As caregivers, we know how to beat ourselves up. "I could have been more patient with Mom when she was crabby". "If I would have thought to bring fresh clothing, Dad would have been more comfortable". "I should have spent more - fill in the blank - time, money, energy or whatever, with my mother, my father, my grandmother, my child".
Okay. It's time to stop it.
We are ending one year and beginning a new one. I'm not huge on New Year's resolutions, because when I think I can improve something, I want to do it now. Also, I believe they can be a set-up for guilt when we fail to follow through.
However, there's another side to my feelings. I always loved a new box of crayons - the pointy ends, the smooth paper, the familiar crayon smell. I always loved a new tablet with nothing written in it. There seemed so much promise on those clean, blank pages. Promise that I could write something important, or beautiful or funny. And I've always loved writing that nice new digit after the date changes. "Maybe this is the year that I'll... "
Yet the pointy crayons, if I were to make use of them, would become rounded and worn. The tablet would have scribbled out words that failed to meet my expectations. And the new digits for the New Year would soon become routine. I'll likely have to wait until another year for those big dreams to come true.
For anything to become useful it must be used. And when it is used, it loses its shine. It becomes smudgy and imperfect. The only way to keep things perfect is to not use them.
The same goes for caregiving. If we are afraid of not doing everything right, we will be afraid to roll up our sleeves and dive in. If we blame ourselves for our imperfections, we will be afraid of getting involved.
So, dear caregivers, I'm asking you to consider just one little New Years resolution. Stop blaming yourselves for imperfections in your caregiving, real or imagined. Look at the New Year, not as a shiny new chance to be perfect, but as a clean slate to reflect a kinder view of yourself as you do your human best to be a good enough caregiver.
Roll up your sleeves, get educated, get support and do your best. Then let it go. The New Year will take care of itself. You take care of you.
Published On: December 28, 2007