Tuesday, January 31, 2012

To Care or Not to Care

Heron at our Pond photo by MK Sandford
For most of my life I have lived in households with two women. I have been the primary homemaker; my partners were the primary breadwinners – administrators and/or professors. Although it was definitely a partnership, I was homemaker, confidant, life coach; my focus was to keep things running smoothly. I didn’t realize how intense and unremitting this felt until, this past few years when my partner was disabled, and I kept working. I was teaching, writing, and caring for our hobby farm – caring for ducks, our gardens, building duck houses and fences, but I was not the cook, house cleaner and laundress, or bill payer. In spite of all that I was doing, I felt a gnawing guilt that I wasn’t contributing to the household; for the first time, my partner was responsible for doing the cleaning, laundry, cooking as she was able.
A year ago I had emergency surgery, and although I continue to teach online, I had to let go of the continuous concern for our daily living. I felt a subtle shift within myself. There are spaces in my life that were not there before. I can actually sit quietly by the pond, and think without intrusion of thoughts of work undone. The laundry fills the laundry basket by the bed; I can ignore it, knowing that it will be done. I don’t have to consider doing it. Dishes in the sink no longer bother me. I feel a lightness of being that I had never felt before. That is not to say that I don't help out when asked, but I no longer carry the constant concern for the life sustaining work that was always with me. Now I have the freedom of the privileged who know that their basic needs, their comfort, and their wants are taken of. Is this what it is like, for men? I wonder.


allan said...

Nice piece, Eileen. I don't know about most men, since I am only one. However, I have never had the feeling you express feeling now -- knowing you will be taken care of -- since I left home. When I have been with women, they have been strong, independent, co-equals. We shared responsibilities and chores (I think they would agree.) As you know, now I am the breadwinner --- well, given the size of it, perhaps muffinearner is a better title, as well as the homemaker. Kitchen yoga. It's all good, so long as it is a choice.

Eileen M. Jackson, PhD, RN said...

A note from Janet Richard, A woman who was kid I taught in 1965. What an honor!

Eileen...our lives touched briefly back in the 60's at George McCann School. For that short time, I do remember conversationalizing with you. I have just enjoyed reading your blog and listening to the presentation in Nov about the Mysterious Ways we Nurture Life (only halfway though listening right now). Thank you. It is hard work "caring" for those we love. Especially so much more when one holds down a full-time job like I have done for 40 or so years. At work, I sometimes say to my girlfriends...a wife needs a wife! Doing all that is needed to "keep up" with "life" gets so overwhelming and sometimes, the men in and around my life just don't get it. And in the moments when a woman might just want to "veg out" why do we feel so guilty that we're not "doing something?" I can't wait to finish listening to the rest of the presentation. Thank you again. I only wish I could have continued getting to know you through the years as others know you now. Thanks for reading and "caring!"
about an hour ago ·

Eileen M. Jackson, PhD, RN said...

Thanks Allan, my question for you is, how has your time caring for your spouse been different from your time when you were a partner, with shared responsibilities and chores.

Janet said...

So now that I've had a few days to think about this "caring" subject, my question is, can a person take "caring" too far so that one almost begins to feel resentment for how far they've got themselves into "caring?"

Eileen M. Jackson, PhD, RN said...

Janet, Absolutely you can burn out from caring. In fact, burn out is common among caregivers,nurses, moms, and others. The need to care for yourself is while caring for others is great. Thanks for the reminder to write about that subject.