Dear Caregiver, What You’re Feeling Is Normal

roller coaster

Dear Caregiver,

I want you to know that what you’re feeling is normal.

It’s normal to feel like caregiving is a burden, not a blessing.

It’s normal to want this all to be over.

It’s normal for hating yourself for feeling that way.

It’s normal to enjoy aspects of your parent’s age and illness – like the quiet time it gives the two of you to just sit and be together.

It’s normal to silently scream, “HURRY UP,” as your parent shuffles on a walker or a cane.

It’s normal to have judged your mother or father for how they talk, walk, dress, or eat, and wonder, “Why do they have to act so old?”

It’s normal to question what will last longer: your parent’s illness or your marriage because the strain of caregiving is creating a rift at home.

It’s normal to feel nothing as you plow through your to do list; because it’s better than being felled by a wild range of emotions.

It’s normal to never cry. 

Working Daughter book

It’s normal to burst into tears whenever someone asks you how you’re holding up.

It’s normal to wish you could quit your job because pretending to care about your paid work is too much right now.

It’s normal to swear at a medical insurance rep on the phone and then feel bad about it. It’s not nice, but it’ normal.

It’s normal that you have no clean laundry and wear sweat pants everyday because who has time to wash clothes or get dressed anymore?

It’s normal to look at other middle-aged daughters who accompany their parents to the doctor’s office and wonder how they could let themselves go.

It’s normal to look in the bathroom mirror and realize you have let yourself go.

It’s normal to resent caregiving for robbing you of the prime of your life.

It’s normal to find the beauty in life and in death, in joy and in sorrow.

It’s normal to spend a good chunk of your day just holding your mother or father’s hand.

It’s normal to like the fact you are needed and capable and able to return the gift of caring for someone you love.

It’s normal to ask your parent’s doctor 20 questions and form a medical opinion based on research you did via Google.

It’s normal to feel guilty because you made time for a manicure, or a run or a nap.

It’s normal to miss your friends because time with your friends is at the bottom of your to-do list, right after sleep and self-care.

It’s normal to want to hurt anyone who tells you that you should take care of yourself.

It’s normal that your diet consists of Twizzlers and Diet Coke because it’s all you have time for and you can throw a bag of candy and a can of soda in your bag every day.

It’s normal to doubt your ability as a mother, a daughter, a wife and an employee.

It’s normal that you want to be with your kids when you are with your parent, your parent when you are with your kids, at home when you are at work and at work just so you can feel in control again.

It’s normal to just want to be alone.

Caregiving is a roller coaster. Sometimes you have to hang on for dear life and sometimes you need to just let go. It’s normal.

You might also like:

21 Telltale Signs You Are A Working Daughter

Caregiving is a Gift


29 comments on “Dear Caregiver, What You’re Feeling Is Normal”

  1. Pingback: 5 Tips for Managing Your Emotions At Work           - Working Daughter

    • admin Reply

      We need permission to experience the range of emotions Elizabeth. It’s what makes us happy and healthy 😉

    • Karen Cheney Reply

      Thanks, it’s nice to know I’m normal. As a working daughter of a mom who is 90 years young, it’s just nice to know what I have been experiencing, is normal…my kids are grown, I have one sibling but I have the responsiblitiy. So, thanks again for letting me know I am normal.

  2. Tracy Reply

    Thank you… The isolation of caregiving and how it impacts life is quite profound. It really helps to have validation of all the internal conflicts that go on inside my head…

    • admin Reply

      There is no one way to feel as a caregiver Tracy. We need to be reminded of that.

  3. Carolyn Reply

    Hello Yeah t agree I’m a 24 7 live in caregive to someone dementia
    When i move in was my circumstances Will my situation i need somwwherre to live and the need someone to take care of There Mother And I agree what caregiver go through Like putting there life on hold Idont get much helo from the Family and do go through Alot different emotions And lose you social skill But being a caregivet an going through these feelings are normal Such a great article Thanks Prayers to all Caregivers

  4. Mary Beth Hanschmidt Reply

    Your article “Dear Caregiver…” brought tears to my eyes! I just discovered your website and Thank you for telling me I am normal!
    Hopefully the fact that I don’t work outside the home is not a requirement because I relate to the rest of it and I love your site!!
    What a Godsend you are for creating this site!

    • admin Reply

      Welcome Mary Beth! Working outside the home is definitely not a requirement. I coined the term working daughter because I saw similarities to the challenges working mothers face but really, the issues we discuss here are universal to all women, and many men, regardless of the roles they play in life.

  5. Lisa Reply

    I am really glad to have stumbled upon your website today, I needed this. Thank you for writing all of the true emotions and thoughts I think and feel as a caregiver to my 95 year old mother for 3-1/2 years. Your words helped me feel better because it is all true for me.

  6. Emily Gaffney Reply

    I nodded yes to virtually every “normal”. Though I don’t feel I need permission of any kind to think, feel or say these things, I am certainly comforted knowing that I’m not alone. Thanks Liz!

  7. Jasmine Reply

    This article is SO relatable. Its nice to know I’m not the only one struggling with these conflicting feelings.

  8. T Reply

    This is all so relatable, thank you for spelling it out so that it doesn’t feel quite so overwhelming!

  9. Claudia Reply

    I’m just so sad! It hurts to admit this is going on with my mother and I and soooo scared.

  10. Sandy Reply

    I just found this site too and really liked the article. My 92 year old mom is deaf and in assisted living. She’s been very dependent on me emotionally this past 5 years or so. Not being able to hug her and hold her due to the virus is so hard. Our daily phone calls through tty are painfully sad. It is so nice to be reminded that what I’m feeling is normal.

  11. Phyllis Ball Reply

    I am glad I found this website. I moved my 82 year old mom in with my husband and I.
    To read that everything I feel is normal. I just sat and cried. I am not a terrible daughter. My mom had lived my brother until a month ago. Ken had a heart attack and passed. Dr’said told me she is in 7c stage of Dementia.

    • admin Reply

      I am glad you found it too. You are a good daughter! I am sorry for your loss.

    • Tina Reply

      This is true but it makes me incredibly angry. Women are robbed so much in life. We get one life to live and then we are expected to spend the prime of lives taking care of everyone else: kids, spouse, elderly parents and any in-laws parents. It’s frankly disgusting that this is normal and life in America is so bereft of social infrastructure that seniors cannot get adequate care. Then caregiving is moralized instead of treated like the actual work it is. I became a caregiver in my early 30s to a parent who became disabled and medically frail. The patient directed option for her to remain in her home pays almost $5 an hour under a living wage wage for the area, and does not offer any health benefits. I left a successful career in corporate America to go back to making around $10 an hour which is what I made as a teenager in the 1990s. She does not make enough income to cover nursing home costs, but she is not at that point anyone. Not once has pay even been adjusted 1 penny to account for annual inflation increases, nor at all for the record COVID inflation. It is an open secret with Medicaid long term care I literally work around 17 hours per day 7 days a week but am only getting paid for 8 hours a day 5 days per week. They have covered their own behinds regarding US labor laws by acting as my employer but designating themselves as just the vendor and the care recipient the employer on paper. That means if you are working and not getting appropriate pay it is sweet grandma whose worst crime is cursing during bingo who gets in trouble legally. So ironic that adult daughters who are enrolled in PDO programs spend their time making sure an elderly parent eats, takes meds, gets to all their doctors appointments, but we ourselves are not even paid a livable wage or offered any kind of health insurance. It is a cruel and unfair sacrifice. For people who say just put them in a nursing home, you cannot just do that against a person’s will unless you can prove a person is cognitively incompetent which is incredibly difficult and also requires hiring lawyers which women who become caregivers can typically no longer afford. You are left with the Inhumane choice of leaving an elder to themselves at risk of an accident (no one with a modicum of conscience would do that to a parent) or doing the work yourself. Women also have considerable problems re-entering the workforce after caregiving. The caregiving situation in America absolutely sucks. Our voices are drowned out by stupid articles on medical and caregiving resources that spew out absolutely irrelevant advice: “if you are under stress, see a therapist”. With WHAT money? I’m supposed to afford therapy sessions when Medicaid refuses to pay me a living wage and does not offer health insurance? I’m already eating only once a day there is not much more I can cut out to afford a therapy appointment on around $10 an hour. Same with articles about getting doctor checkups. Or unhelpful advice to get respite care. These people have no idea how hard that is. I tried one time to get respite care on a weekend and the woman at the agency literally laughed out loud and wished me luck finding anyone to provide respite care on a weekend. Caregivers are paid so dismally often there is more risk and complexity that happens not relief. Agency caregivers in our experience have routinely done things like: not even show up, bring strangers into the relative’s house, be verbally abusive, refuse to work and only opt to watch TV when stuff needs to be done, etc. Agencies Medicaid relies on for respite often have very poor quality caregivers because they refuse to pay them anything even close to market wage. Caregiving in America is a nightmare, another robbery of women, and a form of modern day slavery by coercion and hostile infrastructure built on exploiting women. I deeply grieve that the prime of my life has been taken from me and so many women and we cannot get access to fair pay, health insurance, and our voices are drowned out by the “thought leadership” of the Medicaid plantation industrial complex that takes advantage of women saving billions of dollars per year off our backs while they exploit us. It’s a modern day American sweatshop hidden in plain sight.

      • admin Reply

        Excellent point: “Then caregiving is moralized instead of treated like the actual work it is.”

  12. Brenda Guarna Reply

    Thank you so much for this. I am sitting here holding my moms hand because she doesn’t know where she is night after night and I feel so alone sometimes. This made me realize I am not alone and my all these feelings are normal.

  13. Cindy Reply

    It was so nice to find this “normal” article. It is so on point. Missed a few that i feel almost daily. I have been married to my husband for 18 years. i have been a caregiver for 17. My husband’s father moved in with us 18 months after we got married. I cared for him until he passed away 6 years ago this month. Although there were some stressful times. I was happy to be able to do it. Of course my husband’s sisters don’t like me because I got so close to their dad. But that’s okay with me, because i enjoyed every minute with him and everything I did for him was out of love. He loved me and appreciated everything I did for him.
    For about 7 month in 2007, I traveled out of state and took care of my father, who had just been diagnosed with terminal lung cancer.
    After my father passed, in May of 2008, my mom moved in with me. I am still taking care of her. It has been tough. EVERY DAY is harder than the day before.
    I have become numb. I feel like i can’t even live my own life anymore. in most ways i cant! I have felt like this for so long. The ‘normal’ is not normal! There is no NORMAL in my life! i don’t know when there will be.
    but it certainly is nice to know that I am not the only one living a ‘normal’ life.

    • admin Reply

      Wow- that is a lot of caregiving. Try to see this as your current normal – better to accept and find some joy where you can now then wait until an uknown time in the future. Hang in there!

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