There are two modern-day archetypes for a woman (at least this one) The one who loves and understands, makes concessions Then there's the one that says no to all of that I strive for the first and then feel robbed I move to the second and feel mean and cold, you know not very "lady-like" When I was taking care of my dad, insulin shots, glucose checks and constant meal prep I also had to work. I'm a therapist and a school social worker. I love my work But this was hard: managing dad and maintaining the life I had built Where all day long I hold space and no space is held for me I resented him How he'd come up the stairs, sit at the kitchen counter and smile He loves watching the women work One morning as I struggled to get myself out of bed for another round Him, at the counter, me forlorn scrambling his eggs He said, you would feel better if you helped people and smiled. There's a saying, often on mugs, pillows and inside pretty frames: A wise woman once said, "Fuck this shit" and she lived happily ever after.
I did say “fuck this shit,” once I found a nurse to come in every weekday morning so I could move him back to his house.
I go to his house on weekends, give the insulin, drop off the groceries and prep the food. This morning, I stayed, ate breakfast with him and had one of our old father/daughter talks I once enjoyed. Sometimes his mind is so clear he becomes the dad I’ve always known.
What I learned from this time of taking care of my dad, and as I still learn because this isn’t over, is although this has been really difficult, I see where I was causing my own suffering. I see how I kept bouncing back from one archetype to the other. As a woman, in the patriarchy, with a dad who is accustomed to the “women’s work,” I felt pressured to do my work with a smile—you know so I could be loved and approved of. But I felt burdened and pissed and abandoned my own needs. And then really pissed being judged by those who have not helped in the ways that I have. My dad didn’t have to take care of his parents, except for one summer taking care of his mom who had Alzheimers. My dad is not a therapist or a social worker. My dad is also not a woman.
So I’d swing to the other archetype and say, “fuck this shit.” It brought relief. It feels good not to give a shit for a bit.
It took my own mental health crisis about a month ago to realize I matter, and I don’t have to be a victim or a martyr to matter. I experienced the weight of caring for others. I began to understand how I was not shielding my emotional, physical, and mental boundaries and no one was going to save me from doing this to myself. Only I was. So I got help.
The days now seem to move a bit more fluidly, sometimes even joyfully. Mentally, I protect my boundaries by doing what is needed without the incessant inner dialogue about what I am missing out on in my own life. Emotionally, I protect my boundaries by creating my own support structures and physically, I protect my boundaries by giving my home and work back to myself. I notice when I am with my dad, like this morning, I do not feel burdened. I am with him. I do not know how much longer I will be able to.
Thanks for listening,
Nikki, The Soul Reporter