Having just celebrated a great Mother’s Day with my three children and their spouse’s, I couldn’t help but think that although my kids are all now grown, my mothering days are not over. I’m not referring to my status of “once a Mom, always a Mom,” which is certainly true but I’m talking about how being a caregiver is much the same as being a mother.
As a Mom, I did everything I could to keep my kids safe, happy, and well. As a caregiver, I do the same. Whenever I’m in the presence of my “child” (Lynn in this case) I watch for signs of danger. Is he about to run over something with his wheelchair that might topple him over? Has he allowed his food to sit out too long without being eaten so that I need to throw it out? I even automatically throw my arm out in front of him when I have to stop quickly! (He always asks me what I think that will do to protect him since he is bigger than I am but what can I say, it’s an automatic reflex.) I always reach out to protect him from whatever dangers I feel might be lurking around.
I also protect him from “bullies,” others causing him to harm in whatever fashion, by overseeing his health care, going to bat for him in defending his rights, and making sure all his “stuff” is secure and cared for. I am his “mamma bear” protector in the same way that I was to my children. When I feel a doctor or other healthcare worker is not paying attention to his needs or missing something that I think is important, I step in. If I think someone is trying to take advantage because of his condition, I’m ready to go to battle. I am his protector…Just like I did for my kids…
When I was raising my kids, I liked to always see them happy. I do the same for Lynn (and have the same challenges and defeats as I did for my children.) I try to make sure he has what he wants; that he has entertainment and fun in his life; that he feels comfortable and secure. I try to keep his fears at bay and lighten his load so that he doesn’t worry or become depressed. I try to keep him “happy.” Hum, okay, I admit, that’s not always true but it wasn’t always true for taking care of my kids either. There are days that I strike out with my sharp tongue that can be cut like a knife. I don’t always protect his feelings and I often fight back when I think I’m being taken advantage of but overall, I’m very sensitive to his emotional needs. I try to help pick up his spirits if sad. I comfort and encourage him when he’s down and discouraged. I bolster his ego and am his cheerleader. I’m the proud Mama clapping and shouting for joy when he gets good news about his book promotions or gets a good book review. I glow with pride when I hear him sing knowing that God gave him that voice to praise him (and praise him, he does). All these emotions I have for him and give to him; I had and gave to my children as their mother.
Another goal I have is that strive to keep him well. Now as a caregiver, I seem to spend most, if not all of my time, in this category. What I feed him, how I care for his physical needs, where I step in to ensure he has a balanced life; all these actions are done with the goal of keeping him well. I make sure his food provides the best nutrient balance to fight MS. I assist with his physical therapy to keep his muscles, respirations, and circulatory system in the best shape possible. I see that his hygiene is kept up and watch for skin breakdown or discoloration that could indicate a problem. I try to make sure he rests when he shows signs of being tired and I attempt to keep his life a balance of stress and joy. All this is done for his well-being. All of this I did for my children and their well-being also.
So being a caregiver is essentially the same job description I had as a mother, EXCEPT as a Mom, I knew I was “growing up” my child to go out on their own. I was giving them the best start they could have in life and laying a foundation for them to enter their adult life with health, knowledge, abilities, and emotional strength so that they, in turn, could raise their own families and be successful in their own right.
Not so as a caregiver.
What I do each day as a caregiver is not to prepare my child for a future to go out on their own but instead to continue in this life at my side and under my care for as long as they live or as long as I am physically and mentally able to do so. He will not “leave the nest.” If he leaves it for a worse situation; not a better one (except personally, I have a strong belief that heaven is an awesome place and much better than earth could ever be; so in reality, it would be a better place for him; just not the dying part). For us, right now, there is not an end in sight, for which I am fortunate because as a caregiver to someone with an incurable condition, an end means THE END and is not a happy goal to achieve.
So as I reflect on Mother’s Day, I realize, I have my three children, my three children-in-law, my grandchild, and my spouse-child. I have a house of children and in my opinion, there is no better (or harder) job in life than being a Mom.
Thank you, God, for blessing me with my children.