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I don’t know of a single caregiver out there who will tell you this role is an easy one. Most of us believe this to be the most difficult, the most traumatic, the most emotionally draining seasons of our lives. And while many of us end our journey with a fatigued sense of pride, very few would opt to repeat it leaving many, caregivers and those who have yet to experience caregiving alike, thinking there is nothing quite like the burden of caregiving.
Many of us go so far as to say we would never do the same to another family member. We would never be a burden to our loved ones.
My dad has said it to me.
My grandmother has said it to her sons.
My MIL often bemoaned how burdensome she felt she had become.
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Why Caregiving is Considered A Burden
I don’t know of anyone who would call life easy. Sure there may be some who seem to have a smoother road than others but we all have our struggles and burdens. But why do we view caregiving’s burden as so much greater than other parts of life?
- Caregiving is a financial burden. It is such an overlooked part of life. There are very few programs that would offer support. The medical needs of our aging population alone are maxing out our budgets. The cost of facilities designed to provide care to our elderly are astronomically expensive and there are very few, if any avenues of relief.
- Caregiving puts a burden on our time. You now have to at least double the amount of time it takes you to complete any task because as a caregiver you are not only living your own life with its responsibilities but you are quite literally taking over the majority of another. And the longer you are a caregiver, the more time it is going to take.
- Caregiving is an emotional burden. Not only are you taking on the responsibilities of another adult but you are also tasked with that person’s quality of life. The uncertainties are a daily stress. You are always asking yourself which battle to fight, what is the best path to take, if you’re doing the right thing. Then we add to that family drama, our caree’s resistance to being cared for, and the bureaucratic red tape we all have to fight and it’s really no wonder so many of us end our journey resembling a well-used, wet rag.
Just those things alone are enough to make anyone wonder why caregiving is even an option for someone but then you have the added bonus of watching other people, particularly family who could (or should!) be at your side enjoying lives full of adventure that you only dream of maybe having “one day”.
You feel stuck, tethered to an existence you never asked for with no feasible way out.
So, how do you get past the burden and start to find joy in caregiving?
What Choice Do We Have?
We put a lot of expectation on our feelings. Our society teaches us what we need to have to experience the emotion called “happiness” that all of us crave.
- More money
- Better jobs
- The latest “smart” technology
- Conflict free relationships
- Better time management
These things are all pushed on us as the ultimate providers of happiness.
And yet, we see people who have achieved seemingly everything but still seem miserable. Why is this? Because it is not “happiness”, a fleeting emotion that is controlled by external forces, that we all crave. It’s joy.
What we crave is joy.
Happiness is our reaction to something. Joy transcends. It is not dependent on any person, place, or thing. It is an endurance through difficulties. It is purposeful and deliberate. It is our choice.
When we look at the difficulties of caregiving everyday and focus on what we have given up, we are more likely to see every burden of caregiving.
Life changes and sometimes doesn’t turn out like we planned or even hoped. We see pictures on social media from others who get to go on vacations or have exciting nights out or move to exotic locations. There is a very real feeling that we are missing out on a crucial part of life. We start having resentful thoughts toward our needy caree.
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- Why didn’t they plan better?
- Why is their care my problem?
- I shouldn’t have to be doing this.
- They’re causing me to miss out and now I have no life at all.
Would You Be Doing It Anyway?
My brother and SIL travel with their kids a lot. I see their exotic experiences, their kids delving into and experiencing a multitude of cultures. They are more traveled than I will ever hope to be. I feel jealous of them sometimes and it’s easy to blame caregiving as the reason I’m not getting to experience these things.
But let’s be real here.
A lot of their travels are because of my brother’s job. My being a caregiver has nothing to do with me not having those experiences because…
…I wouldn’t be doing it anyway.
I had an invitation to attend a movie premier for a dear friend. Unfortunately it was on a night that finding a sitter was impossible. As the day of the event approached I started feeling more and more resentful knowing I was going to miss out.
The morning of, I sent my regrets to my group of friends. I was honest and said because of my husband’s growing disability and the difficulty I have finding sitters for my kids and MIL, I would not be joining them.
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It was easy for me to begin putting the blame on my MIL and her needs. When I thought about it honestly though, it had very little to do with her and more to do with the season of life we are in now with small children.
I wouldn’t be doing it anyway.
Your Living Doesn’t Have to End
My husband has some good friends that are in the modeling industry. For a large part of the year, they travel to various states holding fashion shows and auditions. They also took care of an aging parent.
A few years ago, they came to Texas and of course we invited them to our home. Imagine my surprise when they wheeled an elderly lady up to the pool deck.
Even though her disease had advanced to the point she was unresponsive, they still included her in their activity. They did not let caregiving hold them back. They had continued success in their careers and found a lot of enjoyment in their travels all while caring for their aging parent.
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Two summers ago some of my husband’s siblings and their families came to the ranch for a visit. We decided to travel down to San Antonio Sea World. We loaded our cars, booked hotel rooms, and took my MIL’s wheel chair so she could enjoy the park with us.
Sure, we knew it would present it’s challenges. We knew she wouldn’t remember the trip later. But we didn’t let those things keep us from experiencing a fun vacation and time with family that we don’t often get to see.
My MIL’s grandkids were able to build some great memories with her. Every moment, every experience, every “adventure” brought my MIL joy in the moment and that joy was worth the burden of caregiving.
The “Burden” of Parenting
So let’s switch perspectives a bit as I’m going to talk to my sandwiched caregivers with children. Do you view your kids as a burden? Why not? Parenting isn’t easy.
- There are a multitude of challenges, adaptations, and changes.
- You will miss opportunities.
- Other couples will experience things you won’t be able to experience.
Do you look at your childless friends and wish you never had kids?
With this knowledge of how difficult parenting is and how much your life must change as a parent do you frequently tell your kids how difficult they’ve made your life?
When you think about the very real possibility that your kids will make a choice to have children of their own do you hope to dissuade them?
Parenting can be just as burdensome as caregiving. Most parents don’t describe their children as a burden. They don’t feel like they are wasting their life while caring for their kids. Most don’t regret their children.
They make a choice.
Will Caregiving Be A Burden or A Joy?
There are so many things in caregiving we cannot control.
- We can’t control how our caree behaves or reacts
- We can’t control our caree’s diseases and their progression
- We can’t control our family’s attitudes toward our choices as a caregiver
What we can control is our own choices. Will you choose to be burdened or will you choose to look for joy?
It’s a choice.
You have to make it everyday, sometimes multiple times a day.
It’s an admirable thing for us to not want to burden our children. I challenge you to ask yourself though, will you be a burden because you’ve taught them to view caregiving as burdensome?
Yes, it’s hard but it is also so very rewarding. There is joy everywhere when we choose to see it, even in caregiving.
Did you like this post? Do you view caregiving as a burden? Why or why not? Let me know in the comments below!
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