For the past few weeks I’ve been feeling a little overwhelmed.
I’ve endeavored to spend 3 – 5 hours per day with my mother since she moved here from her home in Maine. She didn’t have friends here, just myself, my husband, and our two boys. I’ve been to the local senior center with her, we’ve gone to the movies, twice, we’ve gone to lunch, run errands, she’s come over for dinner a few times, she spent Thanksgiving with us as well as Thanksgiving Eve – I’ve seen more of my mom in 3 weeks than I’ve seen in 3 years, I think.
Mom has, thankfully, made a friend here. It’s someone I was acquainted with already, but that doesn’t concern me at all. I am happy they have hit it off, and are keeping in touch. Mom has mentioned, often, how she ‘doesn’t know a soul here’ (besides me) and I’ve been doing what I can to influence that. My hope is that this one sociable person will introduce Mom to others and thereby a bouquet of new friendships will blossom for her.
I am not being simply magnanimous in this. I need a break. I have a two-story house to take care of, two heightened needs children to take care of, therapy appointments, play dates, errands, Christmas shopping, and essentially I have ‘me’ to care for as well.
Someone I respect very much told me a few years ago that if you’re in an airplane with a child and the air masks drop, you put yours on first, then the child – because if you aren’t okay you can’t take care of them. Very sage advice. And though my mom isn’t a child – and I am trying to not treat her as one, she does require a TON of care taking right now.
That said, I took today as a day for myself. I had an appointment with my therapist for this morning that was cancelled yesterday. I had dinner plans for tonight with a friend who had to re-schedule. The stars aligned for me to have an entire day to myself, and I grabbed at it quickly. I wrote on Mom’s dry-erase board that I wouldn’t be over, and let her know I had something important to do during the day.
It’s not exactly the ‘truth’, but it wasn’t a lie either….I did have something very important to do today. I needed a day when the kids are in school and I have nowhere I ‘have’ to go and nothing desperately needing to get done where I could soak in a hot tub or just sit on my butt and read a book or take a nap (incidentally, I’ve done all three today).
What I haven’t done today is rush to get anywhere, nor looked at the clock and thought of everything I needed to accomplish before a certain time. I’ve not had to have any repetitive and or difficult conversations, save for telling the kids to get their shoes on more than once before school this morning. I’ve not ‘hurried’, I’ve not ‘worried’….I’ve relaxed. I ran a tub full of water and laid there for an hour. I dressed and sat down in my recliner and tilted back and fell asleep for ninety minutes (no small feat since I can RARELY sleep during the day). I am within 30 pages of the end of the book I am reading, and look forward to starting another one tonight.
There are dishes in my sink waiting to go into the dishwasher. There are (clean) dishes in my dishwasher waiting to go into the cabinets. There’s laundry in the dryer waiting to be folded. There’s gifts to wrap, cleaning to be done, little boy detritus to clean up and put away, recycling to be dumped, trash to be taken out…..and knowing all that….I say ‘Jimmy Crack Corn And I Don’t Care!’
I have successfully navigated my day without doing a ‘chore’ of any kind whatsoever. Everything I’ve done today, including this blog post, has been done willingly and gratefully. I love to write…it cleanses my senses to get my thoughts out into black and white and send them out into the world. The hot bath relaxed my tired body in a way that few things can. The book I’ve been reading, while ‘action thriller fluff’ was entertaining and I learned a smidgen of history in the process. Doing this for me has, by extension, helped Mom as I will be all the better for her tomorrow having done for myself today. I’ve fed my body, mind, and soul today, and enjoyed it tremendously.
Best of all, I’ve done it without even an ounce of guilt.
Mom called me a few minutes before I started to write this. She’s fine. She’s been reading, watching t.v., talked to some people on the phone. She sounds no worse for wear today, having not seen me at all, nor gone anywhere. I know she’s struggling with this transition, and misses her ‘home’ and her friends up there, and is lamenting the loss of her drivers license and her ‘freedom’, and I don’t want to be insensitive to that. But I also know how important it is to take care of me in conjuncture with taking care of her. I can’t be of use to her if I’m of no use to myself because I’m burnt out.
And so, the caregiver feels a major sense of accomplishment today having done very little by way of ‘practical’ things….and yet having accomplished something substantial nonetheless.
The caregiver has cared for himself.