Holidays have traditionally been women’s job. Mothers are the high priestess of the ritual- like a Queen Elizabeth without servants. UK estimated the there are 25 to do’s women have on the holiday. It takes years to accumulate objects ritual dishes and religious objects used. It takes left side of your brain executive skills, plan and organize, remember details, do things based on your experience. Holidays are often done on auto pilot –recalling all the jobs that must be done year after year. It also takes IADLs- (Instrumental Activities of Daily Living) meal planning, shopping, plus ambulation. Then add depression – widowhood, loss and you have the challenges of aging in managing this entire titanic ritual.
At this point when Mom cannot do all the maybe 75 subsets of holiday preparation and the torch has to be passed and an adult child (usually an adult daughter must take over. This is like secession, – Princess Elizabeth taking over for her Dad, King George, (who hated it and had a lifelong stutter) made famous in the King’s Speech who was handed the throne by his brother Edward who quit being king. Check out the new series The Crown and you will get my analogy.
Baby boomer- adult children and the aging parents are unprepared by their own culture for this new developmental phase of passing the torch. They do not expect it, like they did the nights of the crying newborn or the rebellious teen and are thrown off balance by the sometime sudden and usually unexpected loss of their anchoring aging parents, like when they find Elderly Mom is unable to pull off running the holidays
Indeed, what must happen in this new developmental phase is that the adult child must evolve beyond the needy child, (I will still have Mom pull of the holiday as she always did) he or she has been, depending on his or her parents for that fiscal, emotional, social support and ritual organizing
The baby boomer must transition to what social work pioneer Margaret Blenkner calls filial maturity or a new mature state where they, as midlife adults, can give up their former roles as dependent, needy children and start to provide care to their old/old parents, like managing of officiating over the Christmas or Hanukkah celebration.
In the normal healthy family system this filial crisis of Holiday rituals can be overcome and the adult children with the brief help of an aging life or geriatric care manager so they can let go of their former dependent roles and confront their parent’s loss by organizing and providing care. They can take over Christmas and Hanukkah by stepping in and grabbing that torch.
In the dysfunctional aging family this filial crisis is incredibly hard to trounce from both the parents and the adult child’s point of view. The really need a geriatric care manager’s services
Find out more in my book Care Manager’s Working With the Aging Family