We find ourselves at the crossroads of managing our homes and nurturing our careers, and sometimes that means putting our children in daycare or hiring a nanny, or even having an au pair live with us - if we are luck to enough to have the means to do so. It means hiring housekeepers, cooks, and sometimes even drivers to transport our children, again if we can have the budget to afford these luxuries. The reality is, life can get overwhelming, and for many of us, the pressure is financially driven as when we are breadwinners in our families.
I've spent the past 15 years working tirelessly outside of my home since the birth of my first child. I've held jobs, built and run two businesses, raised two children, cared for two dogs, all while managing a relationship and dealing with stress-related health challenges. It's safe to say there's been a lot on my plate, which has led me down the path that so many of us are advised to take - outsourcing specific aspects of my life.
Now, I find myself in a different stage of life, with teenagers and aging parents. My father, in his eighties, is slowly slowing down, a natural part of the aging process. But what blindsided us all was my mother's dementia diagnosis six years ago. It hit us like a bag of bricks.
It's a diagnosis that has brought indescribable devastation to our family. Her doctors label her as being in late-stage dementia, but I can't bring myself to accept that description. My mom, deeply rooted in faith, has a relationship with God that is uniquely her own and the journey deeper into this disease is unknown. I find solace in planning for the future but remaining rooted in the present. Nevertheless, we've had to navigate the harsh reality of what this disease means, and a significant part of that responsibility falls on me.
As the only daughter and the closest child to my parent's home, I've shouldered the bulk of the responsibility in caring for my parents. This includes managing their financial and administrative affairs, overseeing my mom's care team, and supervising the nursing aides who assist her in her care in a daily basis. Dementia has brought changes, including a shift to pureed food due to swallowing difficulties, and now I'm the one responsible for preparing all her meals.
Weekly laundry for my parents also falls under my purview. While it's a necessary arrangement, it's a lot to take on. Balancing these roles alongside my other life responsibilities has led me to contemplate how to ease some of these time-bound pressures.
My initial thought was to hire someone to take care of cooking and laundry for my family. I delved into research and explored various options through online communities. I found plenty of resources for outsourcing these tasks, and financially, it seemed viable. I'm grateful for that. I started lining people up to handle the cooking, laundry. Initially, I felt a false sense of relief that options existed for pickup and drop-off services, home cooked meals, so many things to lighten the load. That relief was short lived when a sudden wave of grief swept over me at the idea of someone else caring for my mother in such an intimate way.
I realized that these tasks, initially seen as burdens, are actually acts of love and care that I didn't want to relinquish. I didn't want to outsource these aspects of my life. As I began to prepare meals, focusing on providing nourishment for my mother's body, my perspective shifted. Cooking for her felt like like love and the deepest act of care. It was a way of creating medicine and comfort. It was not dissimilar to breastfeeding my children. Something I chose and cherished as right for us.
Growing up in a predominantly male household, I had resented cooking while my mother relished it. Her love language was food, and as I started cooking for her, I began to understand the profound impact of feeding someone. It was giving life in a tangible and heartfelt way.
Reflecting on this, I realized that these were not tasks I wanted to delegate. Early in my motherhood journey, while juggling the demands of a career and raising small children, I hadn't contemplated these choices as deeply. I didn't have much of a choice, and neither do many of us. The remorse of not having enough time to be present where we want to be versus where we have to be is a feeling I don't want to relive. And especially not when I am lucky enough to be able to choose.
Being present with the people I love and serving them through care feels like an honor. While I don't have all the answers, I believe one of the most important things we can do is to acknowledge what's happening in our lives. As my children grow, I can't help but feel the grief of how quickly time passes and the moments I missed because I was doing what I had to do rather than what I wanted to do.
My message here isn't to offer magical solutions. For many of us, there are none. We can't outsource what we're responsible for because we lack the resources, money, or access. Many of us find ourselves unable to be present where we want to be because there's so much we have to do.
My goal is to emphasize the importance of acknowledging how it feels to navigate life, make difficult choices, and sometimes miss out as time passes. So many voices out there leave this part out as they offer "practical" solutions that neglect our pain.
In my body, I feel grief and remorse, and I believe that feeling what is happening is one of the most self-loving things we can do. It enables us to make informed choices, accept circumstances with open eyes, and care for ourselves in the reality of what is. Making these choices is tough, but not caring for ourselves in the experience of those choices is a cost I hope we don't have to pay.
So, allow yourself to grieve. Allow yourself the beauty of acknowledging what is. You're doing your best, just as I am doing mine. Perhaps, that's enough.