Last week I went away for a couple of nights (I know, I’m lucky to be able to get away, many carers can’t) but when I came back, absolutely replete with good conversation and good food – I really didn’t want to be here.
I felt I’d expanded back into my old persona. I didn’t feel like fitting myself into that diminished outline of myself I have to inhabit as a carer – that’s to say, a person who has to put someone else’s needs first. I sulked, I disappeared into my room and started texting, I put on my headphones and plugged myself into some music. I didn’t want to drop everything and answer when I was called. I didn’t want to serve up a meal when I wasn’t hungry, or abandon my emails to answer the same question for the tenth time.
I’d had some hassles on the return trip: bad transport connections, having to lug my bag around in the cold. I got back here rather tired and frazzled. I wanted some acknowledgement that I’d had a rather demanding day and a long chilly journey. I didn’t want to be nice to someone who ignored how I was feeling; who just sat there and expected me to wait on them hand on foot. I didn’t want to help them, even though I knew they were old and achy and finding it hard to walk, pick up things or undo buttons. I didn’t care!! No, I didn’t!!
Of course, you can’t be cruel to the one you look after, so, I gritted my teeth and mended my ways. But for a couple of days, I was sulky and begrudging and surly, just going through the motions. Because there’s history, isn’t there, between parents and children, between mothers and daughters? Sometimes it takes a supreme effort for me to overcome that powerful urge to shift back into the old game-playing, power battle that defined our relationship for many years.
I’m not asking for sympathy, it was my choice to move in with mum but – I’m not a selfless saint. Sometimes I’m just a sulky teen, resenting the fact I’ve been ordered to do the washing up.