Yesterday I ran into someone at the pool that I hadn’t seen in years — Bridget‘s father.
Bridget was on the first team that I coached and I still think back on her fondly. In fact, I had just been telling Laurel about Bridget the other day.
Bridget held all her team records with open hands. When Helen was quite young, Bridget told her to go break all those records. It was such a gift, so encouraging. Helen went on to break quite a few of them.
Anyway, Bridget’s father, Mike, asked about my father. I told him that I was staying with my father to take care of him.
“It’s such a privilege, don’t you think?” he asked.
I nodded in agreement.
Those were words I needed to hear.
Sometimes caregiving doesn’t feel like a privilege. It feels more like a chore. When I was home with small children, there were days when I would look out the window and long for the freedom to go do something, anything besides laundry and cooking and changing diapers and wiping noses.
I used to bring my kids to the gym for a playtime we called “Kiddie-gym.” The pre-schoolers would climb around on the mats and throw balls and scoot on scooters. The moms would sit and talk.
One day one of the moms talked about trying to find childcare for her twin two-year-olds so she could go back to college for a graduate degree. The mom next to me leaned close and whispered, “After all she went through to have those children, she’s abdicating her responsibility.”
It’s true that the woman with the twins had used in vitro fertilization. It’s true her husband had a good job so she didn’t need to work. But abdication? It seemed like a strong term to describe a mother furthering her education. Abdication was what a king did when he gave up his throne.
My take-away from that conversation, though, was that motherhood was on par with royalty. It was an honor and a privilege to be a mom. On my looking-out-the-window days, longing for something else, I would remind myself of that. I would lean in and embrace the wearisome work because not everyone has that privilege.
This morning a woman complained to me about the child-care hours at the gym.
“They don’t open until like 8:15 AM and they aren’t even open every day,” she said. “What if someone wants to work out before they go to work?”
“Maybe their spouse or significant other can watch the children,” I suggested.
“That discriminates against single moms,” she replied.
“Being a parent involves a lot of sacrifice,” I said, but I could see that she didn’t appreciate my answer.
I was glad for my conversation the previous day about care-giving being a privilege. It reminded me to stop thinking about the things I can’t do, but to appreciate the things that I can.
I can find the Jumble in the newspaper.
I can change the channel to Jeopardy.
I can fix over-easy eggs.
I can help with crossword puzzle clues.
I can drive him to the doctor or to get a haircut.
I can rescue photographs from the garbage.
I can remind him of people’s names.
I can tell him at 3 AM that it’s time to go back to sleep.
I can keep him in the home where he has lived for over 50 years.
Yes, it’s a privilege.