The hidden stress on female caregivers.

So many people are embarrassed to admit that being a caregiver is not part of who they are. That makes the whole experience that much harder. They labor along under the expectations of society, meanwhile taking care of someone who is very ill.

Women are expected to selflessly drop everything to take care of a sick relative, regardless of ability, interest, or skill. Simply being female doesn’t mean that you are also a cook, a nurse, a counselor. These are skills that must be learned. You don’t suddenly know how to care for someone who is terminally ill. Nor do you suddenly have the desire to, just because it is expected of you.

What about your income in the meantime? You don’t still get to take in a paycheck when you quit your job to care for a relative. There is the Family Leave Act – but that only ensures that your job can’t fire you for going on leave. They have to give you a job back. It may not be the job that you had, however. It also does not mean that you will get paid in the meantime. It is leave without pay.

The caregiver’s closeness to their relative is irrelevant. The mother is abusive? Father raped her? Brother stole, lied to her? Mother and father in law are dismissive and treat her like she is stupid? Doesn’t matter – your duty is to tend them, because you are a woman.

This is unreasonable.

There is a reason that my “Death Guilt” post always gets a lot of hits. People don’t talk about this stuff. We should.

When a man is well enough to go home from the hospital but not well enough to take care of himself, he’s sent home if he has a wife there. When the same thing happens with a woman, she’s sent to a nursing home to recuperate. It is assumed that the wife will know how – and be able to (mentally and emotionally) take care of him. It is assumed that a man will not. This is insulting to both sexes.

I’ve heard from people who work in nursing homes that they judge a family that doesn’t visit. They think they are selfish. They don’t know the history of the relationship. They have no way of knowing how abusive (mentally, emotionally, physically, psychologically) the person was to their family members. The effects of this abuse remain even when (if) the abuse stops. They may never go away.

Sometimes the abuse stops because the person is no longer able to be abusive – not because they don’t want to. It is far harder to hit someone when you have Parkinson’s disease. It is far harder to insult your children when you have dementia and can’t even remember that they ARE your children.

Being a caregiver should be a gift, not a demand. It should be because you want to, not because it is expected.

Just because your parents gave you life does not mean that you have to take them into your home and care for them when they get old. They chose to have you. You did not choose to have them. This is an unequal relationship.

When you marry, you marry that person – not their family. You make a legal statement that you will stay with them regardless of their health. You do not make the same promises to their parents. There is nothing about the marriage vows that obligates you to sacrifice yourself to take care of them. This is an unspoken assumption that is damaging and must be called out.

What does “new wine” mean?

What is Jesus talking about when he is talking about drinking wine in a new way in his Father’s kingdom with his disciples? This is at the first Lord’s Supper and is right after he has offered them the cup of wine, transforming the idea of the wine into something more by saying that it represents his blood. This verse is in three different Gospels, so I’ve put them here for you. This translation is HCSB.

Matthew 26:29
29 But I tell you, from this moment I will not drink of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it in a new way in My Father’s kingdom with you.”

Mark 14:25
25 I assure you: I will no longer drink of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it in a new way in the kingdom of God.”

Luke 22:18
18 For I tell you, from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.”

The notes for this line in the HCSB offer this different translation – “drink new wine” and then add that the original literally says “drink it new”.

I thought about this and prayed about it while trying to rewrite it. Asking Jesus into it, I asked for him to tell me a new way to say this so that it means something to today’s readers. This is the result.

“Truly, from now on I will not drink the fruit of the vine until when we will drink it together in the kingdom of my Father.”

One thing I tried was

“I will drink it for the first time with you in the kingdom of God.”

And yet another was

“..until the time when I will drink new wine in the kingdom of God with you.”

I find it significant that in the Gospel of Luke, there is something that Jesus says about eating bread, which came out as –

“I will reveal to you now that I won’t eat it again until what it represents has come to fruition in the kingdom of God.”

LK 22:14-16

I have rendered it as “fruit of the vine” rather than wine, because the Hebrew blessing is made over wine or grape juice. This also is in reference to the vow of the Nazarene. John was one since birth, and Samson was one. They were not allowed to have “the fruit of the vine” – to consume grapes in any form during the time of their vow.

Starter marriages

So many people seem to have starter marriages, the same way that people will get starter homes. When you have a starter home, you have it with the idea that when things change, you accumulate too much stuff, or when you have a child, you’ll get a bigger home. It’s what you can handle and afford at the time but you understand that you could always sell it and get another one.

People have marriages in the same way these days. When they get to be too big or too much they get divorced and move on.

What about the marriage vows? What about the idea on ‘till death do us part’? What about ‘for richer or for poorer’? What about ‘in sickness and in health’? Maybe people can’t handle the “poorer and sickness” parts, and were hoping they’d luck out and get the “richer and healthy” part. It is a package deal, and a crapshoot. You get both, in unequal proportions.

These vows – which are made in front of friends and family and sometimes a minister – don’t seem to mean anything anymore. These are legally binding vows. There’s a document that is signed for the state as well. This is a legal contract.

Perhaps what people mean is that they say “I’ll stick with you as long as things are good. I’ll stick with you as long as you suit my purposes. I’ll stick with you as long as I like you.”

Marriages aren’t about convenience or comfort. Marriages are about committing for the long haul. The other person may drive you completely up the wall but that doesn’t mean that you get to get divorced. The bliss that you have at the beginning of your marriage doesn’t last long. What do you do after that fades?

I’m not quite sure about people who get divorces. Now if you’re on the receiving end of a divorce that’s different. If your spouse initiates it and will not reconcile you don’t have much of a choice. But if you initiate then what do your vows really mean? How can you be trusted to say you’ll do anything? If you can’t honor your wedding vow, then why can you be trusted at work? Why trust you with a home loan? What does your word mean?

Marriage is kind of like buying a present with someone and you’re drawn to the pretty wrapping paper. But once you open the box and start looking inside, you realize that it’s a machine that has a bunch of pieces. They are all jumbled loose in the box, and there’s no instruction manual. You have to figure out how to put it together along with the other person. You both are pulling out pieces and you’re wondering how they go together to make this machine work, this machine called marriage. Since you both come from different backgrounds you both have different ideas about what parts go where and what parts are more important than other ones. But you still both have to work on this thing to make it go. You can’t just throw it away once it gets difficult. You can’t just keep looking at the pretty wrapping paper and wondering why it doesn’t match this difficult thing that is on the inside.