As moms, we’re caretakers. As time goes on, many of us may find that our role as caretaker takes on a new facet as we become a caretaker of our own parent. Here’s some advice from a mom who has been there and tips on how to cope.
First off, let me be clear. I am by no means a family expert or psychologist. I am a 30-year-old mom of two young children, ages 4 and 22 months, who was living with her boyfriend, mother and grandmother in New York up until about a year and a half ago. At which point our living situation was heading downhill quickly and we knew we had to move.
The house we were living in was my grandmothers so, naturally, she stayed while the rest of us ventured into the unknown and strange land that is North Carolina. Why North Carolina you ask? Well, I did have a friend living in the Raleigh area and we knew cost of living was much cheaper. Easy decision, right? Well, considering we didn’t have many options in New York, I suppose our lack of options made the decision easy.
Just to backtrack a little, shortly after my son’s birth in 2013, my mother lost her job. I was busy, as was my boyfriend, working full-time and trying to adjust to life as new parents. I barely picked up on the signs that my mother was having some real mental health issues. You see, my mom raised me as a single parent, always provided for me, made time for me and never let me see how hard it must have been for her. Because of this, in my mind, my mom was superwoman. Cliché I know, but that was just the way I saw her. She was a powerful, ambitious, beautiful woman. She still is.
Despite all of this, depression/anxiety still managed to overcome her.
This past year and a half, I’ve not only had to adjust to becoming my mother’s caretaker in so many ways, I’ve also had to take time getting to know my mom again. Learning about her fears and vulnerabilities and having her open up to me, has been more humbling than I can put into words. Honestly, I think my mom is a huge motivating factor for me starting a freelance writing career.
I know there are plenty of moms out there who find themselves taking care of more than just their children, some who find themselves needing to care for a parent perhaps a lot sooner than they expected. The number of hats we wear as moms, nurturers, healers, etc. (the list is endless) can be so incredibly overwhelming at times that it can paralyze you. I’ve just begun to get a grip on it myself and my roles are constantly evolving and growing.
If you have found yourself walking down a similar path in life, take heart, you are not alone, and there is nothing that can come your way, that you can’t handle.
Here are my 5 tips on how to juggle mommyhood and taking care of your parents,
1. GET HAPPY NOW
I know how difficult this can be. I know how much harder it is then it sounds. It is also paramount to your success in this life. I don’t know what you’ve heard or been told but I know through personal experience, happiness is a choice. It is a conscious choice I make every day. That’s not to say I’m happy every second of every day, but I make it a point to find the good in the bad and the joyful in the otherwise mundane.
Remember, your attitude will shape not only how you experience things but how well you handle obstacles in your family life and business. An attitude of gratefulness will generate more things to be grateful for.
2. WORK WITH WHAT YOU’VE GOT
I know all too well what it’s like to get caught up in what you wish you had or how you wish someone could be. You know that prayer, “Lord, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference”? How amazing would the gift of that kind of discernment be, am I right!?
I think we all credit ourselves a little too much at times with this ability. The truth is, acceptance of people and their limitations is one of the hardest challenges we face. As I was faced with my mom’s burgeoning mental health condition, I had two choices:
1. Get frustrated wondering why she wasn’t the same woman I remember her being and be short tempered (thereby short-sighted) with her and her needs.
2. Accept our new reality and evolving relationship. Get to know my mother in a new way and learn how best to help her navigate this scary chapter in her life.
I chose option 2. It’s a struggle most days, especially with two littles running around. But by accepting her as she is, I’ve taken the pressure off both of us and allowed a space for love and healing to take root.
3. TAKE A BREAK
Yet another idea that is not as easy as it sounds! I know we always joke about how moms never get a day off and that you must be everything to everyone. But seriously, you NEED to take a break. What do I mean by break? I mean literally whatever soothes you and brings you to your happy place. It’s different for everyone. The point is to take it seriously.
Step back from the hectic insanity of your everyday life and breathe. I highly recommend meditation, check out some easy steps here. The thing to keep in mind is, you can’t be there for the ones you love if you aren’t there for you first.
4. DELEGATE TASKS
Every family has their own dynamic. Every person has their own strengths. You are a business woman, right? The good news is, if you can run your business, you can run your home! My kids are only 4 and 22 months but they can DO things. My son can pick up after himself and dress himself (at least somewhat) and my daughter is my little helper, she loves to bring things to mommy and be given “jobs” to do. We often get so caught up in how much work it is to care for our kids we forget how much they would love to help. Same goes for the men in our lives. My boyfriend is more than happy to help me out with things. Often the only thing holding him back is not being sure how to help and not be in my way. By delegating tasks, he feels useful and I get to take some things off my to-do list.
The most therapeutic thing you can do. Spend time together as a family having fun. Every day if you can even if it’s only for five minutes. That time together is more valuable than gold.
If you’re in a caretaking role, how do you cope? Share your thoughts in the comments.
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