Partners in Care-giving
It’d been a long day at the wood-shop–Darryl came in dusty, hat tossed on the back of his head.
For me it’d been a long day on the home front–three different phone calls to the neurologist, medication adjustments plus the usual activity of five kids in one house.
“What do think about the seizures?” I asked Darryl for his opinion. He shrugged and turned his attention to the pile of mail.
“Am I making the right call? Should we take him in for another EEG?” I asked, looking for that second opinion. “If you think that’s a good idea, let’s go for it,” he replied.
I used to become frustrated with a conversation like this–they always made me feel like I was carrying the weight of Calvin’s care by myself. And from what I’ve heard from other moms, I wasn’t the only one.
Valuing Each Other’s Roles
Typically the mom is the one that goes into overdrive as soon a diagnosis is given or problem is presented. We research as if our life depended on it (sometimes it does!!), find support groups, grill specialists, and watch our kid with razor sharp eyes marking every suspecting symptom. Am I right?
We become THE expert on our kid.
And often we are frustrated if our husband does not share this same passion for solving all the problems! Maybe we even interpret it as a lack of care or love–and let them know that. We can let our assumptions drive our relationship down.
In the early years of living with disability, Darryl and I had resentment building up in our relationship over the frustrations of care-giving. It took hard and humble work to break the resentment and replace it with understanding. How?
True partnering in care-giving starts with identifying and valuing each other’s roles in care-giving. Talk together with your partner and divide up responsibilities based on time and gifting. Of course they overlap, but we have very different strengths which make for a great team when combined.
I’m better at knowing what to ask the specialists and managing medication changes. Darryl is better at doing 24-hour EEGs with Calvin and taking care of him through the night.
I’m better at implementing his strict lung treatments, Darryl is better at comforting Calvin when he is having a hard time breathing. I am better at keeping track of the logistics of Calvin’s life, Darryl is better at holding me up when I start to fall apart.
Over the years we’ve learned to value the other’s strengths; it’s taken down the walls of resentment and replaced it with respect.
Don’t Devalue Dad (or Mom)
In the special needs world there are many “tiger moms”. I think we can be our own worst enemy by unintentionally taking over the entire role of care-giving for our kid. Many men have said they feel pushed out, not needed or simply viewed as incompetent by their wives. As a result their participation drops and the mom ends up carrying the weight herself.
The lesson here is that we need each other and we need to communicate that value clearly. As any single parent of a disable child would tell you, it’s overwhelming to do it alone. If you have the privilege of having a partner, talk to him (or her) today. Identify your strengths and talk about how to optimize every day by focusing on your roles.
Pray together, be in the Word together, pray for each other. There is nothing better for a family than to have a solid team (dad and mom) leading them! There is nothing more exhausting and defeating to have a broken team leading the family in different directions.
Encourage Each Other
It doesn’t have to be grand; it’s the constant little kindnesses that can transform our relationships. Here’s some to try:
“Thanks for taking care of that phone call, it means a lot to me.”
“Can I make you a cup of tea?”
“What can I do to make your day better?”
“I think you really have a lot to offer with this…”
“Can you help me think this through?”
“Thank you for never complaining about doing…”
“I love the way you love our kid.”
“Thanks for taking care of us.”
God didn’t intend marriage to be a sore, painful experience in our lives. He gave us to each other as a gift. You’re not alone if you no longer can see the gift in your spouse, but you have every reason to believe that can be restored. Let’s talk openly (maybe I should say, listen openly?) to each other, seek the Lord together, and learn to partner with joy in the specific calling God has given you.
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