Who Cares For The Caretaker?
This week was rough.
That’s probably the least poetic, least interesting way to describe what felt like the perfect storm, but it’s about all I have left right now.
I am a full-time caretaker in pretty much all aspects of my life. That means wrangling kids and homework and doctor visits and, well, all the things that comes with being a parent.
But that also means wrangling clients and colleagues for my business as well.
It’s certainly not a coincidence that I find myself in this role, being that I’m motivated by looming deadlines and schedules, satisfied with crossing things off a list. I always have been the one to get things done, the reward being not just the creation of an idea but seeing it through, my hands dirty in the process.
I am the rule-following, responsible one. The first-born child. The type-A personality.
Don’t get me wrong. I like it. A lot.
But juggling four kids and five schedules personally, not to mention running a business, there is a point where you just want, no, where you crave for someone else to take the lead.
I experience an almost palpable feeling of wanting to just be told what to do. Where to be.
Heck, tell me how to do something.
My friend joked that maybe I need a few sessions with a Dominatrix. She might actually be onto something.
The issue of self-care, particularly for caretakers is not a new one, but is certainly riddled with complications known as guilt and fear. That we’re letting people down. That we’ll be seen as selfish. That things won’t be able to function without us.
It sounds ridiculous when I hear people talking about those feelings when they’re trying to rationalize the the chair massage, the television binge-watching sessions, the Thursday happy hour because of course you need to take care of yourself.
Even typing it out seems lame to me because it seems like a universal truth:
A well-cared for version of you will be a better caretaker.
You can’t parent someone or work for someone when you’re laid up. Or, you know, dead.
But translating what you know in your head into action in your own life, particularly when there doesn’t seem to be a tangible end result is challenging.
You run or workout because you’ll be visibly fitter. You get your nails done or your hair coifed because you’ll look more put together.
Or let’s just say it: Prettier.
But what I find that I need on my weekends without my children is complete and utter decompression. I want to hide away in a quiet room with a remote control and just let everything go. I need a place where I don’t have to corral or wrangle or even think.
Where I am, for 72 hours, beholden to absolutely no one. Where nothing needs to get done unless I want to do it. Where I get to make decisions for myself because I choose to.
And maybe someday, it’s also where someone else does stuff for me.
There is no reward. No visible change. In fact, I probably look like I’ve been run over by a train.
But I’m becoming okay with knowing that’s what I need. And expressing that the best I can to the people around me.
Self-care isn’t just about treating yourself to something special. For many people, including me, it’s just giving yourself the simple, everyday necessities you don’t often get when you’re too busy caring for everyone else.
Photo credit: Len Matthews (via Creative Commons license)