Caregiving often compromises our ability to think, act and speak our truth. This reality is a difficult pill to swallow but one we gladly sacrifice in the face of caring for someone we love. But as time passes, our couched feelings, the strain of sleepless nights and busy days add up and we’re left wondering where do we fit in and what choice do we have.
Our friends, colleagues and neighbors might notice a change and check in but we shrug off their offers of help. After all, caregiving is personal and sometimes, for different reasons we keep this part of our lives private and shut out the support that’s offered. Maybe providing care stems from sheer love, dedication and devotion, perhaps out of necessity, financial circumstance or responsibility. There’s a myriad of reasons why we become caregivers and rarely does it ever feel like a choice.
Caregiver’s saving grace, if we’re willing to accept it, is the often controversial fact that we do have the power to choose. In all the ways a life spent caregiving feels challenging, overwhelming and entirely exhausting—choice exists—it just takes on a new shape.
In caregiving, like all other roles, there are always learning moments to be harvested—however challenging. Our ability to remain grounded individuals with a clear sense of self, purpose and happiness stems from our ability to see these opportunities for growth and engage with them. Choosing to learn how to set boundaries, (with loved ones, when you’re not available, or with friends who are asking for favors when you feel stretched at the seams) are pieces of a much larger puzzle that you can learn to navigate. After caregiving begins, life is different.
The choice caregivers can exercise is to communicate needs and feelings in a more authentic way than ever thought possible. There’s value in learning to choose not to go shopping when a friend insists they would be happy to: it’s this practice of relaxing into what is, by boldly accepting and choosing what moments to relinquish control or firmly hold your ground. A needy parent who (health and safety allowing) insists you not leave their side all day is a perfect opportunity to say something like: “Mom, I really love you and right now I’m exhausted and need to take the next hour to myself.” No extra explaining, apologizing or consoling is necessary. It’s this bold and honest speaking of truth that sustains who you are in the face of exhausting and meaningful work.
Learning to advocate and accept help in the face of caregiving is the choice and gift you can give yourself. Whether it’s for moments alone, for assistance when it’s uncomfortable to ask, or accepting support you’ve never received before: are all incredible acts that serve your growth as a human and overall well being. For whatever reason you provide care, opting to exert choice will serve as a sustaining element to your ability to provide quality care to those around you.