I recently finished Adventures in Mother-Sitting, by Doreen Cox. It left me astonished by the level of its intensity and how much it helped me to see my life as a caretaker and to learn to grow past that, taking the joy and memories with me, but learning and forgiving both myself and others for past situations. I believe it is one of the most important books I have ever read.
Here is my review.
Doreen Cox’s describes her book, Adventures in Mother-Sitting, as being cathartic and her own dance with grief, I believe it is much more than that. As a woman who had also been as Ms. Cox describes a care-bear, for my disabled and aging mother, this book was also cathartic to me. So often in the role of caretaker, we lose much of ourselves. Sometimes, as it did with me, much of my family, defined me as an extension of my mother. What is more, I defined me on some unconscious levels as an extension to. I lost myself to some degree in my role, yet it also proved to be so rewarding on other levels. For, when in life are we given a chance or do we take the time to know another human being deeply, let alone one of our parents, except if we take on this type of role.
Our society has a tendency to isolate us from not only our inner selves, but also from knowing others as well as might have been in the past when generations lived in the same household.
During the reading of this book, I laughed, cried, and grew. I found aspects of myself that I had not known were there and things about those years that I had never before been able to put into words, not to myself, nor to others. I hadn’t actually faced the levels of, joy, and heartache that comes with taking such intimate care of another human being.
Yes, as parents or babysitters we take care of little ones, but rarely do we find ourselves looking deeply into our emotions, or wondering about them as people. Yet when one takes care of an aging adult as a caretaker, (or care-bear) we learn things that we may not have ever known, both about the other person and about ourselves.
This changes us on levels that can take years to learn and understand. In my case much of my understanding of is just beginning ten years after my mother’s death, it began when I read Doreen Cox’s book.
I think her book to be one of the most valuable books I have ever read, and it will be one I will go back to repeatedly as the years go on. I also truly believe that whether or not you ever take on the role of care-bear or not, this book will help you learn how to manage your own grief, and to learn how to become more of yourself. In my opinion, it holds the keys for coping with situations that go far beyond caretaking.
What I learned from Adventures in Mother-Sitting are laying the groundwork for who I will become over the years until I face my own dance through the next and last door of this life. It has enabled me to understand not just myself more fully, but aspects of my life and those around me.
I am learning to open up on better levels without fear. I am letting go of past hurts, old patterns, and recognizing that even when I make mistakes I can do more than learn from them, I can forgive myself those errors. Adventures in Mother-Sitting, has given me the ability to look past those hurts that others have caused me, forgive them even when I know that I cannot go back into a situation.
In her book, she described an incident that happened in a store, when she became impatient with her mother and snapped at her, and how one of the shopkeepers looked at her as if she were a horrid person. Ms. Cox, may not know this, but by describing this incident, she helped me, not only begin, forgiving myself for those times I was annoyed, but also to forgive others for their inability to understand me. For all of us do things that those that do not know us or understand our situation, will sometimes judge and sometimes that judgment is harsh. This harshness is not always a reflection of whom we are, but more often a misunderstanding of the situation at hand.
I am not proud of those times I have been irritated or done something that seems odd to others, some of these things have helped me survive and some have been done as a reflex to a situation I didn’t understand either about myself or about the circumstances around me.
It helped me to see I can even love those who seem to hate me, for reasons I don’t understand. Ms. Cox’s book helped me find within myself the capacity to know that even when the connection is no longer such that I am able to understand why the other person feels the way they do, I can forgive myself for those times my lack of ability to explain myself has opened the rift wider. I am on a long journey of discovery, but the road has opened up, the fence has come down at least inside myself.
I believe this book is an absolute must read for anyone who is or will be a caretaker, and for everyone that wishes to understand themselves or others more.