Is there anything wrong with my response?
On the surface no, because it’s true. If mom is healthy, looking forward to something and feels like she is contributing to our family, she is doing well. Which means my life has less stress, so I’m doing well.
The problem is, it doesn’t answer the question. “How am I doing?” This automatic response means I’m measuring my mental, physical and emotional health based on an outside force I can’t control. And it means I haven’t taken the time to check in with myself, to take the time to think, “how AM I doing?”
What does this say about self-identity? We often don’t notice the slippery slope when our role as caregiver becomes our primary identity.
Certainly, caregiver is part of my professional identity. I would not be a Certified Caregiver Consultant if I was not working in the eldercare space and mom’s caregiver. But it is a mistake to make it my only identity.
When someone asks, “What’s new?” And your response is only about caregiving then it’s time to take a step back and make sure you have other outlets and interests. If you’re thinking, “I don’t have TIME for THAT!” Then you need it more than you know.
Finding ways to get back to who you are beyond a caregiver, even for small pockets of time is critical to your mental, physical and emotional health. And leads us into a related topic.
Self-care is an important focus for caregivers and there are many excellent resources available. Here’s the dilemma. When I measure how I’m doing by how mom is doing, I don’t check in, I’m not aware of how I’m doing. And being unaware usually means I’m not doing the self-care that I need.
Self-care takes different forms for different people. For me, it is making the time each day to eat healthy, get some exercise and unwind in the evening reading – yes often a romance novel – anything that makes me laugh and takes me away.
For me, self-care also means the occasional massage or a manicure/pedicure. I need some time where I am the focus, where I am forced to sit quietly. It is during this time that I work to quiet my mind and I find the gentle touch in this type of self-care healing.
The most important part of my self-care is finding and making the time to be with friends and family. To relax, laugh, have a meal together, see a movie – activities that we shared before I took on this role and remind me, I am more than mom’s caregiver.
And the next time you ask a caregiver how they’re doing, and they answer the same way I did be sure to ask, “But how are YOU doing?”
Additional reading: Who are your caregiver peeps?
Disclaimer: The material in this blog is for educational purposes only. It is not intended to replace, nor does it replace, consulting with a physician, lawyer, accountant, financial planner or other qualified professional.