Stay-At-Home Mom: A Daughter’s Journal

Beth Whitman and mom Marianne in 1971

 

by Beth Whitman

I have recently become a stay-at-home mom for my mom, as she moves into her second childhood.

I find myself reveling in the delights of everyday quirks and wide-eyed curiosity of my ever-so-cute mother. Things that used to irritate me no end now seem sweet, and I love the challenge of finding workarounds to those stubborn behaviors that used to infuriate me.

I’ve taken many cues from Dad who is a model of patience and acceptance. But since his stroke four years ago, he’s become less able to roll with the behavioral idiosyncrasies that are part of the Alzheimer’s experience. He confessed to me not long after his stroke that he was now more prone to lose his patience and become irritated with Mom. He apologized for this but realized that he could no longer be Mom’s primary caretaker because he himself needed more care.

Being able to take on the caregiving duties for my parents is a luxury many people can’t afford in this day and age. It was an auspicious set of circumstances and planning on my parents’ part that has enabled me to do this, and what they gave me was the gift of being able to give back.

I am fortunate to have a part time job with extremely flexible hours, which allows me to work from home much of the time, but there are things I had to give up in order to take on the task of caring for my parents. I had to give up much of my social life, especially as my mom became more dependent on me. And I had to give up making cheese, the last great adventure I had undertaken before I moved my folks in with me.

The myriad details of cheese-making — coordinating the pick-up of 25 gallons of milk, stirring, heating, scooping curd, then salting, flipping and waxing, all of which is on the cheese’s schedule rather than the cheese-maker’s — were just too time-consuming for me to maintain while taking care of two elderly parents, one with Alzheimer’s disease.

On the other hand, there have been some surprising things I gained as I settled into my new schedule. I have found new creative outlets as a writer and an artist, two terms I would not have previously applied to myself, and I discovered a deeper and more loving relationship with my mom, an experience I would not have missed for the world.

I began taking photos and short videos of Mom to record some of the subtle and surprising changes that have occurred with her Alzheimer’s. And then, to flesh out the whole experience, I started to write about it, allowing me to express the preciousness of this whole experience. The writing has now become this blog, which has enabled me to reach out to the world at large.

Another new development: When my folks moved in, I started an art class for all of us. I was looking for someone who could come to our house as an art teacher, and I stumbled upon a wonderful artist and great teacher named Barbara McCarthy who also happens to be a retired RN. This has been extremely fortuitous, as we Whitmans are not the sort to frequent doctors, and there have been a few times when Barbara’s extra-art advice saved us from a hospitalization or simply gave us new ideas on how to make us all more comfortable.

Yes, there have also been times when Mom has become angry, upset, stubborn and seemingly irrational — indeed, some might deem her as being “noncompliant” — but my goal has always been her happiness. So, unless she was doing something dangerous, I made sure that she felt comfortable and loved and supported, even when she would choose to sit for an hour or two with a laundry basket on her head.

 

 

Beth Whitman lives in Maine and is a member of Belfast Cohousing and Ecovillage, a developing community on the coast of Maine focused on multigenerational living and sustainability.



7 Responses to “Stay-At-Home Mom: A Daughter’s Journal”

  1. Jean Lee says:

    Truly a beautiful thought–being a stay-at-home mom for your mom.

  2. I had to respond to your story of your love & care for your parents! It is just beautiful to read about! I know that it has not been an easy road, but I know you have been fulfilled by doing your best! I have a specialneeds son (39) who I have been able to take care of at home as a single parent. I am so greatful to be able to do this! I am so glad for a site like this to encourge families in this way!

  3. Margaret Fergusson says:

    Dear Beth:

    Yes, the gifts…the poignancy for living, for loving every moment as if all were worthy of capture on canvas or in photo or verse. I too was given the love of writing ‘through’ my mother. Our motherly cherishings are not always common among the masses. We are indeed fortunate. Bless your heart…bless ‘their’ hearts. I so loved that your father remembered that we had read the William Blake poem..”Daffodils”, when I saw him at Linda Gallion’s art exhibit at the Washington library several weeks ago. All good…all love…xo

  4. Peter says:

    For Marianne

    From the light of stars to the first faint wash of dawn the day begins.
    Morning
    The beginning of a day’s journey, the journey of a day
    First steps, first smile, first tear.
    And by the time the sun is full in the sky
    Noon
    No one
    But you can touch your heart but the child you have made
    You watch your shadow move slowly from east to west
    The rhythm slows, becomes more
    even
    Evening
    You fan the pages of your album, seeing fragments of faces
    Until the cover closes
    And it will be night
    And you see only the light of stars

  5. rick laub says:

    I’m taking care of four year old with cancer and my mom with alzheimer’s, First it was frustrating until I realized she wasn’t the mother any I was the parent now and she the child, But we feel blessed to have her with us knowing she can walk around not being tied down, My wife has learned a lot of patience now she said she would rather deal with cancer any day, until she could see she was the parent of my mother now also.People tell us we will be blessed, we feel we have, You will be also you’ll see, Good luck the Laub’s

  6. Eileen says:

    Thank you for writing this.
    I too have to care for my mom who will be 82 Sept27.
    I was able to spend the last days with my dad until he passed two years ago July 4th at age of 85.
    Writing has been cathartic for me as well as talking to my mom and recording her past. I’ve come to realize making her happy during these years makes me happy too.
    I’ve come to realize what strong people my parents were to come to the States from the Philippines while organizing old photos and found new appreciation for them raising 5 girls and putting all of through college without loans or debt.
    Sure, I also gave up freedom: I have a curfew with my bf who I see only once a week via his work schedule and me caring for mom. It’s nice to have someone to confide in.
    I’m glad I have friends who I can get to spend some time with, even just for coffee at Dunkin Donuts or McDs coffee.
    Thanks to FB and internet, I have an outlet to outside world.
    I’m thankful I have my older sisters to confide in too and keep me focused and sane!

    I’m glad I’m not alone in living life with a mom who is aging.
    :)

  7. Cynthia says:

    Wonderful writing/ blogging. I read it on Facebook and you have inspired me as I may need to do so etching similar for my dad in the future…all our stories are different, but what it boils down to is loving your parent like they have loved you and treating people as you would want to be treated.

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