Friday, September 20, 2013

I Don't Regret Taking Care of My Parents in My 20s

This week I had a fun (well, fun for me) freelance writing assignment about having compassion when taking care of aging loved ones. Even though I may still be in my 20s, most of you lovely readers know that I have my fair share of experience in this department. The assignment triggered memories about what it's like (and how much I've have to give up) taking care of my parents. Naturally I thought: hey, blog post! And now here we are. lol.

For those who are new to the blog, here's the gist of my story: I can't exactly pinpoint when my parents became a priority of mine. My dad was first diagnosed with cancer in my late teens. I ended up finishing part of my junior year and all of my senior year in a single semester. Yes, I completed 13 classes in 3 months, a year and a half ahead of schedule. I helped as much as I could while my dad did chemotherapy and went into remission. I didn't start college until I was 19. When the cancer came back (or I would get sick; anxiety/PTSD relapse), I would either go to school part time or take a semester off. The third and last the (now terminal) cancer returned, I fought Medi-Care and Medi-Cal from their constant threats of discontinuing my father's chemotherapy. I spent hours on the phone arguing with them instead of studying. I took a year off after his death to finish my degree. Somewhere towards the end of my senior year of college it became obvious that I would need to begin to take care of my mother. With her failing memory and health problems, I am going through my second round of taking care of a parent at a young age... and I don't regret it.

What I gave (and am giving) up: I gave up my "youth" in order to take care of my parents. From my late teens until now (my late 20s), I had to give up being "young" in the "young and irresponsible" sense. To be fair, a lot of things never appealed to me. Getting drunk? Going to Vegas? Staying out until the wee hours of the night? Going to parties every weekend? Nope, sorry; never my cup of tea. I also give up sleep on a daily basis as my mom doesn't drive and she starts work at 5 a.m. Yes, I get up that early to drive her to work.

I gave up my dream of attending school abroad. I never did make it to UBC (my dream school), Bath Spa University (where I was headed to prior to my father's second cancer diagnosis), nor Oxford where I was encouraged by a professor to apply. I gave up dating because I knew it wouldn't be fair to anyone to be put into that situation.

I am currently giving up my dream to move out of L.A. (seriously, someone get me out of here!) for grad school because of how things are with mom. If she hadn't started getting lost in our own neighborhood, I would've applied to UBC's Audiology and Speech-Language Pathology grad program... in a heartbeat.

Yes, I've given up (and will continue to give up) a lot... but it doesn't even matter to me. Everything I've ever given up doesn't compare to what I've gained.

I've learned how to differentiate between wants and needs. I've learned that, though it's harder, putting others needs before my own has made me happier. I think about it this way: I am only going to get one set of parents in my lifetime. I had a great father for the first 24 years of my life. I hope to have my amazing mother with me for many more years to come, even if that means giving up more in order to help her. I only have (and had with my father) one shot to thank them for everything they've ever given me and I can't think of a better way to do that than by helping them when they need it. I know a lot of people were disappointed in me for choosing Speech-Language Pathology instead of Theology because it was a way to help my mother instead of following my desire to immerse myself in Theology, but that's just how it has to be.

I sometimes think about my vocation. Though I have been pretty certain that it's being a wife and mother someday, I sometimes get these little moments of doubt. I start thinking "what guy is going to want to marry me when I have my mother to take care of?" We're sort of a packaged deal at this point. Where I go, she goes. While she won't interfere in that department (she has never meddled in any of my relationships), it's going to take some super amazing fella to accept me with her.

I get asked a lot of questions about my relationship with my parents and having had a lot of tough decisions to make as a young woman and I hope this post has answered many of them. :) P.S., Yes, I'm such an INFP... lol.

I should go eat something now. I haven't had lunch and it's almost 3 p.m. Oops. :)

I hope you all have a great weekend!

As always, thanks for reading and God bless!


Julie Baldwin said...

I forget to eat too sometimes. ;)

THANK YOU SO MUCH for sharing this story with us - for your testimony, witness, and love.

#1 fan (foam finger and all!) right here! I'm not disappointed in the least - you have greatness in you, and compassion too.

angelsteph said...

I have a similar story. My parents were both disabled and got progressively worse as they got older. They also had me later in life. I had to take care of them all through my teens and college years in various ways, even after I moved out of the house. They went into assisted living six years ago which took some of the burden off of me, but I still had to help them with some grocery shopping. Then three years ago they separated and then divorced and went to separate facilities. They both went under Family Care and I was still responsible for my mom's finances and keeping abreast of her health condition. Although I am POA for both parents, it's more necessary for her. Due to their needs and various other things that happened growing up, I suffered from abuse and it's taken 2.5 years of counseling, spiritual guidance and a loving relationship to become the adult I was always meant to be. Thank you for sharing your story via the blog. It has been a joy to journey with you as you have grown and discovered where you are being led (some of us are still on the way too).

Emmy Cecilia said...

Julie - thank YOU for listening me to rant and stress over the whole grad school thing. Also, thank you for not pushing me one way or another. :)

Emmy Cecilia said...

Steph - wow. We have way too much in common. ;) I'm sorry you also went through something similar but I am so overjoyed that you're now at a good place in your life. <3

Unknown said...

I know this is an older post but I just wanted to say thanks for having written it. I too have a much similar story i am now 28 and my father is recovering from now his 2nd stroke and my mother with many limiting chronic problems.

I have absolutely no regrets about taking care of them the same way they have done and would continue to do for me if needed.

The part that really sucks is not really having anyone to talk to that can relate to the things you are dealing with.

Most of my 'friends' and I use this term loosely are either on their 3rd kid or too drunk to find their phone. They couldn't begin to imagine the things that you deal with on a day to day basis in this situation.

Gets very lonely.

Emmy Cecilia said...

I totally know what you mean. It can get lonely and not many people infest and but you're definitely not alone in this.