Th e O p p o r t u n i t y
t o Pa u s e
By Wendy Pearson Do a simple search and you will come up with a plethora
of articles, books, and podcasts on the challenges of
caregiving, the importance of self-care, and a laundry
list of everything one “gives up” in order to take care of
another person. And there is a lot of truth in those resources.
But what you probably won’t find is a thoughtful discussion
on the opportunity caregiving provides to take a pause in
your life to make sure you are on the right track.
I’m nearing the ten-year anniversary of the loss of my
mother to multiple myeloma. And as I reflect on that pivotal
moment when I first became a caregiver, I’m struck not by
the hard work of the endeavor, but by how the experience
changed me fundamentally as a person and as a professional
in ways that I am just now coming to fully understand and
appreciate. Put simply, the person I am now bears almost no
resemblance to the person I was before caregiving. And I am
forever grateful for that.
If I had to guess, and it is a guess, I’d say the following had
a lot to do with the changes in perspective, priorities, and
direction that I experienced.
The opportunity to pause.
Caregiving can interrupt your life in such an abrupt way that
it can be quite jarring. No one is prepared to be thrown
into the role of caregiver. No one. But once you establish
a routine, something strange begins to happen. I call it
the beauty of boredom. My day-to-day routine prior to
caregiving was work at work followed by work at home.
There were the rare moments between “shifts” where I
could pursue my own dreams, but for the most part, my life
revolved around my job.
When I suddenly found myself in my childhood home,
surrounded by the things I used to treasure, it forced me to
take a long, hard look at the life I had created. While there
was some good there, I realized that in many ways my life
had taken the path of least resistance, where I just accepted
what people threw at me without question and without
putting my own needs and desires on the table. It was in
fact, how I became my mother’s caregiver in the first place.
But that “decision,” if you can even call it that, was years in
I have to admit that it was a difficult realization for me. It
was a lot easier to blame others for my decisions and the
problems in my life. It was much harder to acknowledge the
role I played in setting myself up for a life I didn’t want.
“Caregiving provides the space to have those
moments of reflection and self-awareness.”
In the quiet of the waiting room, in the hours when my mother
was resting, and over those sleepless nights, I experienced
breakthroughs that I would not have experienced had my life
not been interrupted. I was able to become acquainted not
just with the person that I was, but also with the person that
I wanted to be. And it was in those moments that I began to
dream again about what I wanted to become, outside of the
roles I had been playing to date.
Now before you say it, I admit that my life was in complete
limbo. I didn’t know how long I’d be home with my mother.
I didn’t know whether I’d still have a job at the “end” of
caregiving. I certainly didn’t know what the end would
even be, and frankly I was almost too scared to think about
that. But I was coming to a clearer understanding of what
I wanted for myself, independent of the role I played in the
lives of others, and that was completely new for me.