Every caregiver had a life long before caregiving started.
I sometimes forget that other life…Rena… even existed. I’ve talked alot about taking over as mom’s caregiver. What I haven’t talked about are the changes that it has caused in my own life. I was 19 when I had my son and 22 for my daughter.
In addition to a step-daughter, I also raised my niece for 6 years, I also had her father living with us when he was a teenager. Count them that is 5–yes, 5–kids that I took responsibility for, even if I didn’t actually give birth to them.
I started at 19 years old. I often think about that now, good Lord, I was so young! I loved my children dearly, all of them. I did everything a parent was supposed to do. I wasn’t perfect. As with caregiving I made plenty of mistakes. There are a lot of things I wish I could do over again but I assume all parents think like I do. Don’t you wish that you were given practice kids first? Kind of like a test, if you could keep it alive, then hey you’re doing good!
I want to say that I love my kids to the moon and back but I could not wait until they were grown and I could start my own life. That sounds terrible doesn’t it, but it’s the truth. I never had the “empty nest” syndrome and the “I don’t know what to do with myself” feelings. I had a LIST!
I was so ready to have my house to myself. To not be responsible for another human being. To find my own way in life. My husband and I would talk about all the things that we were going to do “after the kids left“. We wanted to travel and I wanted to finally begin my writing career that I had put on hold for the last 22 years.
They say if you want a good laugh…tell God your plan.
That is the truest thing I think I have ever heard! I was 40 years old when my youngest turned 18. A mere 3 years later I became Mom’s caregiver. Sometimes I think that I will never get to follow my dreams. For now, I have quit dreaming because for all of my dreams to come true that would mean that mom is gone. This is something that I just can’t think about it. So, for now I have given up dreaming.
I have learned that it is alright to feel angry. I am angry at Alzheimer’s, not my mom. It is alright to wish things were different. That my own mother would not be forgetting who I am or the wonderful experiences we have had. I feel guilty all of the time.
Sometimes I am so angry I could punch something. I would love to give Alzheimer’s a black eye, but it has no eyes, no feelings and not a care in the world. Every single caregiver is going to have these feelings. Then you will feel guilty for having those feelings.
I am trying to learn how to just take things day to day. I don’t look ahead, the future is uncertain. Will I be a caregiver for another year or another 20 years? Only time will tell.
Appreciate the good, laugh at the crazy and deal with the rest. I love you momma!
Read more from Rena McDaniel on her blog, Diary of an Alzheimer’s Caregiver