Vi Waln: Respect, love and help your mother while you can

Sunday is Mother’s Day. I have been thinking about all of you who no longer have your Mother with you on this Earth, especially those of you who will really miss your Mom on Sunday because this is the first Mother’s Day without her. My love and prayers are for you this week because I know how you feel.

Also, I am thinking of all the Moms and Grandmas who are experiencing their first Mother’s Day after losing a beloved child. Your children and grandchildren are the real reason you celebrate Mother’s Day. I remember making cards at school for my Mom and it was a big deal. I also send my love and prayers to all of you who are mourning a child this week. The pain never really goes away.

My Mom was my best friend. I was lucky because I look at people nowadays and many of them are not friends with their mother. Some of them fight with their mothers or take advantage of them.

Some people say they don’t know what to do with their Mom. Many Moms are now living in nursing homes. Many Grandmas are also confined to nursing homes. I no longer have my Grandmas with me on this earth as they have all passed on into the spirit world. The one regret I do not have is that my Mother and Grandmothers never had to spend one day of their lives in a nursing home far away from the people they loved.

I realize it is very difficult to care for an elder. But when my Grandmother needed someone to be there for her, I made the choice to do just that. Many people cannot make that choice because they have to work to provide for their families. Still, I know that the elders who can live out their last years in their own homes are very happy.

Some of you think nursing homes are totally appropriate for elders. It can be so easy to admit your aging relative into a nursing home. After all, you are not a medical professional who can provide the kind of care they need, right? I have seen some elders pass away shortly after being admitted into nursing homes. So, I am glad I was able to be there for my Grandmother. I appreciate those of you who are caring for an elder in your home because I know it isn’t easy.

As we celebrate Mother’s Day by honoring those who gave us life and took care of our basic needs while we were growing up, there are other things I have to mention here for you to think about. Not all Mothers are treated with the respect and love they deserve. Many are taken advantage of by their own grown children.

I know of elderly Mothers who are retired and living on a fixed income. Some are alone while others still have their life partner who may also be retired. Even if a retired couple receives some kind of income from their life of hard work, it usually isn’t enough to support an entire family.

But that is what is happening. Many elders are supporting their grown children and small grandchildren. The reservation is not the best place to be job or house hunting. A majority of our young adults are unemployed. Day care is hard to find. There are young people on the reservation who babysit children full-time. It is their way of making a living.

There are young people who still live at home with their retired parents. Some of these young adults are fortunate to have full-time jobs. But they make no effort to help their aging parents with household expenses or with the cost of buying groceries. They may even expect their aging parents to be the built in babysitters for their children. I believe it is wrong for employed adults with small children to expect their retired parents to totally support them.

Many of our Mothers and Grandmothers grew up in the era where there was no such thing as social services. They often struggled to earn a living to feed us. Many had to pay for their babysitters out of their own pay checks as there were no programs which supplemented the payments they had to make for their child care like there is now. Today the tribe or social services will supplement some of your day care payments. My Mom had to pay our babysitter out of her own pocket.

We must make an effort to help our elders enjoy their retirement. If you are still living at home with your parents I suggest you start by helping to pay for utilities and groceries. It is only fair to your parents that you do this. They provided shelter, clothing and food for you while you were growing up. It is not fair to our elders when they are expected to provide shelter, clothing and food to your children; especially if you are the one working at a full-time job!

Sunday is set aside to honor our Mother. Do her household chores every day if you are unemployed. When you are living under your Mother’s roof with your children I think it is only right that you buy food for the household. It takes a lot of money to feed hungry children. If you are getting benefits in the form of commodities or the supplemental nutrition assistance program you should use it to feed your children.

Still, I know that some of you will continue to live off your aging parents’ fixed incomes and that is your personal choice. However, I hope you will really think about growing up and supporting your own family someday soon. If you have your own home, cook dinner for your Mom on Sunday!

Your Mother will not be on this earth forever. I encourage you to Love, Respect and help her while you still can.

Vi Waln is Sicangu Lakota and an enrolled member of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe. Her columns were awarded first place in the South Dakota Newspaper Association 2010 contest. She is Editor of the Lakota Country Times and can be reached through email at vi@lakotacountrytimes.com.

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