I am seeing an interesting phenomenon in my professional work: women of the Boomer generation entering their later years with the same independent attitude they’ve had throughout the last several decades.
Women of the forties, my mom’s generation, became the traditional housewives of the 50s. Daddy, the breadwinner, knew best, and mama stayed home with the kids and put three square meals each day on the table. Roles were defined and while women grumbled a little, they still gained (some) satisfaction keeping a spotless house and ironing all the shirts and trousers of the male family members. Their daughters were taught to do the same, and their sons (often) were treated as privileged beings.
These women devoted their later years taking care of Grandma and Grandpop, often taking them into their own homes to do it.
In contrast, the women of the “boomer” generation stormed the board rooms, got their own degrees (real ones, not the “Ph.D.–Putting hubby through school” variety), and became a potent force in the workplace. They divorced when necessary, not always adhering to the “stay together for the sake of the kids” mentality.
Their kids learned to be self-resilient, often taking care of themselves after school, sometimes being raised by a single mom. These women expected that husbands take an active role in the housework, cooking, and child care.
Not always a good thing, but just what was. And I am speaking in general terms here, not specifics, understand. There are always exceptions.
Fast forward to retirement age. In the past, traditional wives would put their own lives on hold, becoming the 24/7 caretaker to ailing husbands–often ailing because they had neglected their physical health in service to working to “provide for the family.” At least that was the rationale, although I still assert that smoking cigarettes and not exercising is a personal choice.
Are we seeing a different pattern with the “boomer” ladies? I think we are. They have gone into their marriages wanting an equal partner. They do not have a willingness to buy into the “wait on me hand and foot, especially when I’m ill” mentality. And they are getting angry when they feel forced into that role. At least the ones I am talking to are.
So my question this morning is: who is going to take care of the “old guys” if the “wise women” stand up and start saying, “Where’s mine?”
I am thinking we might start seeing some older husbands (and some younger ones) step up to the challenge, turning into caretakers for their own maturing spouses, even as they chose to become more active co-parents when the kids were little and both parents working.
At least, I hope so. Otherwise, we’re going to be seeing a LOT of very full nursing homes!