So, I thought I was back on track with blogging but I guess I wasn’t quite there! I’m prepping a few posts so that I can get back into the routine of posting a few times per week. I think it’s one of the greatest challenges of blogging – you start out with ideas and energy and thoughts come spilling out … then it tapers off … and then life happens and it becomes an effort to keep up the blogging routine.
As part of my transition to the changes in my life, I am happy to report that I am refraining from beating myself up over the blogging breaks. I am just trying to do my best to makes sure that “my mother, my cat and me” – the individuals and the blog – are relatively happy, generally relaxed and outwardly positive, even if there is an occasional reference to frustration or grammatical errors.
Before my mother came to live with me, I used my time efficiently. I had a weekly list and completed the weekly list. Things were orderly – I knew where everything was and could lay my hands on whatever I needed. Now that Mom is here, my weekly list completion rate has dropped to, at best, 50% and I need to look in a few places to find things.
Why is that?
Option 1: Maybe I’m slower in completing tasks because I am taking the time to spend with Mom. I used to do things in the evening – some “work” work and some cleaning or painting trim, etc. – even if I was watching TV. Now, I have stopped working between 6 and 10 pm, since that is when my mother is still awake. We watch TV and chat and knit. I rarely multi-task (well, other than knitting) before Mom goes to bed, though may do a few things afterward. I also try not to work all weekend, so we can spend more time together.
But in order to get things done, I have started making a greater effort to plow through my “to do” list on the weekend. This results in some sequestration in my bedroom or in front of my computer.
Option 2: Maybe I’m not slower … maybe there are more tasks. I think there are more things that need to be done and they seem to absorb my time. There are lots of details in my head these days. Now, I’m a fairly low maintenance person – I don’t need a lot. My mother didn’t used to be a high maintenance person, but now is certainly scoring higher in that regard. It’s not her fault or her intention, but she is less independent and therefore needs my attention and time. It’s not a self-centered form of high maintenance, but a sustained need for assistance. Fortunately, Mom is not demanding. She just realizes that I can do things much more quickly and that she forgets where things are.
Case in point: she needed to take a Tylenol the other day and could not remember whether she had any or where the bottle might be. It’s a minor thing for me – 10 seconds for me to get her a pill. It would have taken much longer for me to describe to her where it was and then it would have taken her more time to get the pill.
The saying “don’t sweat the small stuff” sounds good in theory and I understand the sentiment and agree that it’s healthiest to let things roll off your back. But, what’s missing from this is the counter-balance: “death by a thousand cuts”. While it’s important to involve Mom and have her do things herself, there is a limit. What is easier for me to do also adds tasks to the list. And these small tasks take their toll. It’s constant. It wears you down over time.
Option 3: Maybe I’m not slower … maybe some things do not make it onto the list. As mentioned above, there are a lot of little things … these do not make the “to do” list, in part because I don’t want to be so micromanaged by my own list that I end up a drone-like shell of my former self! The list would be a multi-page, excruciatingly detailed opus that would be not only tedious but also, at some point, unmanageable. Additionally, some tasks are more ad hoc than planned, so it is hard to get them onto the list.
Sometimes we need to pivot and do something unplanned because Mom is ready and responsive at a specific time – we have a greater chance of success if she is “there”. Including everything on the list would make it so cumbersome as to be ineffective. I embrace pragmatism – systems and processes need to be workable. Tools like lists are useful when they guide but become deleterious when they are overly complex.
Option 4: Maybe things are done at a slower pace because I have to adapt to Mom’s pace. There is a saying that mothers are only as happy as their least happy child. Perhaps when dealing with an aging parent, an adult child caregiver is only as fast and efficient as their elderly parent … or something like that! I have to explain more to her, listen to the same story over and over again, eat slower, answer the same questions over and over again, wait for her, and on and on. As long as she is awake, when I try to move quickly, I am thwarted.
Frankly, I think all four options are playing a role in sapping my efficiency. There are elements of each that I deal with everyday. On one level, it’s fine – it’s really not a big deal whether the pre-primed trim in the bathroom gets it’s final coat of paint this weekend or in two months … after all, it’s been two years since the bathroom was finished. I went from status quo (before Mom came down) to revolutionary change (renovation, job changes, priorities) and then transitioned to a less chaotic evolution (settling in and making minor changes) and, eventually, will get to a new status quo.
Yet it is also true that, regardless of which options explain my drop in efficiency, I need to pick up the pace on getting things completed. I feel frustrated when things are not finished. I like to check things off my list. For my own peace of mind, I need to have the tasks related to the transition checked off the list. So, while I need to adjust, I cannot capitulate to something that is “not me”. Finding the line between reasonable adjustment and capitulation is more challenging than I thought.