Caregiving is a topic that I have been mulling around in my head for awhile. It’s a complicated and exhausting role, mixed with a little “I’m glad I can help” and “he/she would do the same for me (hopefully??).”
I am a natural caretaker. I picked this responsibility up as a child and have fully continued this role in my adulthood. I always say, “There’s a reason I didn’t have kids” because my time and energy have been needed by others who needed care and support. Frankly, I don’t know how women/men do it? If they are raising a family, caring for an aging/sick parent/loved one and working full-time – talk about a heavy load – wow!
I think it’s safe to assume that most of us will become caregivers at some point in our lives. Some of us may handle it better than others by setting up boundaries and limits when it comes to this role. I, on the other hand, have not been that person. I tend to rearrange my life to accommodate someone else’s needs. Some people may call this “co-dependency” and I agree, that’s a pretty fair word to describe my lack of self-preservation.
For many years, I would justify my caretaking by saying, “As a single person, I hope someone would do the same for me.” At that time, it was scary to think, “Who would help me?” I didn’t have loved ones coming out of the woodwork who would want this role. In fact, when I was going through my cancer treatment, I opted to “go it alone” so that I didn’t have to be concerned about anyone else during that time. (I was finding my cancer became “their cancer’, i.e. drama.) Part of that was my own fault, because I hadn’t fostered healthy relationships with my inner circle. Me being cared for was a role they did not plan on. And, frankly, it was hard to have other people care for me; I was not used to that.
I recall a time when I was sitting with a peer group of women business owners and sharing with them how my life had been turned upside-down due to the health of one of my loved ones. As a result, my business “took a distant backseat” since I didn’t have any energy to work on it (even when I did have time). I recall one of the women saying to me, “Do you always need to be the one who helps?” And I thought, “Yes, because who else is going to do it?” Plus, unfortunately, I had secured my role as the lead caregiver, so it was the expected norm.
I generally make it easy for those around me to get help. They do not even need to ask for it. I just offer it and/or do it. At times I get really frustrated and begin small practices of rebellion (i.e. self-care). For instance, yesterday, I was having a conversation that I normally would have said, “Oh, I’ll take care of that” and pushed my needs aside. BUT, I did not do that. I got off the phone and was proud of myself. Then, I reflected on how odd that feeling was not to give up my day for someone else’s needs. Then, of course, I spent the next couple of hours feeling guilty and thinking, “Oh, what’s the big deal, I could have just done it.”
Being a mid-age women, I find that many of my conversations with friends center around caregiving. We’re all so damn exhausted. I literally feel BURNED OUT. Flat. Empty. Beyond tired. So, then the question is, what am I going to do about it? Well, that’s a good question and one that I will revisit in another blog. I’m too tired to think about that at the moment (sigh and smile).
Hats off to all caregivers. I’m going to work “with us” on how we can better care for ourselves when it seems like we don’t have an ounce of energy to put our way. In the meantime, I give you a big hug and a pat on the back. Keep on, keeping on.Tags: aging parents burnout caregiving exhaustion sandwich generation self-care women supporting women