Today marks day 4 of no caregiving duties. My son was chosen as a 2023 delegate for the Missouri Youth Leadership Forum (MYLF) through the MO Governor’s Council on Disability. We dropped him off at the University of Missouri-Columbia to stay on campus for 5 days. It is his first experience with a personal care assistant (who isn’t family), and we won’t see him the entire time he’s away.
To say we are proud is an understatement. This is an incredible opportunity for him (he’s 19 years old and just graduated from high school this May) to learn more about true independence, self-advocacy, and they’ll even have a legislative.
This is a safe place to admit; I have been looking forward to him attending this for personal reasons, too. I am his primary caregiver and work from home, so we are usually together.
Since I tend to lean toward being the most efficient at any task I’m given, and I love to utilize my time to gain maximum impact, I knew I needed to set some parameters around this gift of time. Those parameters were easy in concept to establish, but I knew they would be harder to honor in reality.
While my son was away on this fantastic opportunity, I decided to be the most efficient and to utilize my time to gain the maximum impact at resting and resetting my mind, body, and soul.
I wrote the following on a notepad and kept it on my desk to remember the priorities I need to accomplish while my son is away for a few days.
You have permission to be okay with not being a caregiver for a few days. It does not indicate your love or dedication that you want and need a break.Allow yourself to feel what you feel, but remember that shame and guilt are not allowed within the space of these few days.Find one way to treat yourself every day. (Does anyone else have Donna and Tom from Parks & Rec in their head right now?)
When you treat yourself, remember that spending money on yourself is okay!Do not plan so many fun things that you do not allow yourself space to rest and recharge.Understand that the duties of the laundry, house, grocery shopping, bills, and medical director can wait. This time is for you, and it is not only acceptable, it is mandatory.Most importantly, you aren’t super-human. T.J. will be okay without you. He deserves this and may very well thrive (and that’s okay)!Enjoy yourself.
As my time with T.J. away ends, I am grateful I utilized this time for myself. It has been a great reminder that I deserve to feel rested. I deserve to pamper myself and feel like a woman again – not just a mom, wife, or caregiver…but Sara! The house will not crumble because I got a pedicure and napped a little.
Do you treat yourself? Do you make time for yourself? Are you as intentional about loving and caring for yourself as you are for those in your care?
For me, months will go by before I realize I still need to do the bare minimum for myself. I typically shop for clothes when I have an event (for someone else’s benefit) or because the elastic is shot out of my underwear. 90% of the time, the clothes I buy fit 3 criteria: (1) is it comfortable, (2) is it affordable (cheap), and (3) can I wrestle a wheelchair in it? I spend any “downtime” catching up on insurance claims, making doctor’s appointments, or working.
I have decided to add one thing to my calendar each month that is just for me, something that serves no one and no goals other than to remind me that I also deserve care. Yes, this one thing is going to be something that requires money and planning, but it is necessary. No, it doesn’t need to cost a lot of money. It may be a pedicure, massage, or special hair day, but it may be going for coffee or a long walk with a friend one morning.
I will find a hundred different ways to talk myself out of this. So, I have asked a dear friend to hold me accountable. She will ask what is on my calendar for the month and check in to ensure I follow through. I know this friend will dish out some tough love if I don’t.
I would love to know if you “treat yo self.” If so, how often and what are some of the things you do? What tips and tricks do you have to hold yourself accountable? You may not struggle with prioritizing your own care. If so, I’d love to know that too!
I challenge you to ask yourself this – “How can I care for myself, the caregiver? What is one thing I can do for myself today/this week/this month, for no other reason than I deserve it?” How can you begin to take those caring steps?