Information

Are You a "Put Upon" ?

Date Posted: 28.10.2012

"I remember years ago, when Gay Byrne reigned supreme on RTÉ radio every morning instead of reigning supreme every Sunday on Lyric FM, him reading out a letter from a woman living, I think, on Ailesbury or Shrewsbury Road in Dublin, both of which streets live eternally purple in my mind on account of years spent staring at the Monopoly board.

I must have only been a teenager, but I’ve never forgotten her story.

The woman lived alone in a big house and the only time her children bothered to visit was Christmas Day. In the letter she told Gay that this year she’d prefer if they didn’t come. She couldn’t believe she had reared such an uncaring, thoughtless bunch of people. If she was alone, she reckoned, she may as well be fully alone on Christmas Day, the same as every other day. But she knew she would go through the charade, the house full of well-meaning visitors and cinnamon-scented cheer for at least part of this one day, their overburdened consciences eased for another year. She would shut the door and think about all the things she could never tell her children to their faces. So instead, as so many people did then, she told Gay.

She was an older woman then, I’m sure she’s long gone now but I thought about her the other day when I was in contact with a woman who calls herself one of the Put Upons. That’s the term this woman, Marion, uses for the grown-up children who provides the bulk of the day-to-day love, care and attention for an ageing parent while the rest of the family do virtually nothing. Marion thought she was the only one with “selfish, uncaring” siblings until she started to talk to friends and discovered a wider community of Put Upons. But knowing she is not the only one doesn’t make it any easier.

Marion is in her 50s, working full time and angry. She thinks the main reason she is a Put Upon is because she lives the closest to her mother. In the beginning, when problems were smaller, it made sense for her to be the one taking action when any issues arose. But then her mother got older and Marion found herself in charge of making all the hospital appointments and bringing her to them and sorting out all the confusion over prescriptions. She does her mother’s shopping every week and brings bread and milk when she runs out, and sorts it when she has no batteries for the remote and organises a repair man for the telly or buys a new one if it’s really kaput. When she can’t do a particular thing, her husband and her children help out.

Oh, she knows there is a list of reasons as long as their arms why the other siblings can’t help out. They live abroad, or they are working, or they are on holidays, or they can’t afford the taxi fare to come and see her, or they have other members of extended family to care for, or they are just busy. Always busy. Too busy to agree to her requests for family meetings, or to come up with a rota so that the family can take turns making Sunday dinner. When their mother asks another sibling for help the reply is often “did you ask Marion?” She has become the de facto daughter. The default daughter. She feels like an only child and she feels taken for granted, as though her time isn’t as important as theirs.

I asked if she tells them how she feels, but she doesn’t, fearful that they won’t see her point of view and that it will cause ructions in the family. She also worries that they will tell their mother, which will make her feel like a burden – something she already suspects she is.

Marion would like her siblings to know a few things. That their mother spends far too much time alone and – look, it’s not rocket science – this means she is often lonely. One day Marion called to the house at 6pm and the lock was still on the door from the night before.

Their mother cries at night. Did they know? Their mother loves all her children and grandchildren, worries about them, talks constantly about their exploits. She longs for regular visits from them, something to look forward to. She wishes that when she rang and left them messages that they would be returned instead of ignored. Their mother is good and kind and, yes, needy but neediness, believes Marion, is not a crime in older age.

Why do Marion and the other Put Upons carry on as the default daughters or sons? “Because we love our parents. And we know we will have great memories, laughs and tender moments with them that the others lose out on.” In the end, the Put Upons win, she reckons. They have the “privilege” of supporting their older parents through their old age. They will bear no guilt when they go. And yet they also know how much richer their parents’ life would be if the others played their part.

As well as saying she’s a Put Upon, Marion also thinks she is a wimp for not wanting to rock the family boat. But she’s not a wimp. She’s a warrior for her mother. She just wishes there were others taking up arms in the name of unconditional love and battling together for the same cause."

roisin@irishtimes.com,. Irish Times, October 27th 2012
 


Please choose a sector below

Cancer
  • Embarrassment and fear of wasting a doctor's time affect cancer survival rates read »
  • Cancer patients 'struggle' to meet costs read »
  • My mother died from breast cancer - should I now be tested to find out if I carry the gene? read »
  • Women: Cancer Symptoms You're Most Likely to Ignore read »
  • Women unaware of breast symptoms read »
  • The Good Gift Guide for Chemo Chums read »
  • Life After Cancer read »
Arthritis
  • Exercise and Arthritis read »
  • Caring for a Person with Arthritis read »
  • Self Management read »
  • Diet and Arthritis read »
  • Living with Arthritis read »
  • Distraction is considered to be one of the best techniques for coping with pain read »
Dementia
  • Million 'dementia friends' wanted for training read »
  • Popular anti-anxiety drug increases risk of dementia in elderly by 50pc read »
  • Women who look after their teeth and gums 'have lower risk of dementia read »
  • Get to Know the Symptons of Dementia read »
  • Lifestyle and home remedies for Dementia read »
  • Welcome to Dementiaville: read »
  • Louis Theroux on dementia: The capital of the forgetful read »
  • Panoroma : "Undercover : Elderly Care" read »
  • Basic Tips for Dementia Caregivers read »
  • What is Dementia? read »
  • Facts About Dementia read »
  • Diagnosing Dementia read »
  • Vascular Dementia read »
  • What to do if you or someone close to you has been diagnosed with Dementia read »
  • Treatment for Dementia read »
  • Warning Signs of Alzheimer's Disease read »
  • What to do if you or someone close to you has been diagnosed with Dementia read »
Case Studies
Alzheimer's
  • Loneliness can increase the risk of Alzheimer's in later life read »
  • Why is Alzheimer's disease linked to older age? read »
  • Sir Terry Pratchett: "I thought my Alzheimer's would be a lot worse than this by now" read »
  • Stress of Alzheimer's for families read »
  • Alzheimer's: When to stop driving read »
  • Alzheimer's: Understand and control wandering read »
  • Artificial butter flavouring ingredient 'behind key Alzheimer’s process' read »
  • A project with a holistic theme aims to improve the quality of life for people with Alzheimer’s read »
  • Strides in Alzheimer’s Research Presented at International Conference read »
  • Alzheimer's Disease Linked To Disrupted Sleep Patterns read »
  • New study maps Alzheimer's changes read »
  • Alzheimer's: How to help a caregiver read »
  • Vaccine hope for Alzheimer sufferers read »
  • Drama now on in Temple bar : How families are affected by Alzheimer’s read »
  • What is Alzheimer's disease ? read »
  • The Early Signs and Symptoms of Alzheimer's Disease read »
  • The Alzheimer Society of Ireland read »
Stroke
  • Stroke victims recover use of weakened limbs by exercising unaffected limbs, research finds read »
  • Stroke victims too slow to call 999 read »
  • New movie - featuring older woman with a stroke read »
  • Eating tomatoes may stave off a stroke: research read »
  • Wife of Stroke Affected Husband Develops App for Rehab Speech Activities read »
  • National Stroke Week April 2012 read »
  • How can you reduce your risk of stroke? read »
  • How can you recognise the symptoms of a stroke? read »
  • What are the effects of a stroke? read »
  • What treatment is there for a stroke? read »
  • What is stroke rehabilitation? read »
  • Where can I go for more information on stroke? read »
  • What is a stroke? read »
  • What causes a stroke? read »
  • Preventing a stroke read »
  • Where can I get support after a stroke? read »
  • How do you recognise a stroke? read »
Parkinson's Disease
  • Saliva Gland Test for Parkinson's Disease? read »
  • Parkinson's Disease Research in 2012 - How Far We've Come and What Lies Ahead: read »
  • Shay Healy - How I cope with Parkinsons read »
  • Parkinson's Assocation of Ireland read »
  • Newly Diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease read »
  • Signs & Symptoms of Parkinson's read »
  • What is Parkinsons ? read »
  • Living with Parkinsons read »
Children
  • Scientific breakthrough in study of the genetics of myopia read »
  • Family meals 'boost child fruit and vegetable intake' read »
  • 10-year-olds showing signs of heart disease read »
  • How do you know if you should keep your child off school ? read »
  • Wii games could help children overcome disabilities read »
  • Don't turn a blind eye to the dangers in your home read »
  • Twitter and Facebook 'harming children's development' read »
Multiple Sclerosis
Tracheostomies
Motor Neurone Disease
  • Motor neuron disease, and twins ! read »
  • Charity Take Me Out ! Wednesday April 18th, Dublin. Take part or come along ! read »
  • The Irish Motor Neurone Disease Association read »
  • Can I still drive even though I have MND? read »
  • What are Stem Cells? read »
  • Can MND be reversed? read »
  • What's the Difference between MND and ALS? read »
  • What Causes MND? read »
  • Just Diagnosed with MND ? read »
Brain Injury Information
  • National Epilepsy Week 15th May 2012 read »
  • Services from Headway read »
  • Managing Stress after ABI read »
  • Challenging Behaviour following an Acquired Brain Injury read »
  • Attention and Concentration after an Acquired Brain Injury read »
  • Consequences of Acquired Brain Injury read »
  • What is an acquired brain injury? read »
Men's Health
  • Irish Men treating cars better than their bodies read »
  • Charity seeks hairy Irish males read »
  • Men's mental fitness gets a workout read »
  • MY HEALTH EXPERIENCE: KEVIN HUMPHREYS read »
  • Testicle self-check: How it’s done read »
Blog
  • Tax Relief on the Cost of Home Care - Latest from Revenue read »
  • HCCI issue statement in response to Irish Times Article read »
  • Calls for reform of home care read »
  • Tips for Keeping Warm in this Cold Weather read »
  • Goodbye Grangegorman read »
  • Diabetes: Is sitting the new smoking? read »
  • National Centre for the Protection of Older People's seminar on Financial Abuse read »
  • Gender-bending chemicals found in tin cans read »
  • Getting hip to beating pain read »
  • Chemicals in green tea and red wine may block the brain damage caused by Alzheimer's disease read »
  • Med diet may not protect the aging brain read »
  • St Valentine is also the patron saint of epilepsy. read »
  • Sopranos star reveals how he beat pain of depression read »
  • UK "Neighbours must help elderly more" read »
  • Time for a Spring clean – declutter your home and help Age Action read »
  • Poisoning risk from poorly fitted stoves read »
  • Homeopathy is 'rubbish', says chief medical officer read »
  • Protect your House from Cold and Floods read »
  • Prescription pitfalls: why do patients not always take their medicine? read »
  • Eating strawberries all year round could prevent heart attacks read »
  • Ease Your Irritable Bowel Symptoms read »
  • Flu season read »
  • January is Lung Cancer Awareness Month read »
  • Make your money stretch until payday read »
  • Note to My Patient read »
  • Older People with Sight Loss - Living at Home read »
  • Britain's first ever hand transplant read »
  • The Garden Bird Survey read »
  • Film review: Quartet read »
  • Should I stop drinking alcohol in January? read »
  • Is It Time to Find Elder Care For Your Aging Parent? read »
  • Why I did a good deed every day read »
  • Care in the Stone Age community revealed read »
  • Sternberg Active Life Award read »
  • Chicken soup really CAN fight a cold, say scientists read »
  • DIABETES DIET MAKING DISEASE-FIGHTING EATING EASIER read »
  • Tips for Entertaining Elderly or Frail Senior Guests in Your Home read »
  • Retirement age will increase read »
  • Don't Leave a Legacy; Live One read »
  • How to Stay Warm at Home Without a Heater read »
  • Budget 2013: Elderly hit with cuts to power and phone supports read »
  • Please stay for five more minutes read »
  • What's it like to grow up with a disabled sibling? read »
  • Self-tracking: the people turning their bodies into medical labs read »
  • Meningitis Symptoms in Adults read »
  • Fears over health and loneliness of elderly this winter read »
  • Pet owners more physically fit read »
  • The Seniors Alert Scheme - What You Need To Know read »
  • The change should be in how we perceive menopause read »
  • Is exercise better for your brain than crossword puzzles? read »
  • Free bus pass 'helps keep people healthy' read »
  • App for blind and visually impaired read »
  • A few easy steps to combat your stress read »
  • Are You a "Put Upon" ? read »
  • An Ageing Population read »
  • Napping: Do's and don'ts for healthy adults read »
  • How to Prevent your First Fracture (Osteoporosis) read »
  • Migraine could be a pain in the neck read »
  • Japan's centenarian population reaches more than 50,000 read »
  • Easy to Chew Foods read »
  • A recipe to tackle malnutrition among the elderly read »
  • Calculate your BMI (Body Mass Index) read »
  • New blood test to spot breast cancer early read »
  • Never too old to get active read »
  • Gout cases double in a decade due to the affects of obesity read »
  • Ward off Winter Bugs Naturally read »
  • Is Your Home Ready for Winter ? read »
  • Is it getting harder to die in hospital ? read »
  • Cholesterol: Top 5 foods to lower your numbers read »
  • Marian Finucane speaks of the extraordinary home care her late daughter received read »
  • Healthy Habits for Children read »
  • Grannies on safari in Ireland read »
  • Free mouth cancer checks at 700 dental surgeries read »
  • Mind Moves read »
  • Give Beets a Chance read »
  • Give your body the NCT it deserves read »
  • US teen invents advanced cancer test using Google read »
  • Guide dogs for the mind to fight dementia read »
  • Dealing with Dementia read »
  • Paralympics Update : Ireland win gold and two bronze at Brands Hatch read »
  • Diabetes Ireland advises caution on 'diabetic' foods read »
  • Want to get out of hospital in record time ? Scoff yourself read »
  • Research Suggests that Regular Exercise Might Help You Live Longer read »
  • 67 year old joins TV3's Xpose fashion programme read »
  • Botox can treat problems from cerebral palsy to migraines read »
  • Irish Ladies Golf Union - District National Finals This Weekend read »
  • The Secrets of the Super Agers read »
  • How to Live to 100 - Nine Healthy Habits read »
  • Goodbye Olympics Hello Paralympics read »
  • The hardest choice: A time to care read »
  • 10 things you should never say to someone when they're sick read »
  • Share your Children read »
  • The art of healing - how art & photos can bring a touch of home read »
  • Why going to work on an egg is healthier than it used to be read »
  • Texting is now our most popular form of Communications read »
  • 'Come and live with me, Dad' read »
  • Ping Pong - never too old for gold read »
  • Nurses told to stop saying 'darling' to elderly patients because it shows 'a lack of respect' read »
  • "Mo Sco" Gridlock read »
  • Walking 'cuts breast cancer risk by 30%': read »
  • Irish Silver blogger short-listed for European IT award read »
  • Carers who provide the most intensive care often end up with health problems themselves read »
  • World Elder Abuse Awareness Day Conference - June 14th 2012 read »
  • National Carers Week June 13th -19th 2012 read »
  • Living wills Bill before Dail read »
  • With nursing home beds becoming scarce, it’s time to look at home care read »
  • Clue to Centenarians' Longevity: A Mediterranean Diet & Live at Home with your Family read »
  • Private Home Care at Bloom - Stand G17 in the Grand Pavilion read »
  • 100 years young and still going strong… thanks to her Nintendo! read »
  • 100 years young and still going strong… thanks to her Nintendo! read »
  • Well Elderly Group read »
  • Pilates: a fix for incontinence? read »
  • Sony Radio Academy Awards - Best Entertainment Programme goes to Golden Oldies read »
  • World Elder Abuse Day read »
  • 5 Regrets of Dying People read »
  • Urgently Seeking Carers Nationwide read »
  • Hand sanitiser kills virus on cruise ship read »
  • Visiting someone this year, why not bring some homemade soup and brown bread? read »
  • Revised grant amounts announced for Better Energy homes scheme read »
  • Grannies don't want a 'coffret' for Christmas read »
  • Eating fish just once a week could stave off Alzheimer's by stopping the brain from shrinking read »
  • VHI price increases 'will drive elderly out of market' read »
  • To All Our Carers read »
  • Prime Time Investigates Home Care read »
  • Stuck For Present Ideas read »
  • A Carers Story read »
  • Share A Golden Moment read »
  • What Can Your Carer Do For You read »