I tell everyone I am a caregiver FIRST. Caring for others brings me joy. I am proud of my ability to care for my family. I have also realized that my ability to care for others is dependent on how well I am caring for myself. When I take care of myself FIRST, things flow. While I know this, it was challenging to accomplish in 2021. Managing my time and energy was difficult. In my opinion, it was more challenging than the prior year. I did not have sufficient support. My self-care was not always at the top of the list. When you are responsible for the care of others, sometimes it is necessary to have time where you are only responsible for yourself.
Knowing I was reaching a point of burnout, I went through my calendar to find a weekend that I could plan a short getaway. A weekend of respite. In December, I decided to take a trip to Austin for a long weekend. The caregiver I use regularly was out of the country. I had limited access to additional support. I knew making this trip happen would take some flexibility and creativity. Todd would miss work to get Emily ready for school. Justin and Todd needed to work as a team to cover my responsibilities. They would be in charge of Emily, Ben, Coco, the chickens, and the fish. Yes, we have a fish. More on this later.
I planned everything. I set up a caregiver to give the boys a break over the weekend. I saved the money to cover the cost of the flight and rental car. I used banked RCI points to book a resort near Travis Lake. For the record, there is nothing true in this sentence! It was NO resort, and it was NOWHERE near water! (That is a story for another day.) I had all the trip logistics planned. I made arrangements for connecting with friends and maximizing my time away.
I made sure the house was stocked with groceries. I prepped as many of Emily’s meals as possible. I had Emily’s outfits set out for each day, including her accessories. I checked and rechecked the weather daily. I adjusted clothing or added outerwear based on the weather. I made sure her medical cards, identification, and letter of conservatorship were accessible to Todd. I put notes in her school journal to inform staff to reach out to Todd if there was an emergency. I reached out to a few friends and asked them to be “on-call” if the guys needed support.
I left notes everywhere. I took videos of how I do Emily’s hair. She has become resistant to having her hair combed, so I recorded my tricks for Todd. I had instructions for street sweeping and days to take the trash cans to the curb. Shouldn’t the men know how to do this without a note or reminder? I left nothing to chance. I put the jar of fish food for our solo goldfish, Guacamole, right in front of his tank where it could not be missed. I put a post-it on the tank that said, “feed me.” I reminded them to water my poinsettia and feed the chickens. I was proud of myself because I left my family with tools and instructions. The toolbox was stocked.
The date came for me to travel to Austin. I had a fantastic weekend meeting friends and connecting. I enjoyed the break. I trusted things would go well while I was gone. I did not worry about anything at home. I knew I planned. The rest was out of my control. All the preparations and planning paid off. I came home with a full battery and abundant joy. I was full of gratitude.
My husband missed me. He picked me up from the airport and brought Ben with him. Ben was so excited to see me. Todd took me to lunch before we went home. It was delightful to sit outside with Todd and Ben and enjoy a meal. Justin was waiting at home. He had cleaned out the pantry and organized it for me while I was gone. The house was clean, and all the laundry was clean. I was impressed. I unpacked and got settled back into the home.
The boys and I discussed things that happened while I was away. I found out Emily did not get a bath while I was gone. They assured me that she doesn’t smell and looks clean. Okay, I let it go. I added giving Emily a bath to my things to do that evening. I walk into the kitchen. It does not look like the fish food jar has been touched. It is in the exact spot I left it. Guacamole is at the surface telling me, “Feed me! Feed me!” There is urgency in his movements. I fed him and asked the boys if they had while I was gone. Justin’s reply, “We have a fish? I always forget about that.” I throw my hands in the air. “Come on guys, neither of you bothered to throw a fish some flake!?!”
Emily was happy to get a break from me, and full disclosure was thrilled to skip her bath. She hates her self-care routine. She protested as I washed her and cleaned her that night. I completed the task from a place of service and no obligation. When I meet my needs first, I care for others from a place of service. When I start to feel resentful about taking care of others, that is my cue that I am not fully caring for myself. In 2022, I have already planned to widen my care circle for Emily. I will also teach the men to throw the fish some flake.