Do Caregivers Get Anything in Return for Their Hard Work?

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first-aid-850481_1920When you are a family caregiver you are going to give more to the relationship than you are likely to receive, you will do the bulk of the work.

Recently I was at Panera and saw this play out with a family. I first noticed a man looking relaxed while sitting at the table. He looked like he was waiting for someone. He also had a stroller with him that held a young child. He didn’t have any food and was sitting at a large table by himself so he looked a little out of place. A few minutes later I noticed a woman ordering food, she was holding one child, held hands with a second, and had a third standing next to her. She clearly had her hands full. I wondered if these two adults belonged to each other. They did.

I was happily married once and had the benefit of being the secondary parent, the one who doesn’t have to worry about making sure the diaper bag is packed, the kids have food, and all the school events are taken care of. Then Kara died and I became the primary parent, suddenly I had to make sure everything was taken care of. I never knew how much she did and how much preparation went into leaving the house with two small kids. I thought I knew because I usually packed the car, but I didn’t pack the things that went into the car, I didn’t know their shoe size, I didn’t know what to order at restaurants -- she did those things.

When situations arrive in your life and you are suddenly in a position to take care of someone else you will end up doing the bulk of the work whether you are caring for a spouse, elderly parent, or just have kids (kids are a lot of work). I was suddenly thrown into my role of caring for my wife, one day Kara was healthy, the next day she was fighting cancer. When it happens suddenly you know your life has changed. When it came to my role of being the primary parent for our children it slowly evolved from me being the secondary parent into my being the only parent. This happened over a longer period so I had time to adjust to this role. In fact I didn’t realize it had happened until I was able to look back at my life.

I thought about this family at Panera and their four kids, neither one of the parents probably noticed the different roles they play in the family dynamics. His role has slowly grown into being a father, he has taken on more responsibilities as time passed and more kids came along, she has taken on more responsibilities as time progressed and more kids came along. Both of their roles changed and grew into what they are today over the course of many years so they probably didn’t notice how different their roles are. As we get busier we don’t notice as many of the other details anymore, we are too busy with our role to notice everything about the other person’s role.

If and when you become a family caregiver be prepared to give more to the relationship then you will receive. You will be doing the bulk of the work in the caree-caregiver relationship. Much like the mom at Panera you will have three of the four kids and ordering all of the food.  However while you are doing the bulk of the work don’t underestimate the contributions the other person is making to the relationship. As a family caregiver you are growing and learning as a person, you will undoubtedly gain intangible benefits. Most likely the caree is appreciative even though they may not mention it. As in any relationship there will be times when one person gives more and another person takes more. As a family caregiver we may end up seeing the relationship with blinders on, seeing only what is in front of us. Don’t forget to look at the bigger picture. As with this family I only know what I saw in the short time at Panera. She may be a stay-at-home mom taking care of everything at home while he works 70 hours a week. They both may have full-time jobs. I don’t know, but I do know that there family relationship consists of more than just what I saw at Panera. Your caregiving relationship consists of more than just one person taking care of another.

Originally published at youngadultcaregiver.com

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