The old saying “You can choose your friends but you can’t choose your family”, is true. Being part of a family brings with it dynamics both good and bad. These dynamics are shaped through years of tradition and practice.
My family is made up of loud-talking, listening-challenged, quick-tempered Italians. We have an unspoken hierarchy. Though I am considered an expert in the field of caregiving, some family members will look to my sister first when it comes to their care needs as she is the oldest. My sister is smart and resourceful, a real dynamo (must be a family trait), however; having spent the last 20+ years of my life helping family caregivers and seniors this was very frustrating for me.
However; I realized that my frustration impeded my ability to help facilitate care for others. So instead of trying to change a social order cultivated through years of Italian heritage, I decided to change how I was acting and re-acting in situations in order to ultimately assist those who needed care. I’ll admit though it’s still challenging at times to sit second-chair, I stay focused on my main objective and that is to help.
I’ve spent my career working with families in the midst of caregiving chaos and I’ve seen how the pressure caused by family dynamics can stir up feelings of resentment, bitterness and frustration towards both the person being cared for and other family members.
So I’d like to offer some considerations that can decrease turmoil and enhance relationships with those around us:
- Caring for someone you love is a choice. I’ve had many people say to me, “I had no choice, no one else would do it”, if you analyze that comment you realize there was a choice. The other family members chose not to be the caregiver. You either choose to be the caregiver or you don’t. There are always options, so whether out of guilt, a sense of duty or because you were raised to always take on the care needs of others, you chose it.
- Other family members are not the enemy; they are people you love (even if you don’t always like them), who have different personalities, stressors and issues going on.
- You can complain all you want about your family, but at the end of the day they are still your family. Unlike your mobile phone company there’s no upgrade or trade-in plan. Instead of fighting against the family you were given, try making a conscious choice to love them for who they are faults and all.
- Forgive them! They aren’t like you; that is why you’re the caregiver and they aren’t. Anger and bitterness ends up hurting us and the people we love. Let it go.
Make the choice today to accept your family members just as they are and consider adjusting your interactions with them. Instead of seeing them as a burden, see them as one of the greatest blessings in your life, just because they are yours.