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I’ve Been Thinking … A Son’s Lessons from Caregiving

My 86-year-old Mother is a retired teacher and real estate agent. Three years ago she was diagnosed with dementia and she is now in the mid stages of the disease.

For various reasons my brother and sisters are unable to directly care for her, so the responsibility has become mine along with my girlfriend. Juggling my Mother’s life as well as my business, my personal life, my relationship with my girlfriend, etc. is often incredibly stressful. My girlfriend and I have very little time for ourselves, our relationship, or our friends. We don’t go out or take vacations. We’re dealing with a never-ending flood of problems and every spare minute is needed for handling some situation.

As challenging and stressful as caregiving can be, I often ask myself, “what can I learn from this experience?” And I’ve realized that I’ve actually learned a great deal.

1.) I have developed a deep understanding, great compassion and great appreciation for those who are providing care to children, parents or any human being. I now better understand what Mothers often experience trying to “have it all” or do it all. I am humbled by what mothers do.

2.) I have accepted that I cannot balance everything perfectly, that some things will slip and the best I can do is to do my best.

3.) I have learned that I must take time for myself and my relationships. I’ve learned that I cannot do it all and that I must accept help.

In the end, I am grateful for everything that my Mother has done for me. I am also very grateful for the opportunity to be close to her as she experiences this challenging part of life. Caregiving for my Mother has made me a wiser, stronger, and a more compassionate person. Ultimately, the caregiving experience has made me a better man and a better human being.

I am often told—especially by women—how special or wonderful it is that I’m caring for my Mother. I appreciate the comments but also am somewhat baffled by them. Caring for my Mother is a simple social equation: my Mother took care of me when I couldn’t take care of myself; therefore, I will assist her when she needs help. Period.

I am dedicated to making my mother’s sunset years as vibrant and wonderful as possible: to keep her laughing and smiling, and feeling safe and loved. Mothers hold our world together. Everyday—not just on Mother’s Day—I recognize what Mothers do and appreciate their work.

Happy Mother’s Day, and thank you to all Mothers!

P.S. You may be wondering why I have capitalized the “M” in Mother or Mom. I always capitalize the M as a sign of honor and respect for all that Mother’s do.

Craig Duncan is president of The Duncan Group, a technology consulting company.

This essay was featured in the Mother’s Day edition of The Sunday Paper, Maria Shriver’s free weekly newsletter for people with passion and purpose. To get inspiring and informative content like this piece delivered straight to your inbox each Sunday morning, click here to subscribe.