I had a dear friend who took turns with her sisters caring for their aging mother.
Weekly she left her aging husband and drove an hour to take her day shift with her mom to bathe her, visit, and keep her comfortable. Toward the end of her mom’s life, her mom cried out for her own mother, “Mama! Mama!” “I’m here,” my friend said soothingly, “Mama’s here.” And her mother was comforted. It felt strange to my friend to say those words. But at the end of our journey, we all want our mothers. We all want to know someone is caring for us as a mother would. Being able to be the “mother” for our loved ones, especially our own parents, can be an honor.
A lot of caregivers struggle with negative emotions in their roles. They have anger, frustration, and resentment, because the person they care for is unreasonable, stubborn, or demanding. Caregivers feel tired and overwhelmed. They feel resentful of the people who don’t contribute enough. And they feel guilty for feeling all of these negative emotions. I write about that often because it is important to validate the emotions that caregivers experience, emotions that many mistakenly believe are unique to them.
But in spite of all of these challenging feelings, most caregivers have overwhelmingly positive feelings.
There is a reason there are 40 million unpaid caregivers in the United States. They feel love for their caree. They feel proud that they have willingly chosen their role.
Caregiving is a demanding role. Whether providing the hands-on care of bathing, toileting, feeding, and housework, or frequently visiting a nursing home to visit and oversee their loved one’s care, caregiving drains energy and emotions. Yet, most caregivers continue to do their jobs because they love the person they care for. For some it is an obligation but for many it is a calling. When it is a parent who needs care, many adult children believe it is their turn to care for their parent they way they received care as babies.
At the end of their journey, most caregivers look back and say it was “the right thing to do” to take care of their loved one.
They have very few, if any, regrets about taking on the responsibility. Most state they wouldn’t have it any other way. They know they made a difference and provided their loved one with the best care possible. In the end, their dedication and, in some cases, sacrifice feels worthwhile to them.
Being a mother is a wonderful privilege. Being the substitute “mother” to someone at the end of the road is a beautiful opportunity for them to feel a mother’s love and protection once again. We all need our moms. Thank you, caregivers, for taking that role.
Happy Mothers Day to all of you.