The last six months have challenged me. I think that’s the best word to use. My relationship with my parents has always been a relationship that I love and value. I would and have willingly done anything and everything within my power to help them and support them.
In July, I wrote about my dad’s health.
In July, I stepped in as I think I always do to help my family in a time of need. It wasn’t until January if this year that I realized I was not only NOT balancing my career, my kids, my husband, and my parents well, I was actually failing terribly at three of the four priorities, and self care had fallen so far from my view I forgot it existed.
I worked through two Arizona state long-term care applications for my dad, which if you haven’t had the pleasure of doing I hope you never have to go through. The amount of paperwork and documentation and follow up is a full-time job. Both were rejected. We started an appeal process and a third application that is still not sorted out.
If you’ve ever managed healthcare choices for a loved one you know it’s not only time consuming, but there’s a steep learning curve and time is not on your side. You are second guessing yourself. Your loved ones are second guessing you. You are researching doctors and treatments and possible reasons for symptoms and possible drug interactions. Your head is swimming with medical terms you half understand and you are looking at your loved one daily, reassuring them they are where they need to be and we are getting the best care possible.
I was also managing people’s goals and finances. These people trusted me and I promised to guide them through important life changes and yet I was taking their calls in hallways of hospitals and on the side of the interstate. I was not available, I was distracted, and I was and still am grateful for the support I have in place professionally to help care for my clients.
I was tired. I was low on patience and leaning on my husband a lot. My girls were desperate for time with me and I missed my time with my husband.
In December, we stepped away to visit family in Colorado that had been neglected because I was afraid to be away for too long. I didn’t have time left to nurture those relationships and we needed time as a family. I brought the Arizona state folder, I brought my notebook with all my dad’s care information, and I brought my work computer. I was unable to figure out how to disconnect.
And then my mom and dad gave me a gift. It was not at first received as a gift, but now two months later I realize it was a gift. I called to check in with my mom and she informed me that she had taken my dad home and he would not be returning to the care facility. My parents had decided it was not how my dad was going to live and his care could be managed at home. I did not originally view this news as a gift or even good news. I immediately went into panic mode. I started looking for in home care. I started calling professionals during the Christmas break to ask for personal advice and recommendations. I began running through a million possible outcomes and the what if’s and could haves stopped me from thinking about anything else.
And then it all just stopped.
I was at the gym at 4 a.m. because I didn’t want to impact family time and I was running through the checklist of calls and research to do and I saw myself in the mirror for the first time in a long time. My coloring was grey; even with sweat on my forehead and cheeks there was no glow to my skin. I had bags under my eyes. I had a spare tire I’d ignored and thought I’d been hiding, but realized I was fooling no one. I took a deep breath and started thinking about what I wanted my kids to learn from me.
And that’s when I found my peace.
I realized there is a difference between being loving, caring, and supporting and taking over total control. Although my parents were not in the ideal situation, they had a roof over their heads and food to eat. My kids could not yet fend for themselves. If I kept on the path I was headed, my kids would have no roof over their head, no food to eat, no stability in their lives. They’d lost that stability in July when I checked out of my life and checked into my parents’ lives.
I started to breathe. I started to relax. I called to have one of the most honest and loving conversations with my mom I’d ever had. For me, I was choosing me. I was loving me so I could continue to love and support my parents. I told my mom, I loved her and I was so sorry for everything they were going through, but I could no longer be the driver. I needed to take a supporting role.
I know my mom did not hear it the way I intended and I also knew I had not delivered the message exactly as I had intended, but I felt lighter and fuller at the same time. I could hear in my mom’s voice her panic. I knew she felt abandoned and I knew I’d be able to show her she was not alone, but she needed to take the reins. The calls slowed in pace between my mom and me, and conversations were strained.
When I got back into my office, I was immediately overwhelmed with guilt and disappointment. Reviewing notes for clients, I realized my to-do’s had become to-don’ts. I had a backlog of people that needed and deserved my 100% and I hadn’t been able to deliver.
It’s three months later and even though I thought we’d worked through the emotions and I’d proven to my mom I’m still here in a supporting role, there are still calls like tonight that leave me sad because my mom is not yet confident in my love for my dad or how I fit into the healthcare decisions for my parents. I hope that my mom does know I love her and I had to step back to keep myself whole. I think she knows I’m here to listen and support her, but it’s a harder adjustment then I expected to not step in and take the reins when I think I know what to do.
I don’t think where we are as a family is what any of us pictured, but I do know I love my parents and I know they love me. Isn’t that in and of itself a success?