As I write, I am holding and rocking my two year old who I’ve been trying to get down for a nap for two hours. The child needs a nap… or, at least, I need the child to have a nap.
I had plans, my friends, plans to do laundry and clean, to work on supper and my blog. There is zero chance I would get all that done, but I won’t get any of it done if he doesn’t sleep… at least that’s what my anxiety tells me… and to be clear, my anxiety isn’t always wrong.
Caregiving involves having our plans interrupted, whether it’s the nap that didn’t happen, or the stomach virus that took over, a fall, lice, or any number of other unforeseen incidents that step in and turn our plans upside down.
And while I often tell people I have Gumby-like flexibility, and I do, it can almost vanish when I have to change plans that are important to me. Then it is challenging to change course… and there are no guarantees about my attitude. That part of me frequently takes even longer to get back around to something resembling contentment or joy.
We have very few options in those moments when our plans fall apart due to caregiving needs… we can move forward with our plans and let someone else care for our loved one… or we can change course and offer the care ourselves. Can I tell you something really freeing? Neither one is wrong.
Can you hear that, friend?
It’s okay for you to let someone else provide care for your loved one so that you can move forward with a plan that’s important to you.
It’s also okay to drop whatever you’re doing to be there for your loved one when they have a need.
Do you know what we usually get stuck on that makes the whole thing hard? We can’t decide which option is best. We agonize over our decision. Why??
We feel guilty if we don’t drop everything.
We feel guilty if we do drop everything.
Our feelings of guilt might come from our sense of duty or responsibility. After all, this is my ______________! (Insert “mom,” “child,” “aunt,” job,” “friend,” etc.)
Our feelings of guilt might stem from a sense that we are the only ones who can actually do ______________. (the caregiving, the laundry, the task at work, etc.)
Our feelings of guilt might also spring from an abiding sense of insufficiency, that whatever we do is never enough.
All of these can cause us to feel stuck, and lead us to bitterness and frustration.
Instead of enjoying our time caring for our loved one, we might be short with them, annoyed with the change of plans, or their high level of need.
Instead of enjoying following through with our plans while someone else cares for our loved one, we might spend the time fretting, worrying about how they are, or wondering if we really should be there.
Left unchecked, we can start to feel contempt for whatever (or whomever) we have identified as the source of our difficulty. Instead of just being a change of plans, it can become a blow to our relationships. And healthy relationships are the very thing we most need.
What would happen if we did something different? What if we could do whatever we do with confidence and peace instead of the annoyance or frantic scrambling that so often results from an unexpected change?
Today there is no one else to take care of my toddler. I can (and did) get irritated, worn out by his inability to fall asleep like he does every. other. day. But my only good choice is to pause, breathe deep, adjust my plans, and be present with him. I might not finish this post until late tonight, or maybe even tomorrow. I might not get the house clean, or the laundry finished. Supper might be made after my husband walks through the door.
And if I can bring my attitude up to speed with this change, I can experience the deep, deep joy of feeling this little boy curled up in my arms. I can smell his sweet hair and stare at his amazing little toes while we rock quietly. I can remember to savor this, because it will not last. These moments are fleeting, and if I could spend my time on anything at all, it would be this. Just this:
So much love,