Caregiving, Cookies and Self-Care
By MJ Santangelo
I?m a wife, a mother of two, a caregiver for my mom and a struggling author. I love warm barely cooked chocolate chip cookies straight out of the oven. Oh, who am I kidding sometimes they don?t even make it to the oven! I don?t endorse eating raw cookie dough, you know because of salmonella blah, blah, blah. Anyway, seven years ago, due to some new diagnoses my mom?s health became too much for her to manage on her own. So I stepped in to help. I quickly found myself thrown into a balancing act I was not prepared for.
When looking back on those first few years when my life turned itself upside down I remember one of my biggest fears was forgetting someone somewhere. I had lists for everything and sticky notes everywhere. I didn?t want to lose my balance on the tightrope causing those I was caring for to fall. But in the midst of all the chaos, I did forget someone, myself.
At the time my younger son was three months, my older son was two and a half years old and my husband was working overtime to take care of our family. I was doing my best to balance all the things, numerous doctors? appointments for my new baby and my mother, a curious two and a half year old, renovating our house to move my mom in, cleaning said house, making sure everyone was clothed (preferable clean ones), fed and bathed (at least once a week) all on the thin rope called my sanity. Putting one foot in front of the other pushing myself forward.
I soon realized I wasn?t taking care of myself as well as I should have been. With the encouragement of my husband I started going to therapy (Hi Lisa, waves hand wildly!). In going to therapy I learned the term self-care and how vital it is for caregivers but really for all of us. Self-care is doing things that nurture your physical, mental and emotional health. For me, it was and still is taking time to eat properly (read- cut back to eating chocolate chip cookies reads dough only once in a while), go for a walk, take a nap, socialize with friends, read a new book or write.
I learned that self-care is not being selfish and that I have to take care of myself in order for me to take good care of my loved ones. It has been a wild seven years. My boys are seven and nine and a half now, my husband and I are still married (Woohoo, go us!) and my mom?s health is stable. As crazy as caregiving and life in general can get I know I can always turn to chocolate chip cookies (read- dough) and a little self-care to get me through it.
I hope enjoyed reading my story. Here is a little more about me:
MJ Santangelo lives in Connecticut with her husband, two sons, her mother and her pug named Boo. When she is not writing you can find her reading, cleaning, cooking or driving somebody somewhere and listening to music while she does it.
MJ is the author of The Kinds of Love Series: Forever Kind of Love, Shameless Kind of Love and Complicated Kind of Love and the author of Like Yesterday, a historical fiction short story about her experiences on September 11, 2001. She is also the author of Falling Apart: An Unconventional Love Story and the companion novella Precious Love. As well as Unbreakable Hope a full-length novel about one family?s journey with chronic illness and a party planning guide titled How to Plan & Survive a Holiday Party or Special Event without Losing Your Mind & Your Sh*t.