Compassion Across Generations

Life for everyone in my family changed last fall when my mother had a stroke. Something like a stroke never just impacts the person that it happens to; it also impacts the people that love that person most.

In that instant, the person I would sometimes turn to for help with my own children, who were 3 and 1 at the time, now became someone who needed my help. On an intellectual level, I fully understood what a stroke would mean for my mom and her life. My grandmother suffered a stroke when I was 17, so this was not new territory. I knew that her sense of “normal” would have to shift because without that shift, life would be so hard for her. And although I knew all of this, I wasn’t prepared to mange the emotional aspect of this major life event.

As a woman in her mid thirties, I didn’t expect to find myself a member of the “sandwich generation” so soon. I had no idea how hard it would be trying to successfully raise children while also caring for an aging parent. And although my mom had many health issues before the stroke, which probably prepared me to some extent, she was still pretty independent. She needed me before, but not in the way that she needed me post-stroke.

It’s been a year since my mom’s stroke. She regained much of the function on her right side after much rehabilitation. Unfortunately, many other health issues arose as result of the stroke, so that last year has been challenging. I have weeks where, between my mom and the kids, I find myself going to seven doctor’s appointments. Those weeks are tough. Yet despite the toughness of it all, I am managing to see the good in all of it.

This experience is teaching me a lot about compassion. It gives me an incredibly important reason to pause and look at things from someone else’s point of view. It also gives me the chance to show my kids what it means to be compassionate. They see what I do, without complaint, and it shows them that in our family we look out for each other. It’s important for them to know that.

And in caring for her, I have also learned how to be more patient and compassionate towards my own kids. When my stress levels are high, it’s easy to miss out on the everyday moments that matter for my kids. When you are drained and worried, it can be hard to fully engage in reading books and making your children laugh. Things that once came with such ease can now require some serious effort.

Fortunately, I have been able to find my “new normal,” knowing and accepting that my life as a mom is now different. There is now an additional person who needs me in a way she once didn’t, but that doesn’t change anything about the way my kids need me. They still need me just as much as they did prior to my mom’s stroke. I have to acknowledge that, embrace it, and make it work. They still expect magic in their lives, and I am here to make that happen for them.

And by having compassion for everyone impacted by my mother’s stroke, including myself, I hope I am raising children who realize how important compassion is, knowing that no matter where you find yourself in life, the ability to feel and show concern for what others are experiencing will always matter.

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