I’m caring for elderly parents. How will I find the time to be creative?
Your life was going great. You had carved out your creative time and everything was tickety-boo. And then your Mum or Dad got ill, or had a fall, or was rushed to hospital. Everything changed. Your time was not your own anymore. They needed you and you had to spend more time looking after them, doing practical things and offering moral support.
And that was the end of your creative time in your finely balanced life. They need that time now. You don’t have a problem giving them the support they need, they are your parents after all and you love them. It’s just that you don’t have the time or energy for your own projects anymore and that’s killing you. And you can’t see an end in sight.
First of all, give yourself a big pat on the back for coping with the situation. Your parents needed your help. You were there in that moment to assist them. Well done. It can be very stressful especially as the roles reverse and you find yourself being the parent and making decisions for them. This might be new territory for you.
A new balancing act
So now it’s time to fit your life around the new regime. You have to work, help your parents, attend to your own family, get enough rest and lastly, do what makes you tick.
You are going to have to accept that you will have less time for your creative projects and that the nature of what you have planned may have to change to fit your new circumstance. But if you can make just a little time, this can be a wonderful place to which to retreat and just be yourself for a while before returning to those other demands.
This has happened to me twice in the last couple of years. Both times, ironically, it was accompanied beforehand by me being so happy with what I had going on and excitement at the writing I was doing. The first time I had just spent three months planning the outline and characters of a novel and had reached the part where I was actually going to start writing. It was a Wednesday evening and I was out with a friend, waxing lyrically about how excited I was that I was about to start writing.
On the Friday evening I had to accompany my Mum to A&E and after that my parents needed lots of practical help around the house. It was another six weeks before I got to the writing. But I did get there and I just did it little and often, a couple of hundred words at a time.
Things settled on the parental front and we got into a new routine. I was excited at the prospect of blogging as Gentle Warrior and getting the website up and running. I was also in the middle of typing up the manuscript that I had handwritten over the course of the previous year. Again I was feeling so happy with the balance of my creative work and day job.
And then my Mum was rushed to hospital. The level of support they needed was bigger especially while she was in hospital. I normally do my day job on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday so Monday and Tuesday are my creative days. Creative time disappeared and I feared I’d never get it back.
Three weeks later I decided to get up earlier and do an hours writing first thing and then just accept that my time was needed elsewhere for the rest of the day. Doing just a little bit of my own work and knowing that I would advance a little bit more tomorrow morning helped me mentally. It helped me to accept that the balance of my time had changed and that it might not change back.
A few months have gone by and things are more settled again. I now have either a Monday or Tuesday to myself and the other day I spend with Mum and Dad (having at least done my hours writing in the morning).
For this to work I had to make it sustainable. That meant getting to bed earlier. I also have to accept that sometimes I will have less than an hour in the morning either because of my schedule or because I am too tired.
Actually, I can be quite creative and come up with some good stuff in my sleepy haze. Every Gentle Warrior blog is written in this way. I draft it from scratch during one morning session and then edit it in another.
Lessons I have learned from this experience
- You will never regret being there for your parents. Their needs are an opportunity for you to build a deeply human connection with them that might be different from how you have related with them in the past. These vignettes of daily life, the good, the bad and the not so good will form a significant part of the treasure trove of memories you will have when they pass on.
- You have to hang on to something of your own or you will go mad. It might take a few weeks for things to settle into a new a routine. But as time goes on look for spaces in your week where you can do your creative work. You won’t regret making this time. It will become your sanity, the place where you can retreat and just be you for an hour or so. And this will give you the strength to meet your other obligations on a daily basis.
- It doesn’t have to be all bad news. I love my new writing routine. It is more consistent than my old one. And I’m more efficient with the time I have now. When it is my writing slot, I don’t waste time looking at Facebook. I just get on with my work and get it done.
- Being able to do some of your creative work, even if it is less than before, is better than doing none.
- My current routine works at the moment though I’m sure it will need to change again when the next emergency arises.
You will always wish you could do more for your parents and have more time for yourself. But just accept each day and that what you did was good enough. You are not superhuman. You are you. You are doing your best.
Trust your judgement that you doing the best that you can do on any given day.
Originally published at gentlewarrior.co.uk.
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