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:
- 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.
- 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