Can You Care for Others Without Destroying Yourself?

From Electric Lit:

Women providing care––and the ways in which care can be made murky by expectations related to gender, religion, and tied unfairly at times to a means of proving love—is a significant theme in Lynn Coady’s latest novel, Watching You Without Me.

After Karen’s mother Irene passes away, Karen returns to her childhood home in order to process the complicated relationship she had with her mother, sift through the detritus of her former life, and make decisions about how best to support her sister Kelli, who is disabled. These reckonings lead to questions, both for Karen and the reader: How much can –– and should –– we care for others without losing ourselves in the process? What happens when caregivers burn out? What lines can and should exist between caregivers and the people they care for, and what harms are caused when these lines are blurred? 

In our current climate, one in which women are shouldering childcare duties while also attempting to maintain work (spoiler: it’s impossible), and parents are being told they are no longer allowed to care for children at home while they work (a policy arguably disproportionately affecting women), Coady’s book, one unapologetically written about women’s lives, for women, serves both as a balm and guide. And while the characters do grapple with significant issues related to self-preservation and complicated familial relationships, there’s also a compelling note of tension that rises to crescendo, rendering this a deliciously layered read.

Link to the rest at Electric Lit

PG will limit himself to two comments:

  1. Any employer which has the gall to prohibit a mother or father, aunt, uncle, etc., from watching children who otherwise might be poorly-tended while working at home during something like the Covid Pandemic should suffer public shaming and, perhaps, the employee who made such a decision should also be identified and disdained to the max.
  2. The answer to the OP’s title – Can You Care for Others Without Destroying Yourself? – is, of course, yes.

People have been doing this for as long as children and aged relatives have existed. No reasonable person would contend that it’s easy and, perhaps, some people don’t have the necessary physical, mental and emotional stamina to do this sort of thing, but, without a doubt, it can be done without destroying oneself.

Indeed, more than a few caregivers have found the task to be highly rewarding. There is a bond that forms when one person serves another’s needs over an extended period of time that may not be entirely replicable in other contexts.

The following is but one of many, many expressions of that bond:

Love is not about what I am going to get, but what I am going to give. People make a mistake in thinking that you give to those whom you love, the real answer is, you love those to whom you give.

– Abraham Twerski

5 thoughts on “Can You Care for Others Without Destroying Yourself?”

  1. and parents are being told they are no longer allowed to care for children at home while they work

    Who? Where? When?

    • I’m tempted to just reply “someone on the internet said it”, because you know that’s always going to be true.

      However, the article does give a link:

      https://people.com/parents/fsu-employees-cant-watch-kids-while-working-from-home-coronavirus/

      to a story that “Florida State University has announced that come early August, it will not continue to allow employees to work from home while simultaneously taking care of their children.” Mind you, the link in that story does not actually take you to the announcement, but this may reflect the way that the University allocates URLs on its website.

      Thinking back to when my children were under five I think that my productivity would have been zero were I having to watch the kids. We would have coped by operating a rota system but this is not always going to be possible, especially for single parents who are presumably supposed to give up some optional activity (like sleeping or telling the truth to your employer).

      • For me, the FSU announcement was a prime example of an overreaching government bureaucrat exercising his/her authority in an area that should have been off-limits.

        If the employee is doing the job for which the University hired them and if there is an option for the employee to work from home, what business is it of the bureaucrat’s whether there are children around or not?

        Particularly in the institutions of higher education with which I have a bit of first-hand knowledge, seats at desks in university offices occupied with actual derrières don’t necessarily equate with efficient work output.

  2. Frankly, it’s not the employer’s job to pay people to take care of their kids. I doubt that referenced employer would mind answering an occasional question, or responding to an ACTUAL emergency. But, parents can’t avoid paying for child care, and using COVID as an excuse. A business that did that would go broke.
    Being reasonable about time-shifting, if necessary? Sure – IF the employee’s job is not time-sensitive. But, most jobs are.

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