Posts

It Is Time To Talk About Caregiving and Codependency

Yes. It’s time. Time to talk about being a codependent caregiver or, as it is often referred to among mental health professionals, caretaking. Though sometimes the two terms are used interchangeably, caregiving and caretaking are two very different things. Caregiving is providing care for a loved one by doing for them the things they cannot do for themselves. Caretaking, on the other hand, is when you take over activities, decisions, and handling issues that someone can and should be doing. In other words, you are taking the opportunity for someone to care for themselves away from them. As someone who has been a caregiver most of my life, I can see how I often slip into the role of the codependent caregiver. What seems to me at the time to be the thing I must do is often the very thing that I need to not do.

One of the things that makes this most difficult is that what is needed at one stage of my mom’s illness may not always be needed, but I am a person of routine, so once I start doing something, I just keep doing it. Furthermore, it is also hard for me to start doing something I haven’t had to do before. Because of the nature of my mom’s illnesses, what she needs from day to day, week to week, also varies. Another factor at play here is that I am caring for my parent, my mom, the one who cared for me. I feel guilty NOT doing the things, not spending the time, not doing more, not doing “enough.” Spoiler, it is never enough. There is always something I should have done, could have done differently. (Note: this is not always something that comes from my mother, but just the voice in my head.) Perhaps this is complicated by the fact that just when I feel like I am caregiving to the best of my ability for my mom, I feel the pull of my children, my family…who is caring for them when I am caring for her?

So here I sit pondering, “Am I a good caregiver, for my mom? for my kids? Am I overcompensating for my insufficiencies as a caregiver by caretaking–removing opportunities for my mother to do the things she can and should be doing? What about my kids? Because I am not always giving them what they need, am I doing things they don’t need to make up for it? (Like doing their chores for them? cleaning their rooms? taking responsibility for their missteps?)

I am not writing all of this just to get texts and comments telling me what a good caregiver/parent I am. I know I am not perfect, and that is ok. But I am writing to come clean, to share a little piece of what being a sandwich generation caregiver is like sometimes. These are the things we must struggle with, and guard against. Caretaking or codependency is not the answer but it is so easy to fall into that pattern. Just doing the thing is easier than dealing with the tension of saying no. I wonder if fear of confrontation goes hand in hand with codependency. Perhaps. I do not know for sure. But one thing I do know if I am a codependent caregiver I will not only take away opportunities for my mother to maintain her independence, but also the opportunity for my children to learn it. It also keeps me from being able to live in the freedom to pursue my own hopes, dreams, and goals. It inhibits my own ability to care for myself. Exploring my own behavior and seeking help to learn strategies, boundaries, and tools for caregiving is the next step for me. I want to live and love and care for others in a way that builds them up while at the same time not tearing me down.

Do you struggle with codependency and caregiving? You are not alone. Sign up to get emails from me sharing what I am learning about healthy caregiving and parenting.

self care idea, facial

Why Self-Care Isn’t Selfish: Self-Care for Caregivers

self care idea, facial
Taking time for self-care is important, especially for caregivers.

Have you ever gone for that pedicure or massage and felt like it was more work to get the “free time” to do it than it should be? By the time you make sure the kids are taken care of, your family is all squared away, the house has been managed, the ducks are in a row…you’re running out of the house and promising you’ll be back soon. Then, you finally get your “you-time” and you can’t relax. Guilt, amiright?

Why is it that we, as busy moms and caregivers, feel so guilty about taking a little time for ourselves, about taking CARE of ourselves? After all, sometimes it’s not just about guilt over the massage or pedicure, it’s about cooking the foods that are best for YOU, taking time to exercise in a way that makes you feel good, doing something you enjoy just for the sake of doing it. Though these seem like small things, they are part of what self-care means, but that is not all it means.

Self-care for caregivers isn’t an activity, it’s a regular practice. I might even say, a mindset. What would happen to your energy level, your stress level, your sense of peace, if you took the time to take care of yourself every day? What if you even prioritized it over taking care of others.

I know, this sounds inconceivable. I hardly can even believe I just typed it, but what if? How could taking care of yourself help your relationship with others, your ability to care for, and give care to your loved ones?

This is a hard thing to ponder, but I think it’s worth exploring. When we are at our best physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually, how we experience and cope with our circumstances, how we interact with our family and friends, how we care for others is bound to be better. Caregiving is life-giving, especially when we start with ourselves.

What are your thoughts on self-care for caregivers? How are you incorporating self-care into your routine?