On Twitter recently, I saw a post regarding an article by caregiving expert Debra Hallisey in which she described a phrase in the context of family caregiving that makes her cringe: “Parenting Your Parents.”
Ugh. That one’s like fingernails on a chalkboard for me, too.
Over the years of my clinical career, I’ve watched way too many adult children mow over the autonomy and opinions of the elders they’re supposed to honor and respect.
This dynamic both frustrated and saddened me, as I wondered if these adult children would want to be treated in the same way if—and when—they ended up in the same shoes.
When I was Mom’s caregiver, she was in charge, and I was her helper.
Neither of us would’ve had it any other way and we loved being a team to make sure that was the case.
That’s why I had to jump into that Twitter conversation to agree with Debra’s concern—and add another cringe-worthy reference that makes me shake my head: the “burden” of family caregiving.
Seriously, a burden?
A challenge, yes.
Overwhelming at times, yes.
But so are many things in life that are filled with value and beauty.
Getting to be Mom’s caregiver was one of the greatest blessings I ever experienced.
A privilege that’s difficult to put into words.
Of course it was hard at times.
Of course I got tired.
And she certainly did, too.
But there wasn’t a single thing I did to take care of my precious mom that she wouldn’t have done for me a thousand times over if I was the one in need.
Plus, as a parent—she already did!
All the times throughout my life, when I was sick or hurt or afraid or confused or just messing things up, she and my dad went to extremes to make sure I had what I needed—and most importantly, they made sure I knew how much I was loved.
I’ve tried to participate in a few family caregiving forums, but have been put off by the climate of negativity I sometimes find there.
What some see as a burden was such a blessing in my world.
Those years with Mom are a perpetual gift—both during the time we had to enjoy them, and in the years since she’s been gone.
I know everyone’s situation is different, and I’m not trying to minimize how hard caregiving can be.
Plus, I know I’m not in the midst of the daily effort at this point in my life, which gives me a different perspective than someone who’s still trying to juggle the multiple needs and challenges involved.
But I think it’s easy to forget in the midst of such dynamics that unless we die suddenly, we’ll likely need care too—which is a good reason to embrace the tenants of the Golden Rule.
As with most things in life, if we allow the negativity around us to seep into our pores, we’re more likely to miss the beautiful things that are happening before our very eyes.
This post original appeared in the 2/8/2020 edition of The Empowered Traveler™ newsletter. Please subscribe below.
Feature photo by Erik Witsoe on Unsplash.