I’ve been a caregiver for 15 years now but it’s kicked into high gear over the last two. While there’s no question that being a caregiver is exhausting and oftentimes frustrating, it’s also helped me figure out some important life lessons that I probably wouldn’t have known otherwise. Here are some secrets I’ll share:
We know how to put life into perspective – The phrase “don’t sweat the small stuff” is our motto. The rude sales person, our child’s messy room, the delayed train and the person who cut us off while driving just don’t carry the weight of sitting in a hospital room with our sick child or trying to figure out how to pay for the desperately needed medications and therapies not covered under insurance.
For us, life is made up of the tiny moments not the major events – Most likely I will never see my son get a driver’s license or be able to dance with my husband at my daughter’s wedding or have my dad recognize his grandkids as they accept their diploma. But there’s no guarantee that I’ll be around for those things either. What I take most pleasure in are those smaller moments, seeing my daughter open a birthday present she desperately wanted, enjoying a quiet dinner with my husband and watching my son go off to the movies by himself with a friend (a HUGE accomplishment for an intellectually disabled child.)
We only keep the company of supportive people – It’s easy enough as a caregiver to feel like you’re not doing enough or short-changing somebody in the family – you certainly don’t need someone else being critical of you. For whatever reason, some friends will never be comfortable being around the person you care for, even if they’ve been long time acquaintances. It hurts, it’s confusing, but it’s the reality. Too often we turn ourselves inside out trying to please other people and/or make them comfortable around the people we care for. In the end, it’s exhausting and not at all productive. Eliminating toxic relationships leads to peace
We’re not Martha Stewart and it’s OK – There’s way too much pressure to have a clean house, organized shelves and a gourmet meal cooked while at the same time baking home-made cookies for the school bake sale and sewing our kid’s costume for the school play. That illusion died for me a long time ago. My kids are great about helping around the house but when they’re finishing homework at 9 or 10 o’clock at night, the last thing I’m going to request of them is to clean the sink of dirty dishes. It just doesn’t matter! I know that if I go down because of exhaustion the important things, like work, doctor’s appointments and school meetings, won’t happen. It really is OK to have a messy house. And store bought cupcakes, put onto a nice plate, really can pass for homemade!
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