Dr. Seuss’ wisdom for Caregivers

It’s one of those slow and unplanned days.

My youngest is under the weather. He was up and down most of the night.  He’s tired. I’m tired. We’ve been laying low and reading books – mainly Dr. Seuss books.

DrSeussLogoMost of us have fond memories of reading Dr. Seuss’ whimsical work, being mesmerized by his vivid images, and learning life lessons that have carried us forward into adulthood.

As caregivers go about tending to the needs of others, the same attention given to caring for themselves is often overlooked.

If a caregiver finds themselves neglecting their self-care, they should stop and revisit the life lessons of Dr. Seuss. Here are the top quotes for Dr. Seuss to help bring perspective and balance to how caregivers care for others and themselves:

“Sometimes the questions are complicated and the answers are simple.”

Caregivers often fall, unknowingly, into the role of an advocate for their client. It can be detrimental to the caregiver’s overall well-being if they feel their client is being underserved. The caregiver may begin to question their voice and their ability to serve their client. In cases like this, the caregiver should decrease mental pressure, remember the power of their voice, and ask questions that increase the care their client may need and deserve.

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“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, Nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”

Many caregivers undervalue the impact of their work because as a society, the role of a caregiver is often under or ill-defined. Caregivers should remind themselves, daily, that their role in the life of their client (and the loved ones who love their client) counts majorly. The client relies on the caregiver to share their skills and talents in their caregiving duties. If the caregiver is to continue to provide quality care, he/she must place a high value, internally, on their own work.

“Nonsense wakes up the brain cells. And it helps develop a sense of humor, which is awfully important in this day and age. Humor has a tremendous place in this sordid world. It’s more than just a matter of laughing. If you can see things out of whack, then you can see how things can be in whack.”

Caregiving is extremely difficult work and can be taxing. There are serious details and a large amount of responsibility that falls to caregivers. To increase the caregiver’s awareness of tending to their own self-care – the caregiver should stay mindful and celebrate small and large accomplishments as they support their client. They should keep a fresh perspective and be able to appropriately find fun and humor in their day-to-day work.

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“Kid, you’ll move mountains.”

Even when a caregiver gets to a point when things may be overwhelming with a client or with the client’s family – they need to give themselves positive affirmations. The caregiver should remember jobs that do not receive a lot of public recognition or glory are the most important jobs. Positive self-talk is a self-care practice that can instantly impact a caregiver when he/she may be having doubts about their role.

“Sometimes you will never know the value of something, until it becomes a memory.”

Many non-caregivers are hard pressed to understand the impact of a quality caregiver. Because of this, it becomes increasing important for caregivers to have a caregiving network that will remind the caregiver they play an integral role in the legacy of their clients. Keeping this top of mind supports the caregiver in reflecting on the value of what they bring to their clients.

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“Oh, what a day. I will make it a holiday.”

When caregivers are working hard, their caregiving days can start to blend and become a blur. To focus on self-care and enjoying time with clients, caregivers should create daily reason to celebrate. This will aid in increasing a positive energy flow and support the caregiver’s positive outlook.

 

What are your favorite Dr. Seuss-ims and how would you apply them to caregiving?

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Obscure Holiday + Scary Conversation = Pro-activity

epitaph: a brief statement commemorating or epitomizing a deceased person or something past

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Today is officially Plan Your Epitaph Day.

What, it’s not on your calendar?

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Here’s 5 reasons it should be:

During “real” holidays, people are too focused on travel, food, finances, and traditions.  Room is typically not made for serious discussions (e.g. caregiving, advanced directives, wills, etc.) that can positively or adversely affect a family.

With many people fearing end of life conversations, using this holiday as an opener for a proactive discussion can expand the fearful lens to one of reflection and celebration.

Even if the family is not in one place to celebrate Plan Your Epitaph Day, the sentiments can easily be shared using technology. This allows everyone to easily participate in a low pressure situation.

This time could be used to think about relatives who are no longer physically alive but who are living in your heart and memories. Calling relatives or getting together to celebrate deceased family members’ lives during none typical times  (e.g. high holidays, birthdays, funeral anniversary, etc.) can support a family in properly mourning (meaning – not keeping memories bottled up) and keeping joyful memories at the forefront.

Writing your own epitaph, long before you need it, could potentially motivate you to work on areas of your life that keep getting booted from your to do list. This may include tending to items on your bucket list, mending relationships with family members, collecting family history, or taking steps to improve your health and well-being.

What are your thoughts about planning your epitaph before you need it? How could this be beneficial to you and your family?

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Vicki Gunvalson, call me!

VickiThe original housewives of the Bravo TV franchise are back – and Vicki is a new grandmother.

During the premiere of season eight, Vicki is shown preparing for a multigenerational household.

Aww…

One would think I would be saying, “Way to go Vicki! Embrace the “new”clear family.

Instead I was yelling at the television telling Vicki she needed to call me.

Why?

Because based on Vicki’s judgmental point of view of how Brianna and Ryan didn’t date the right amount of time,  didn’t get married the right way, and became pregnant too soon – I do not see Vicki setting up a foundation for a successful multigenerational household.

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Vicki is loving, emotional, concerned, and has no boundaries. She uses her love tank, full or on empty, to explain away practically every interaction she has with loved ones. The interactions can be positive, negative, hostile – you name it – and Vicki explains it away by saying how much she cares.

I believe her.

Here’s the thing – if Vicki wants to be the grandmother who is nurturing – not overbearing – supportive – not barky – and contributing – not blocking, then she should listen up to these multigenerational household and new grandparent tips:

Actually read the terms and conditions

Multigenerational living is tricky, especially when an adult child is moving back in. Vicki should take care in not treating Brianna like an adolescent. Vicki would be wise to set up time to speak with Brianna about giving their adult mother/daughter relationship a facelift. They have to outline the terms and conditions of this adult relationship and agree to operate within these parameters.

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Put the seat up

Vicki has to remember she’s not Ryan’s mom – but his mother-in-law. She cannot base their relationship on fixing whatever his parents didn’t do, how she wants Ryan to behave as a husband to Brianna (and father to Vicki’s grandson), or on how Ryan can please Vicki.

Hopefully Vicki will be smart enough to keep her energy and communication open (aka putting the seat up) so Ryan can be his true self with Vicki. I suggest Vicki spend some alone time with Ryan getting to know him before he is deployed. This way Vicki will be able to have meaningful and thoughtful conversations with Brianna when she is missing Ryan and trying to care for their new baby.

Clean the dryer lint trap – regularly

Nothing crushes a multigenerational household like an Acme anvil on Wile E. Coyote – than holding on to things and letting them fester. You know how you should clear your dryer’s lint trap after each use to prevent lint build up and a potential inferno? Same goes for a multigenerational household. A Safe Chat protocol has to be established so if anything feels, looks, smells, or sounds wonky – it can be handled right away.

(S) Say exactly what you are feeling – not what you are thinking.

(A) Answer any questions that come up after you say what you are feeling.

(F) Forget your ego. This is your family – the ego is not invited to the Safe Chat.

(E) Exhale. Start fresh. This keeps the multigenerational household warm, open, and functioning.

Run software updates

A new multigenerational household and adjusting to a new baby is a lot to take on at once. Once they think they have things running well, some type of glitch will surface. This should not send Vicki, Brianna, and Ryan into a tizzy if they are running software updates. They should set up time for family discussions to celebrate what’s working, clear the air on any misunderstandings (aka viruses), outline what may need tweaking, and decide whether they need to upgrade their living situation (aka software) or not.

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No clothing items “laughing out” the drawer

Growing up, my friend’s grandmother lived with them during certain parts of the year. She was bossy, outspoken, and hilarious. She liked things tidy and neat and on laundry days when my friend was putting away clothes her grandmother had meticulously folded, her grandmother would exclaim, “Get all of those clothes neatly into the drawers – nothing sticking out and laughing out of the drawers. Laundry ain’t no joke!

I think this same sentiment can apply here – specifically for Vicki when she wants to support Brianna and Ryan as new parents. Yes, Vicki is an experienced parent, and she has cared for babies – but this baby is NOT Vicki’s baby. This is Vicki’s grandbaby and it may be hard for her to keep her good intentions folded neatly.

I encourage Vicki to try her best not have baby advice, tips, and “should dos” laughing out of her experienced mom (new grandmother) mouth. It’s enough to have the pressure of caring for an infant when you are tired, leaky, sore, overwhelmed, and afraid of breaking the baby. Having information laughing out and over into your baby haze mind is no fun and new parents do not forget how unsupportive and judgmental that felt.

What other multigenerational living and grandparent tips would you offer to Vicki?

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Food allergies

I was thrilled to see these shirts for kids with allergies. It’s a brilliant concept and of course a mother came up with it. Brava!

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Having my mother-in-law care for my son for the first 5 years of his life was such a gift, especially when we learned he had a dairy, egg, and nut aversion. I imagine how challenging and scarier this would have been if I didn’t have my mother-in-law attending allergist appointments, grocery shopping with me, and preparing avoidance diet meals for my son while he was in her care.

When I think about the times my son traveled with my mother-in-law and was with relatives who knew he had food allergies, but didn’t really understand what that meant – this shirt would have been super handy.

As soon as either of us said he had allergies, friends and relatives would ask about nuts and gluten. Yes, a lot of people are allergic to these items – but gluten wasn’t on my son’s list. People just weren’t clear in what he was avoiding – and this shirt would have been crystal clear and helped them pause before offering him any food or treats.

If you have a multigenerational event coming up and you have a little one (I’m thinking under age 7) with allergies, I think a shirt like this would give a parent (or grandparent) a bit of calm as the little one wonders about during the multigenerational festivities.

If you have allergies or a child with allergies – how do you educate friends and relatives about this?

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Nanny vs. No Nanny

The Real Housewives of Atlanta (RHoA) keeps me going on Sunday nights while folding laundry, tidying backpacks, and semi-gagging while cleaning out lunch boxes with old containers*.

I’ve been wanting to write about Kordell and Porsha’s family planning, gender roles, career vs. stay-at-home-mom, and “nope, no nanny” discussions – but I was shy about you all seeing just how deep my love of the RHoA is. Yup, I watch it, dissect it, love it, hate it – and then write about it (when I catch up on my DVR queue).

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Ok – back to Kordell and Porsha…

They have been married since 2011. Unfortunately Porsha suffered a miscarriage, but in this current season of the RHoA, their doctor said they were ready to get back to baby making. This is great news except Kordell, in my opinion, is too controlling, overbearing, and out of touch with all that goes into raising children and having a thriving family.

Porsha expresses her desire to do charity work, continue to maintain their home, keep her body fit, raise the baby, and take care of her husband. She talks about hiring a nanny to help her do this and also having her mother come in to support her from time to time.

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As I watched, I’m thinking,

Porsha, you are smart. All moms need support. Yup, multigenerational support is fantastic. I hope you set up a great system with your mom – heck, both sets of grandparents if that’s an option.

Well, my upbeat multigenerational thinking came to a quick halt when Kordell told Porsha there would be no nanny care, no mother (grandmother) support, and no career doing charity work. He told her it was her job and duty to stay-at-home and that would be her only job.

I paused the DVR, turned to my hubby, and said, “Can you believe him? Can you believe Kordell is stuck in another era? Who can raise kids, have a great marriage, and career without help? Is he a fool or just clueless?

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Just to be clear, I think women can be working moms, stay-at-home moms, 50 Shades of Grey moms – or whatever. And with all these options, there should be the option to have whatever help the mom may want or need.

When I find myself overwhelmed, over scheduled, over tasked, and ready to submit my resignation from motherhood, I realize that I’m not asking for enough help.

Amy Morrison echoes this in her post Why You’re Never Failing as a Mother:

“If you think about it, if you had a baby thousands, if not hundreds of years ago, you would have had your mother, all your sisters (all of whom were probably lactating) and your nieces all taking care of your baby. They would help with food preparation, show you how to manage and make sure your baby wasn’t eaten by a bear. Your kid’s feet probably wouldn’t have touched the ground until they themselves would be able to carry around an infant.”

Amy goes on to highlight how parenting, specifically mothering, has amped up and there is a lot to do while we have a lot of other things going on – all at the same time. She points out how seeking help and scaling back are options available to all of us so we can stop making motherhood such a high stakes vocation.

I would love to sit down with Kordell and Porsha for a coaching session. I would have them read Amy’s work, write down their expectations of being co-parents, and define what those roles can look like based on them teaming up to create a family that would work for both of them – not just based on what Kordell is dictating.

I do not think I’ll be getting that chance since I just learned Kordell filed for divorce.

Was Porsha’s stance of being a mom with a nanny (or granny nanny) and career the deal breaker?

 

*Hubby and the kids dump those lunch boxes on Friday and never look back. I get it and don’t judge them – but still, I gag.
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Pre-marriage therapy

Love is in the air, folks.

I had the chance to meet up with a long-time friend on a quick trip to Colorado. She was sharing the family joy about her niece’s upcoming wedding and all the fun, special, and multigenerational planning that was going into this event.

This morning I was talking with another friend who passed along the cheerful news of mutual friend’s engagement. We chatted about how great it was this mutual friend is really marrying the man of her dreams.

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Last night I was cleaning off the DVR and perusing the April/May 2013 issue of Brides magazine (Yes, I subscribe. Judge me!) when I came across episode 9 of Shahs of Sunset. Yes, I know I’m on the late show with this episode – but hey, I know I’m not the only one who gets behind on DVR recordings.

Other than the chaos, yelling, knife wielding, and overspending of the Shah’s cast –this episode caused me to pause and make a connection with the therapy session between MJ and her mother.

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The therapist offered both women clipboards with the prompts:

  • For my mother I want…
  • For my daughter want…

Each woman was allowed a few minutes to write some things down and then they share their thoughts and ideas with each other. The therapist does a great job, in my opinion, of helping both women understand how they are clinging to the past. They both need to update their relationship, learn who each other is right now, and recommit to having a loving and understanding relationship.

This seems like a simple activity, but if each person is open and honest, the impact can be very powerful.

An exercise like this would be a powerful opener for a bride or groom-to-be to have with their future in-laws and I’m thinking about adding it to my multigenerational boot camp series.

I would change the prompts up a bit:

  • For my son/daughter’s healthy marriage I want:
  • To support my son-in-law/daughter-in-law I will:
  • For a thriving relationship with my mother-in-law/father-in-law I want:
  • For an authentic relationship with my mother-in-law/father-in-law I will:

After a rich and deep discussion, it would be great if a visualization board contract could be created. Our society is big on words and how things can or should look – but I think creating a visualization board contract would create more room and space for the *in-laws to be thoughtful and mindful about the relationship they are entering into and how they will stay focused on what they’ve all committed to do.

The visualization board contract can capture feelings, ideas, thoughts, emotions, and moods that each in-law wants to tap into as they enter into this multigenerational relationship (aka – marriage). The board can leave room for the in-laws to continue to learn more about each other and the various ways they want to explore this. Assumptions can potentially fall away. The board can also highlight necessary boundaries they will also support this in-law relationship.

As you entered into your marriage/relationship, what steps did you take to build an authentic relationship with your in-laws?

When you became a mother-in-law/father-in-law, what proactive measures did you take to support your son/daughter’s marriage (or partnership)?

 

*in-law relationships with siblings could also be included

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