The Mixed-up Emotions of Caregiving

2012 CT Press Club Award-Winning Article…

The Mixed-Up Emotions of Caregiving
By Laurie Newkirk

Dealing with one’s mother’s emotional and/or mental issues is very hard and draining.  I find my feelings conflicted, glad to be helping, resentful to have to be doing it, wanting the best for her but not wanting to have to give up my life to help her so much of the time.  Sad, scared, lonely, loving, growing up.

I need to be able to recharge and repair myself and realize the toll it is taking on me even if I am doing it by choice.  I’m not sure what I need exactly to feel better.  I have a feeling of sadness, very profound sadness. I need to accept what is, is. The “Might-Have-Beens” and the “Want-Things-To-Be-Different” have no place.

I guess the sadness comes from the loss of my mother as my caretaker.  I think that’s why I feel a sense of loneliness too.  I don’t want it to be this way.  I want her to still be taking care of me.

Recently, my mother said that she didn’t want to criticize me but that I needed a haircut and it actually felt good since it meant she was trying to take care of me. It’s funny, all these years I have been trying to get her to stop commenting on my hair and for the first time if felt good!

Also, this is the first time she added “I don’t mean to criticize.”  Maybe she said that because I have been telling her that “I need her” or maybe because I am doing so much in taking care of her.  Too bad it couldn’t have happened sooner but I’m grateful it’s happening now. There are these small gifts of change and closeness along the way of this very difficult road and it helps.

I think as daughters we need to talk about the role of caregiver and the feelings and stresses that it causes. I was speaking to a girlfriend whose mother actually left her husband after 40+ years of marriage at the age of 78.  The relationship wasn’t a good one so my girlfriend was thrilled, but now she has taken on the roles of life advisor, financial supporter and medical counselor for her mother and that’s a big change in their relationship. Also, it’s very time consuming.  It was good for us to talk about our new roles as caregivers and how hard it is.

To all daughters who are acting as caretakers, I salute us. I think if we acknowledge how unbelievably hard it can be, that awareness can make it a little bit easier.  We need to remember to take care of ourselves too. And to be gentle with ourselves and realize we are not alone after all.

Laurie Newkirk, in addition to being an award-winning writer, is the co-creator of

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