Dependent Independence

“what would I do without you?”

“Is there anything you’d like me to do?”

“Not right now, mom, thank you”

 I feel guilty about this conversation,  it takes place at least once a day, while I am making dinner.   There are times when I will find something for her to do.  I know  she needs to be included in everyday tasks, she needs to feel useful.  It is just that she is so limited as to what she can actually do these days.

I know I have mentioned this  before,  that mom was always very busy, what choice did she have in the 50’s  with five kids, and a husband,  right?  She was non stop, the house was always clean, the kids were mostly clean,  the laundry always done,  groceries always shopped, meals always ready,   and everyone was usually happy – all her doing.    We were all blindly dependent on mom, for everything.  For the most part I believe she was happy about it.

What a great feeling it is to be needed, not only needed but also able to provide for those needs, that’s rewarding.  However it can create dependence.

I will often give mom a task.  Here is the problem, there are times when it is  work to come up with a task for her.   She is weak and she is unsteady and she is slow.

“can you help me  husk the corn mom?”

“oh I suppose I can do that”

She is so weak  now that it is hard for her to actually get those husks off of the corn, but she plugs away, peeling one leaf at a time.  When I could have had all 8 ears peeled in the time it takes for her to peel one.  She is helping and contributing, that is important. She needs feel needed and useful.  Eventually I will help her.

I typically have my list of Saturday chores.

“Is there anything you’d like me to do?”

“can you swiffer the floors?”

her typical response

“I suppose I can do that”

Can she do it? No, she really cant do it easily at all.  Its an ordeal.   She is so unsteady now that she has to use her cane in one hand and swiffer in the other  then I feel guilty for doing  it.  I have to tell myself that its okay if its difficult, at least she is doing something useful.  Now I watch her to make sure she is doing okay with it.

Trying to give her a bit of independence is getting almost impossible.

As always timing is everything,  and if she doesn’t swiffer right away, she will simply not do it, I’m not sure if she thinks she already did it or just forgot about it altogether,   I silently question.  Then I swiffer the floors.

There are times when the conversation is a little different,

“is there anything you’d like  me to do?”

“sure, do you want to dust the living room?”

I believe my problem was in the asking

“no. I really don’t”

And she doesn’t.  So how do you respond to your mother when she asks what she can do, and  then she  picks and chooses what that will be.  I chuckle.  Then I dust.

For her to dust the living room requires such great effort.  For her to walk up the stairs, requires a great effort. Husking corn is a lot of effort.  Putting her coat on is an effort.

She has had a task here and there that I would just leave for her to do. She use to be able to stack the kindling when she was able to walk around the yard with more stability, but that has become too difficult as well.   I could easily just spray the grass that grows up between the bricks in the patio with vinegar and it would die and we would be done with it, but it is a great job for mom.    Every once in a while she will notice the grass growing up between the bricks…

“I guess I better stop slacking with my weed pulling”

mom picking weeds

She will sit in a chair and bend over and pull grass for a long time.  We always make sure to comment on how nice the patio looks .  She feels useful.

It was not that long ago, she would do all of these little things with ease,  cleaning the kitchen.  Helping with the wedding favors for Megan and Robs wedding.


I pick out moms clothes every morning, I lay them out on her bed and put the clothes from the previous day in the laundry basket.  We don’t talk about it, I just do it.  I started doing this because she would wear the same clothes for as many days until I pick something else out.

6:15 in the morning, getting ready for work

“Debbie, are you busy?  Can you come help me for a minute?”

“of course”

“will you help me with these stupid socks, I don’t know why I cant get them on my feet.”

again, 6:15 in the morning, getting ready for work

“Debbie, are you busy?  Can you come help me for a minute?”

“of course”

“will you help me with this stupid sweater, I don’t know why I cant get my arm in the right spot.”


So often I feel sad for this conversation, but it takes place more frequently these days.  There are times when I will find an excuse to just go in and help her without her asking, I don’t want her to feel she has to ask, so I try to be available.  I don’t want her to feel useless.  We can have  a little morning chatter while we dress her.


recently, 6:15 in the morning, getting ready for work

“Debbie, are you busy?  Can you come help me for a minute?”

“of course”

poor mom sitting on the edge of her bed unable to hook her bra, she looked beat,  no words were spoken until she was dressed.

We both know.  We shared a halfhearted grin.

(I said this earlier…..What a great feeling it is to be needed, not only needed but also able to provide for those needs, it’s rewarding.  It  creates dependence. She is very dependent, but it is not reward that I am feeling) 

lately each of our conversations are ending the same way……

“thank you dear, what would I do without you”

she sounds so tired

“your welcome mom and I’m glad we don’t need to worry about that”



erica and daves wedding 004 (2)

…….  what will I do without her.


2 thoughts on “Dependent Independence”

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