I don’t always like caregiving. There, I’ve said it. After nearly 20 years of writing about family caregivers, I am now in the throes of caregiving myself. This uneasy notion – that caregiving doesn’t feel like my calling – has been lurking around my mind for some time. Now it’s time to fess up.
But first, let me explain. I love my 91-year-old father and 92-year-old mother-in-law. Love them dearly. My life pales in comparison to their contributions to society. And, yes, I want to help. But it’s hard . . . really hard.
Why can’t I be more like all those caregivers I’ve interviewed through the years? They’re devoted and selfless, and many are actually living with the seniors they’re caring for. It’s a 24/7 job. Not for me. So can I really even call myself a caregiver? Or am I just a pathetic whiner?
Something about providing care for the people who brought you into this world seems unnatural to me. You have a child and you care for that child.
I want to be a daughter again. I want my dad to circle the house in the middle of the night, protecting me from a looming Nebraska tornado. I long to ride in his pickup truck, singing The Doors’ “Light my Fire” at the top of our lungs. I want one of my mother-in-law’s intricately decorated Christmas cookies. I want to sit at the kitchen table with a “Land’s End” catalog picking out her birthday gift to me.
I know our parents appreciate our help. And it makes me feel good to give it. But I can now relate to a Home Instead Senior Care survey conducted a few years ago that talked about the mixed emotions of caregiving. Seventy percent of family caregivers surveyed feel frustrated, while 73 percent feel appreciated.
I can’t really be the daughter again. Not like before. That ship has sailed. And sometimes it makes me want to cry. Because I know where this is all going, and there’s no going back.
Maybe it’s okay not to like caregiving. Perhaps I’m not alone. Maybe it’s alright to dream about being the child again, even when so much has changed.
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