There is healing in returning to our mother/daughter roles.
Mom recently turned 85. I hesitated before suggesting that we have a little gathering for her birthday. After all, this is the woman who was mad when dad threw her a surprise party with invitations that read: “Help Doris celebrate the 6th anniversary of her 39th birthday”. When I mentioned I was glad she wanted to see family but surprised, she said: “If someone had told me at 50, that I would live to 85, I would have laughed. It is something to celebrate.”
Each weekend I am with her, my “to do” list grows instead of getting smaller. Personal tasks include everything from putting on her slippers and laying out clothes, to managing medications. Never mind getting things from the basement, cooking, paying bills or grocery shopping. I won’t dwell on keeping a 59-year-old home in good working condition. And let’s just be honest here, the thought of cleaning out that basement gives me nightmares.
Being her caregiver is a privilege. Exhausting, frustrating, anxiety producing, but a privilege nonetheless. In my role as caregiver there is little time to just “be” with one another let alone do something fun. And in that role reversal, the activities, work and play that bonded us as a mother/daughter team has gotten lost. There is grief in losing this part of our lives. I have learned that making pockets of time which allow us to go back to being mother and daughter strengthens and uplifts us both.
Growing up, our home was often the gathering place for family and friends. I have such vivid and wonderful memories of Thanksgiving dinners when the extra tables extended from the dining room into the living room, with the “kids” table nearby in the den. Those hours of planning the menu, preparing the food with my mother, helping her host and clean up are some of my favorite.
So, the day of mom’s birthday I was determined to be her daughter and not her caregiver. Was I completely successful in being just her daughter that day? No. My plans to play cards, which she loves, gave way to a list of things that weighed on her mind. But we took the time to sit and catch up on family news. And we welcomed a family friend over for dinner. A dinner which my brother and sister-in-law had delivered from a local restaurant. It was lovely.
Getting older and people knowing her age was not high on mom’s list of “fun” things to do, but this birthday is something special. We are making it the “year of the 85th birthday” and have several small gatherings planned. And each time, I plan to make sure I spent part of the day as her daughter and not her caregiver.
Please leave me a comment and share the ways you make time to be with your loved one that is separate from being their caregiver. I will compile and publish your ideas and share them so we can learn from one another.
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.