Emily David tells Age Space how she managed to combine caring for her elderly mother and her new born baby daughter in a wonderfully honest blog…
At the age of 43 I found myself single and pregnant with the added stress of looking after my widowed mum. Looking back now I really don’t know how I managed, but I did and I live to tell the tale.
When I was pregnant I was working part time and popping in on mum twice a day to help her in the house with basic tasks. Luckily, she only lives down the road from me which made things easier to manage. I think I was blissfully unaware of the impact that a small baby would have on our current set up.
When the baby arrived I felt completely overwhelmed as I now had another human to take care of. Mum was delighted at the birth of her first grandchild but with her failing health was unable to offer any support to me. I could sense the frustration that mum was feeling at being completely helpless. The first month was a blur of sleepless nights for me as I’m sure it is for most new mothers, but as I found most of my peers had the support of their husbands and their mums, I had neither so rather than wallowing in my own self pity I came up with a plan.
I decided to employ the help of a local care agency to pop around to see mum once a day to help her get ready in the mornings. I would then walk over in the late afternoon with the napping baby in the pram. This arrangement worked really well for us both and mum looked forward to seeing her grandchild each day. Mum would cuddle the sleeping baby while I did the chores around the house. I think having this new born in the family gave mum a new lease of life and something to enjoy and cherish.
Once a week I would pick mum up in the car and take her to the supermarket which was like an expedition. Once I had navigated the baby car seat, pram and a walking frame there wasn’t much space for our groceries! We did share a little joke when I put the nappies in the trolley and mum said, “I’m not quite ready for those just yet my dear!”
I’m not going to say that things have been easy, but we just made our situation work for us under the circumstances. I just had to be incredibly organised and would often book doctors appointments for the same times so that I didn’t have to do the trip twice. It is so lovely watching my three year old daughter sat on her grannies knee and listening to another rendition of Wind the Bobbin Up!
The 5 pieces of advice that I would give to anyone in a similar position would be:
1. Ask for help off friends or other family members, even if it is just popping in to see an elderly parent for a cup of tea, it all helps to ease the burden.
2. Get paid help, if you can afford it. I found that this was an absolute lifeline for both of us.
3. Try and combine visits to the doctors, grocery shopping etc so that you don’t have to do extra trips.
4. Plan ahead and be organised. I planned each week ahead so that we both knew exactly what needed to be done.
5. Don’t get too bogged down in the ‘Caring Role’ and make time to do some nice family things together once a week. I take Mum down to feed the ducks each week with my daughter and they both enjoy this special time together making memories.