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The Caregiver’s Promise

By Rachel Snyder

As you act on the sacred promises you have made to care for others, remember the Caregiver’s Promise.

Promise to remember that you have a life of your own. Being a caregiver is one part of that life, but it’s not the entirety of your life. Mother Teresa you are not: Promise to remember that you are simply an ordinary human being, although you may spend your days and nights doing extraordinary things.

Promise to remember that taking care of yourself is not the same as being selfish. That you won’t somehow be struck down if you go out and buy yourself something pretty and special. Even if no one notices but you, promise yourself you will notice.

Promise to take yourself to a movie now and then, if you can stay awake long enough to watch it. And when you can’t, promise to take a nap or sleep an extra hour. And when you’re so weary that the thought of taking a nap is outside your comprehension, promise that you will pick up the phone and ask someone for help. When they agree, promise not to beat yourself up for accepting their offer.

Promise to find some time for yourself each and every day, and hold that time sacred. For walking in the woods. For swimming. For sewing. For prayer. For having lunch with a friend who loves you. For whatever deeply nourishes you, regardless of what anyone thinks. Promise, Oh, Promise! not to let guilt or shame invade that time. Promise to laugh, especially when it seems there’s absolutely nothing to laugh about. Promise, too, to let yourself cry long and hard and loud if you need to. When anger and resentment rear their heads, promise to let yourself feel the feelings, and then find safe ways to channel the powerful energy they contain.

Promise to remember that no task is insignificant. The shared smile, the washcloth on the chin, the bedtime story, the games of checkers or peek-a-boo, the simple touch, the sitting in silence. Each is a priceless treasure, as is each and every human being.

Let this be your promise to yourself: to choose love over fear, compassion over judgment, empathy over self-righteousness. Remember that to give is to live, and give first to yourself so that you can then freely give to others.

Even though you may be surrounded by illness or struggle or death, promise not to forget that you are still very much alive. When you look at your weary face in the mirror, promise to remember that before you were a caregiver, you were an interesting and attractive woman. Promise not to forget that you still are.

Promise to remember what truly matters. Promise that no matter how much you give and how frustrated you may sometimes feel, that you will remember that you, too, are receiving something glorious in return. Promise to let yourself receive, and to be grateful.

Promise to remember that life is a never-ending circle, and that sometimes we are the caring and sometimes we are the cared-for. Last but not least, promise that someday, when you need a caregiver, you will do everything in your power to find someone at least half as caring as you.

(“The Caregiver’s Promise” originally appeared in The Women’s Times, January 1999.)

Rachel Snyder is the author of 365 Words of Well-Being for Women and What There Is to Love About a Man. Her third book, 365 Words of Well-Being for Mothers is due to be released this fall. Rachel’s inspiring and empowering words have appeared in American Baby and McCalls magazines.

{ 7 comments… add one }

  • nanacarol November 2, 2009, 9:52 pm

    Wow, that was great and just what I needed. The past year has seen me wonder when do I take time for myself. I have been placed in the position of being needed(or so I think) by three seperate households. I have elderly parents who really need some extra care. A daughter and family that I moved away from in July to go help her brother and family who were also struggling. Now the daughter is falling apart and what do I do. My dad fell a month ago and really hurt his back and his now not able to drive anymore and getting them out of their house is a chore. So now they have decided to consolidate and move to a much care friendlier place. They need help doing this. The son and family are doing better but still also has needs. i am literally running from one house to the other and at times I feel like my own needs are put on hold. I am feeling selfish but wonder, when will ever be for me. This has probably been the hardest move I have ever made. I was finally coming into my own. I had a little house we liked, started a garden, started learning a new job, albeit tiny and handable for me, but very satisfying. When the need arose to move, we were sure we made the right decision and felt all fell into place and we followed the Lord’s desires for us. But things have not been easy and I have really questioned did we do the right thing. Some moments feel like yes, then then doubt flies in!!!
    When do I say enough and let everyone take care of themselves? But how to do that and not feel guilty.

  • Alison Moore Smith November 3, 2009, 12:55 am

    nanacarol, I don’t have any good answers just lots of hugs. I’m sure others have some wisdom to pass along.

  • Michelle D November 3, 2009, 2:13 pm

    Well, I don’t have any wisdom to share, but I do completely understand the sentiment of this being the hardest move I have ever made. We, too, know we have followed the Lord’s desires for us, but that certainly doesn’t always make the move and the adjustment easier! It is easy to let the doubts and heartache crowd out the knowledge that we did the right thing. So, nana, you at least have my empathy for the overall circumstances in which you find yourself!

    As far as knowing when you have done enough… I don’t know. Maybe that answer is different for every case – your son’s family, your daughter’s family, and your parents. Maybe you have done all you can for your son, but not for your dad. I think that is something you have to figure out for yourself. There is a fine balance between helping others and enabling others. And getting rid of the guilt may be the most difficult part of the entire situation! However, YOU can only do so much. You have to take care of yourself and your husband, as well. Maybe it’s time for someone else to take over some of these other responsibilities.

    Good luck! Don’t give up, nana!

  • kiar November 3, 2009, 3:30 pm

    Maybe you’re here so that when YOU need help, Joe and I can help out. Cause you know we got your back!

  • Michelle D November 3, 2009, 3:47 pm

    There is that, Kiar. You are all amazing examples of love and service!

  • kiar November 3, 2009, 11:07 pm

    I am only speaking the truth! She has taken such good care of me with this whole recovery thing, and we love having her here so much. I think that it would break the kids’ hearts if they were to leave. This weekend, when she was in Red Bluff with her daughter, Kori the 2 yo, walked around the house asking “where nana? I want nana! I need nap with nana!” It was so cute, and so indicitive of how much we need them.
    I want to be the one to take care of her, when she needs it! plus, we give each other a good kick in the pants on the days that one of us has no ambition. She has taught me that to recieve service is not a weakness, but a blessing, and how we can turn that around and be a blessing to others when its our turn. Too much, she is taken advantage of by others, and I really hope that I am not one of those people!
    She has such a big heart, and wants to look after everyone, even at the cost of her own health. I keep having to sit on her sometimes, to get her to slow down!

  • Alison Moore Smith November 4, 2009, 3:19 am

    kiar, what a sweet testament to nanacarol. What a good woman.

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