I have been a caregiver for my mom longer than I have been a mom. In 1984 my mother was diagnosed with an illness. She was hospitalized, surgery performed and then sent home months later with a ton of medications and a whole new way of maneuvering through life. One of my earliest memories is counting out her pills for her to make sure she took the right amount of the right kind of pill at the right time. I am not sure now whether this was something she needed me to do or if she was just giving me a job to keep my mind occupied. Either way, I took the role of pill-counter very seriously and performed it well. During the early days, I don’t remember much else that I had to do that was directly related to her illness, but I do remember the laundry, the dishes, and the house cleaning. I know that most kids have chores and that helping around the house is a normal thing, but I am not talking about “put your plate in the dishwasher” or “hang up your clothes.” It was more like there were things that needed to be done and the more mom tried to do them, the weaker she got. If I could do more, she would get stronger. So, the laundry didn’t get done every week and the sink was usually full before the dishes got washed. As I grew older, we all had our own things to be working on. I had school, my step-dad had work and mom? Her main job was just getting better, stronger. Sometimes she was able to work, but even then, we were always just doing things as they came up. We were surviving. This is not to say there were never good times, vacations, or other family members to help out, but the overall feeling was one of survival. My mom’s survival, my family’s survival, my own.
I was 8 when my mom was put in the hospital the first time. When she came home, she was still my mom, but things had changed. Over the last 37 years, I’ve learned to be both a child and a caregiver, a wife and caregiver, and a parent and caregiver. I’ve lived away from my mother and lived close, I’ve gone to college, traveled, vacationed. I’ve had my own illnesses, surgeries, and traumatic experiences. So far, I’ve survived. When I started this site, I was going to share all the wisdom, the tips, and practices that I have developed over the decades to survive, yes, but also to thrive! And while I do plan on continuing to share my experiences and the lessons I have learned, please know, I am still learning, I am still a work in progress. I have no secret formula for caregiving or marriage or parenting. And, in my life at least, there is no “balance” per se. But I’ve been on this journey a long time and if you are on a similar journey, I want you to know you aren’t alone. You will survive.