health. Add to that the fact that people marry later and often have children at an older age, and you’ve got a package that often includes young children, teenagers, young adults, forty-something caregivers, a parent who’s had a stroke or two, and maybe one with dementia.
None of this stops holiday celebrations, nor should it. It’s just that sometimes we carry with us the memories (of a time that likely wasn’t as perfect as we remember it), and strive (expect?) to reconstruct this past under totally different circumstances. Then, if we don’t feel we’ve succeeded, we are swamped by guilt. Way too often, in the caregivers’ mind, expectations not met equals failure.