Shouldering the generational load

I’m 30 years old.

I’ve been married 8.5 years and working professionally (not coincidentally) for about the same time. I’ve been a member of my church for 8 years. My husband and I are solely responsible for the health and welfare of two small children.

Some days it feels like I will be crushed under the weight of my responsibilities.

I have this image of what it’s like. I imagine the world sitting on top of these generational rollers, moving along. Gradually, the world rolls off one generation and on to the next, until for a few moments (years, decades) one generation carries the brunt of the load, with some small portion of the weight being borne by the coming and going generations. After a long lead in, my generation is beginning to feel the full weight of that world which will ride on our shoulders for the next two or three decades.

Our society is set up around the idea that there are “the proper authorities”. The first aid flipsheet on my ‘fridge says “then call 911” after nearly every entry. We’re supposed to talk to our doctors before doing exercise or trying a new diet. We’re supposed to talk to our financial advisors before we decide where to invest. We’re supposed to report downed wires and suspected child abuse to proper authorities. At work we’re supposed to notify our managers if someone is harrassing us. For nearly any difficult, sticky or dangerous task for our entire life we’ve been told to tell the proper authorities.

We might be forgiven for thinking there is some super race, set apart, of proper authorities. Clearly, this isn’t the case. At some point, the buck stops and there isn’t anyone up the chain of ability or command to call. Recently, I’ve come to realize that in some areas, I am the proper authorities. I’m the ones my sons should come to when something is difficult. At work, I may make binding decisions for the company. (Ok, ok so those decisions largely revolve around whether to order the Intense Dark Roast or the French Roast this time, but still….) At church, I sit on the board which truly is “Them” as in “They should do something about the website” or “They need to make sure that all the teachers have background checks” or “They should put in a defibrillator”. I would also be the “They” in “They should’ve known” or “Why didn’t they plan for that” or “What were they thinking?”

No one but a nonagenarian would argue that 30 is exceedingly young. President Obama is older than I am still, but the president is no longer of a different, older generation. His girls are only a few years older than my boys. He may have some gray in his hair but frankly? So do I. (THAT is a whole other post!) We cannot argue inexperience, or youth. There isn’t some vast group of wise grownups who is checking our work and making sure we don’t make mistakes that mess everything up.

There is a story about a boy who lifted a baby ox every day from the day it was born. In this way, he became incredibly strong and could easily still lift the ox when it grew to it’s full size. (As the mother of fast-growing children let me opine: HA!) It feels to me today as though my responsibilities have recently undergone a growth spurt and my muscles are slow to strengthen in response.

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Brenda currently lives in Stoneham MA, but grew up in Mineral WA. She is surrounded by men, with two sons, one husband and two boy cats. She plays trumpet at church, cans farmshare produce and works in software.

2 thoughts on “Shouldering the generational load”

  1. And I am at the other end of this. I don’t talk about this because people think I am sucidal or something, but no one is my responsibility any more. You have all reached independence. It feels really good.

    The results seem restful. Comfortable. Less tense. Thanks for being willing to carry it until Grey and Thane are ready!


  2. I wondered if there is the corollary sensation of having the weight of the world lifting off your shoulders. I think that sensation scares some people! It’s a long time ahead for me.


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