These Heroes Gave Up Everything to Parent Their Parents

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These Heroes Gave Up Everything to Parent Their Parents

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rocking-chair-604136_640Recently, I've seen these two headlines about caregiving that have made me cringe:

"The Unsung Heroes Who Give Up Everything To Take Care Of A Sick Partner"

and

"Parenting Your Parents: When Roles Become Reversed."

The first headline appeared in a series published by Huffington Post during National Family Caregivers Month "to highlight a few of the remarkable people around the country who put their own lives on pause to tend to friends and family who have fallen ill."

This makes me crazy that we're celebrating that people have to put their lives on hold because of caregiving! This is the problem--people have to put their lives on hold--which we're trying to solve. We don't want anyone to stop or pause their lives! Unfortunately, many family caregivers have no other choice because there's not enough help, options and resources. This a societal problem we need to solve not a sentiment we want to continue. We need to help family caregivers have what they need so they can continue to live during their life of caregiving. Because when family caregivers can keep their lives, they have a chance to keep financial security, their career and their own well-being.

The second headline gnaws at me because caregiving isn't parenting. I am not my parent's disciplinarian--I'm their safety net, their support system, their resource. They will always remain my parents.

I understand the genesis of the term. I get that caregiving moments happen that ring familiar as a parent. When I'm driving my parents, I wait for my dad to buckle up in the backseat. It reminds me of waiting for a seven-year-old to do the same. And, yet, how I deal and cope with my dad is nothing like how I do with a seven-year-old. On a regular basis, I take care of a seven-year-old. On a regular basis, I am yelling at that seven-year-old to buckle up. I would never yell at my dad, even when I'm suggesting he take allergy medicine for his never-ending sniffles.

When the time comes to button my dad's jacket as I would a four-year-old, I will feel very different emotions. When I will help my dad with personal care, I will feel very differently than when I helped a two-year-old. And, when my dad dies, I will feel very differently than I did when a baby was born. I understand the parallels of the moments. I feel the difference in their impacts. Both experiences turn on love and yet the emotions laced with that love differs for each. I feel love and sadness and grief and empathy for my dad. I feel love and hope and possibilities for children. I see the sun rise with children. I watch the sun setting with my dad. Caregiving is heartbreaking. Parenting can break your heart for completely different reasons.

It's disheartening that the term "parenting our parents," which I've been rallying against for just about 15 years, remains in our vocabulary. When headline writers say we are "parenting our parents," I believe they sell us short when they categorize the miracle of what we do now with our parents as parenting. Parenting is a whole other miracle all together.

I understand that papers and websites need to sell readership. Let's sell readers on the importance of funding help and support for family caregivers. Let's lure readers in with the powerful stories of the difference services and support can make in the lives of family caregivers. Let's educate readers about the reality of a caregiving day's nuances and challenges.

Caregiving is its own life experience that needs those living it to be as well as possible.

That's my two cents. What do you think?

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