“How about if we just get really good at practicing extreme imperfection. Could this be the ultimate act of self-care?” Anne Tumlinson, Founder of Daughterhood.org
Lord knows I’m imperfect. Like everyone, I’ve made mistakes in my personal and professional life and certainly as a caregiver. Yet, it’s the mistakes as a caregiver that stick with me more than the others.
I am reminded of our need to be perfect as caregivers as I recently began helping a friend with her mother, one day a week for several hours. More of a companion than a caregiver, I still find myself worried that I am not doing things like her daughter wants and her mom needs.
I am not completely responsible in this scenario, so the tension is not the same, but I am extremely aware of the need to keep her safe on my watch. I find myself second guessing how well things are going. Not because my care partner is difficult, rather it is because her upbringing and the way she lives her life is so different from my mother. There are times I might suggest something that my mother would have liked and she finds a beautifully gentle way to let me know I have crossed a boundary.
I am still learning how to be the best care partner for her and that uncertainty makes me question myself. I am trying to do things for her like her daughter does, but I am not her daughter and it is unrealistic of me to think I can (or that she would want me to) do intimate things, like brush her hair, something my mother loved.
Taking my cues from her, and at the same time, fulfilling what I promised the family is a balancing act that throws me back into some of the same feelings I had as mom’s caregiver. The need to be perfect and feeling like I am falling short is certainly the strongest of these feelings.
My head tells me I am not falling short, but my heart has not caught up yet. I am reminded that in the midst of caregiving, allowing ourselves to be imperfect can feel impossible. Yet, if we allow ourselves to be imperfect, we can think of our mistakes as opportunities for growth. When we allow ourselves to be imperfect caregivers, it makes us stronger and more resilient caregivers.
So, when I find myself dwelling on my “mistakes” (and, yes, the quotation marks around mistakes are deliberate), I remind myself of the lesson to practice extreme imperfection in all areas of my life, not just as a caregiver. I remind myself that nothing I am asked to do as this care partner is life threatening (thank God!) and that I am doing the best I can to ensure that when I leave, my friend’s mother is set up in a way that is comfortable and safe, just like her daughter does.
So, I am back to practicing extreme imperfection and I can tell you that Anne Tumlinson is right, it is the ultimate act of self-care.
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.
Deb is the author of “Your Caregiver Relationship Contract and “A Relationship Contract for Dementia Caregivers.” Your Caregiver Relationship Contract is available in both English and Spanish. It explains how to have an intentional conversation and the how unspoken expectations can cause problems during caregiving. A Relationship Contract for Dementia Caregivers explains how important it is to learn how your person wants to live their life out and how you, the caregiver are the most important person in this relationship, giving you tips and tricks for this journey.
Click here to learn more about Your Caregiver Relationship Contract or here for the Spanish version: Su Contrato de relación como cuidador de un ser querido. Click here to learn more about A Relationship Contract for Dementia Caregivers.
Deb is available as a caregiver consultant. She will answer the question: “Where do I start?” and find the resources to alleviate your stress. If you would like to invest a half hour to learn how she can help you, please contact her at: Free 30 minute consulting call