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Caregivers Guide to Self-Gratitude

Updated: Nov 16, 2023

The challenges of being the primary caregiver in a household are abundant and, at times, downright frustrating. And no matter if your focus needs to be outside the home most of the day, based upon family structure and needs, the guilt lingers more with you. The guilt of house upkeep, the guilt of your kid(s) wellbeing and development, the guilt of time relationship building. Many of us are part of the "sandwich" generation, where we care for both our aging parents and our still-developing children without much guidance or a continuous support network. Whew, that was exhausting just writing.

Grace and self-gratitude are the foundations of a healthier well-being. In this guide, I'll break down three focus areas for open communication, introduce proven self-gratitude practices, and hopefully ease the mental toll we share.

eight balancing stones with mountain lake in background

Balance Within The Home

The saying "If mama ain't happy, ain't nobody happy" couldn't ring more true. I remember my mom, grandmothers', and aunts' homes were turbulent, but the roles seemed clearly defined. Most of the time, people acted on their strengths or comfort, groomed by generations of societal conditioning. Queer families today typically do not fall into the gender stereotypes of old, being more defined by ever-evolving societal norms based on individual strengths and interests. However, as families add more caregiving responsibilities, easing into assumptions can happen more often than not. We have found that scheduling regular (in our case, one evening a week) date nights brought stronger communication and released unpronounced grudges. Adulting and its responsibilities create significant obstacles for even the healthiest of relationships, so no matter who is delineated as "mama" of the family, give yourself and your partner grace and make designated time for you all to be one.

Prioritize Your Wellness

24 hours in a day, 52 weeks in a year... and depending if there is a leap year or not, over 518,400 minutes in a year. Many of us think: "Oh, is that all?!" Our mental and physical time is our only commodity as humans, and we trade it for our basic needs and extravagances. At the end of the day, being at peace with what we can control versus much, which is not but has a masterful way of grabbing our attention, is the ultimate in embracing your life by the horns. Once I realized that, carving out those 15-75 minutes daily for meditation, exercise, reading, therapy, and social time that was not focused on the kid became routine. Hey, we deserve to have a life fulfilled just as much as the ones we are giving to... don't be afraid to preserve that right. This year, I fell back in love with riding the bike, primarily stationary since it takes minimal space in our home and isn't dependent on weather. I can get on and ride while Arlo is resting or occupied - pop on a class from my favorite Peloton instructor and get lost in the music. My self-love routine is varied and flexible since life as the primary caregiver has to be, but always centered around establishing healthier habits for me and our family as a whole. As my favorite instructor, Emma (@emmalovewell), would say: "We exercise not because we hate our bodies, but because we love them."

Battling Loneliness

Giving your energy, heart, and soul into caring deeply for another can be immensely rewarding but also an incredibly lonely process. Finding similar, like-minded parents, especially LGBTQIA+ parents, can be a real challenge even in diverse communities. Where do they all hang out? Am I missing this social utopia where queer, mixed-race, drama-free families are kickin' it all the time? If it weren't so darn unsafe, I would say let's all wear "Hi, Rainbow Family! Let's be friends" shirts/hats/hoodies to identify ourselves at the playground, zoo, grocery store, etc. But in all seriousness, depression caused by isolation heightened during the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic. Our family was not immune (I started to take Lexapro during that time #REALTALK), and there is no shame in needing help.

Other fantastic ways to combat loneliness are to get outside and increase those endorphins. Did you know being around trees has many health benefits, like lower blood pressure, less anxiety, and improved immunity? Meetup, Patch, Nextdoor, local libraries, and recreation centers hold events and gatherings catering to a diverse demographic specific to your area. I love visiting state parks and exploring. Even walking to a destination (parking farther away if driving is necessary) and taking the long way through a wooded park can create a feeling of togetherness within the community. Maybe the next time you bring a book to read, take a stretch, ask a friend to meet you or join a new group. Just like that, you are on the way to combatting caregiver loneliness.

Owning your purpose

Life is about finding your purpose, your North Star, and returning to it however the wind blows. For many of us, the blustery nature of our lives is so ever-changing that we have lost a bit of who we are. Friends, there is hope. Self-gratitude takes many forms, but acting on it makes the difference. You are not alone. Together, we can do anything.

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