Growing Old Alone

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I am elatedly married to an incredible man that is twelve years older than me. When we first started dating and before I knew his age, I would have never guessed he was “that” much older than me. Our age difference has never been an issue in our relationship; in fact, anyone that finds out about our twelve-year age difference is shocked. My husband has beautiful European skin that never seems to age and is a definite kid at heart…he even stays up past 10pm on work nights (gasp!) Me on the other hand, I am an old soul that spent too many years as a young child rejecting my parent’s request to wear sunscreen and am already sporting wrinkles in my early thirties. I am in bed by 8:30-9:00pm at the latest; I love sleeping!

While our age difference has never been a problem, my fear of being a widow for many years is.

The way I see it, (or the way my anxiety likes to get me spun up about it) is the average life span for a man in the United States is 76 and 81 for a woman.  If these statistics prove to be correct, that is a five-year difference. Add five years onto the already twelve-year gap, and that is seventeen years that I could possibly be a widow if we both live to our life expectancy. I know, I know…why am I thinking about this? Why worry about something that I cannot control?

Why think about this when the reality is that anything could happen to either of us at any time?

Well, I worry about it because it is a real possibility and because I cannot imagine living this life without my husband. I also realize that while our age difference has not held any weight in our relationship yet, it is bound to “show up” as the years go by and will more likely be most apparent after our children are out of the house. I would not trade our relationship and the life we have built together for anything, but I am admittedly anxious about how our relationship dynamics will change due to the natural course of aging. Don’t get me wrong; I am cemented in the vows I made to him on October 15, 2011, and my love for him will never change, it’ll only grow; however, I am aware that at some point we won’t be on the same page in life. Right now, we are plunging through raising three kids three years old and younger—we’re experiencing life very similarly. In twenty-five years when my husband is 70 and I am 58, it is predestined that our life experience will not be the same, and this scares me.

Living in the moment would be such a luxurious experience for me, but my mind (and anxiety) cannot help but think about the future. Thinking about being a long-term widow, brings up my second biggest fear…my fear of growing old alone; alone without my husband and alone because my children are not near and cannot take care of me. There is a good bit of discussion on whether or not parents should expect their children to take care of them as they age.

While I respect everyone’s opinion on this, I will bravely state that I hope my children will take care of me. My husband and I are already saving to ensure our children are left with the financial means for caretaking. If it came down to it, I would not want my children to abandon their dreams in order to take care of me, but I do hope that they will make accommodations to include me in their life as I age. I want to grow old being surrounded by my family. Ideally, I would love to live with one of my children, or even better, take turns living with each of them for an amount of time while having the pleasure of being actively involved in seeing them raise their family.

These fears continue…not only am I worried about being a widow and my children not wanting to take care of me, but I also fear that my two sons will be less likely to stay in touch with me than my daughter. I read articles stating that girls are more likely to stay in touch with their parents and provide care for their aging parents, and I cannot help but to worry about things like “Will my boys stay in touch with me?” “Will my boys still prioritize their relationship with me once they get married?” “Will my boys help take care of me as I age?” Each of these thoughts breaks my heart; I cannot imagine not being close to my sons. I am certain my daughter and I will continue to be best friends, but I do worry about what my relationship with my boys will look like once they are married and have their own family. I guess you can call me a needy mama and one that just wants my children to stay dependent on me forever!

I know it is part of life, but a part of life that this mama is not prepared for.

I know, I am worried about things that are irrelevant at this stage in life, but if I must be completely vulnerable, these are some of my biggest fears in life. When I reflect on the roots of these fears, all of them boil down to one thing…my fear of growing old alone. While I cannot change the plan that has been crafted for my life, I know that I need to try and bottle up my fears in the smallest part of my brain and instead live every day through my full heart. I will continue to spend a great deal of time creating traditions for my family that I pray will carry on no matter how old we all are. I will continue emphasizing with my children, the importance of family and helping one another. Moreover, I will continue praying for a long, happy, and full life with my family, my world!

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Melissa Butcher
Melissa recently resigned from her career in higher education and was promoted to her new title as Dr. Mom to two-under-two. Her quest to have a family involved a long road of infertility struggles. She has a son named Rowan who is 21 months old and a girl named Ildi who is 6 months old. There is never a dull moment in the Butcher house with two-under-two. Their days are fast, dirty, silly and tiring, yet also imaginative, magical and memorable. Melissa is passionate about conquering every great moment as well as the challenging moments, with love. She truly embraces the Beatle’s philosophy of “All You Need is Love” especially in moments when she finds herself gritting her teeth and taking deep breaths during the blissful chaos occurring in her home. She enjoys reading, baking, decorating cakes, walking, biking, spending time with her family and friends, and cheering on the Clemson Tigers. She also enjoys writing for infertility and adoption focused organizations, striving to serve and support families pursuing assisted reproductive technologies and adoption to achieve their dreams in becoming parents. In writing for Charleston Moms Blog, Melissa hopes to bring Moms together in enjoying and laughing about the special and comical moments of being a mom as well as providing the comfort and support that all Moms need on this journey we adoringly call Motherhood.