You know the saying: jack of all trades…master of none?
It’s usually one of those funny ironies that everyone recognizes when someone else is trying to do too much and spread themselves too thin….but somehow, we never recognize when we’re doing it ourselves! But…you just can’t be everything to everyone.
When it comes to what we expect from ourselves, we always think we can do just a little bit more, say “yes” to just one more commitment, or fit yet another meeting into the day.
When it comes to caring for elderly parents, the same pattern shows up again—figuring we can add yet another commitment. In many cases, it isn’t necessarily an active decision to take on another commitment; it is borne out of necessity. Your parent experiences a health crisis and you step up to help out, but when they don’t rebound as quickly as expected, your short-term assistance suddenly doesn’t have an end-date.
You now have a new role added to your growing list. You might have already been an active wife and mother, maybe even a new grandmother. You’re general manager of your household overseeing all the household tasks as well as cooking and grocery shopping. You’ve been a dedicated employee and you’re a manager with numerous people reporting to you. You’re the organizer of your book club—the one remaining thing you try to do for yourself, to keep your sanity.
And now, you have the huge new role of being a family caregiver. While you’ve always been a daughter and you helped out here and there as needed, that’s very different than being a primary caregiver.
Being a primary family caregiver can be all-consuming.
Often, the things your parent needs help with are not things that can wait until the next time you happen to visit. Now, there are constant medical appointments in the middle of the workday, and unpredictable personal needs at all hours of the day and night.
The role of the primary family caregiver can start to encroach on all your other roles. It can be difficult to be the active and involved grandmother you want to be if you can’t babysit when you had hoped to. Your husband is patient and understanding, but when you haven’t had dinner together in a week, he can’t help but notice.
At work, your boss tries to be understanding about the amount of time off you’ve been taking, but it’s not the boss you’re worried about. It’s everyone reporting to you who are noticing your absence as well. Juggling these roles and the responsibilities that each entail can be quite stressful.
The good news is that you don’t have to do it alone. You can’t be everything to everyone. You can’t possibly juggle so many roles and fulfill each of them to the extent that you would like with only 24 hours in a day. Something has to give.
At the end of the day, you need to either get assistance with one or more roles by outsourcing or acknowledge that something is going to slide and you’re willing to accept that. Such a decision is deeply personal and there is no single answer that matches every family.
For some, it means they won’t get to be as involved with grandparenting. For others, their marriage and friendships may end up on the rocky ground when they can’t invest any time or energy into those relationships. Still, others scale back at work, reducing to part-time hours or stepping down from management, despite the significant financial implications. Others recognize that accepting assistance with family caregiving can help to maintain all of the other roles.
Here at Warm Embrace, we don’t take care of the grandchildren, or strengthen your marriage, or alleviate your work responsibilities. What we can do is provide all the assistance your parents need so that you are able to maintain all of your other roles.