Trying to find the right balance


I think there certainly have been times like that. […]We were newly married and my grandfather had passed away, so we had essentially put in separate living quarters for us at the house where my mom was with my grandmother. And that was fine at the time, because we were newlyweds and we were both starting our professional careers anyway and it worked out for everybody. 

I think the first crossroad for us was that we had had our first daughter—and we had another one on the way—we were faced with the reality that the situation, as it was, […] did heavily favour my mother’s situation at a cost to my situation. And I think that there was 2 ways to go in a situation like that; we either diverge and we focus on what’s good for one of us. I think the reality in looking back at my time as a 5-year-old, being able to calm her down, was that there has been a recognition that me being involved with her care was a good thing for her. It was at that point when my young family was growing, that the scale was out of whack and we had to find some equilibrium.  

The equilibrium that we found was by moving. We purchased our first home and we essentially flip-flopped. We went from being in a home where we were in a small portion—the basement suite—to [buying] our first home. We modified the basement suite; my mother was in the basement suite, which really was all she needed as far as space goes. Then, my family was in the rest of the home. That was certainly a time where it required us to equalize and tip the scales I think. 

The other times […] along the way have been my mom’s needs, when it was work—mostly work for me, but certainly with the kids, and I use weekends as an example. For a while, I’d work Monday to Friday, and on my weekends— when the kids were young and they were napping etc., and not doing all the great things they do now—that’s when I was more available to be a caregiver. And so, I could do that easily. Then as that changes and the kids get older, my weekends become a little bit more difficult to juggle. So, it required, again, a shift. In fairness to my mother’s needs that were changing, I couldn’t do both. I couldn’t sort of juggle. That would be another point where it requires a constant acceptance of the fact that it’s pretty hard to separate the needs of both. Unless somebody tells me this, I think my mom is better off for having me in her care picture.  

Yet at the same token, there’s a recognition that I’m no good to her if the rest of my work-life balance isn’t quite in sync. I don’t think it’s a static thing; I think it’s a dynamic process. Now my kids are […] in high school, and this year has been a whirlwind as far as adapting to different schedules [and] activities. Our youngest is now involved on a regular basis with extra-curricular stuff, recreational activities that require me to be involved, which means that now we’ve got to juggle the situation all over again. 

My wife this past year was diagnosed with breast cancer and that’s another fairly significant point in the journey that requires some juggling. […] Having lived my parents’ experience as a young family losing my mom to the brain injury, I know for me the life lesson—if there is one out of this whole thing—[is that] my mom would expect nothing short of me doing everything and anything I had to focus on my wife’s treatment and care, even if it meant that over the past year I’ve been less able to do the one-on-one care. It means we’ve had an uptake, if you like, in paid caregivers and other resources that we’ve brought in to support my mom’s needs, ultimately with the goal of trying to keep her life as familiar and continuous as possible. 

But I think that the great news is that my wife is fine; she’s healthy and we’ve kind of gotten past it. But, it certainly hasn’t been the first time and it’s not going to be the last time [that we will face] that balancing act […] of trying to keep the best interest of my mom and her immediate needs in check with, realistically, what we’re able to do for her and yet also what I need to do for my family and my life commitments. It’s on ongoing process right?

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