The Practice of Caring

Did you know that November is National Family Caregivers Month? I didn’t until Heather Von St. James emailed and asked if I’d write a post highlighting when someone helped me through a difficult time.

Heather certainly knows about the need for help – she is celebrating 10 years since her diagnosis of pleural mesothelioma, a rare and aggressive cancer caused by asbestos.

Being in the throes of early motherhood, I have a glimpse into the world of full-time caregiving. While I’m not witnessing a life-threatening illness or deterioration that comes with age, this phase is nonstop. Even with an incredibly supportive partner, I am the primary cleaner, discipliner, feeder, and playmate. Even on our quiet days, I am on.

Even though I haven’t needed caregiving for any traditional needs, I want to take a moment to highlight my aunt, who has cared for me emotionally during these early years of motherhood.

Growing up with seven aunts, I never lacked support. They almost seemed to take turns – one aunt would send books during my tween years; another checked in regularly during college. When I became a teacher, my Aunt Elaine would send notes of encouragement. We both taught second grade and she became another mentor – someone who shared lesson plans and ideas. Our classes were even pen pals for a few years.

IMG_8821But it was when I became a mom that Elaine’s support became a necessary, grounding part of my practices of early motherhood. She takes the time to check in, to FaceTime, to text, to send encouragement. She gets those crazy days and loves them. Whenever we visit, she has her home ready, not only for Bea but also for me – good food and wine and conversation ready to rejuvenate.

What she’s modeled to me is the need to care for people before a life crisis. She’s taught me the importance of checking in, of laughing, and of relationally caring for others in the mundane, daily practices of life.

I’ve learned that caregiving is calling when someone comes to mind. It’s sending a note in the mail. It’s checking in and doing life messily together. It’s remembering to ask others over for dinner, even when the house is a messy. It’s being intentional about playdates – as much for my connections with other moms as for interactions for our kids. It’s about sending a note when someone is on my mind.

It’s remembering to do the work of caring for others, before a meal is needed or a crisis occurs.

How do you care for others in the day-to-day? I encourage you to take some time this month to thank someone in your life who is a caregiver.

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