The Rewards of Caregiving
How caring for others can actually benefit you and your kids
Solo Moms are the ultimate caregivers. They are often the sole providers for their children, and as their own parents age, they become caregivers for them as well. And everywhere you turn, there are stories about how stressful being a caregiver is and how it can damage your health. But that that isn’t necessarily the case. Caring for your parents as they get older can benefit you and your children.
There is no denying that caregiving is demanding of both your time and your other resources. As a Solo Mom, you watch every dime and try to squeeze every second out of your day. Caregiving will put a strain on both of these. How much strain is dependent on the level of care you are providing. If your parents are fairly self-sufficient and just need someone to check in on them a few times a week, that won’t be as much of a strain as if your mother lives with you and requires assistance with her basic care.
With so much potential strain, what possible benefits are there for you and your kids?
- Time with their grandparents. Being with older people can be incredibly rewarding for your children. Being with older people who love them is even better! Grandparents bring a sense of family history to your children. They can help them figure out where they come from. By recounting stories of their own lives, they can teach your children about overcoming hardships and what it was like before the internet! Solo Moms don’t always have time to sit and listen to their children, but your parents do, and they can give you the lowdown on any important information gleaned from their conversations with your kids. Your children can show your parents all their new technological toys—Minecraft may keep your dad’s engineering mind sharp!
- Sense of purpose. Many people find caregiving very rewarding. Your parents were there for you when you were growing up, and now you have an opportunity to give back to them. Caregiving is a natural extension of the care they gave you as a child. Or maybe your relationship with your parents wasn’t great—this could be a chance to have a more balanced and healthy relationship with them. You can heal old wounds from the past and move forward. As a Solo Mom, it can be tough to always shoulder the burden of taking care of another person’s needs, whether it is your child or your parents, but it can also give you a sense of purpose to your life and although that is hard to quantify, it is real and beneficial.
- You will live longer. A recent study found that people who care for an aging family member live longer than similar people who aren’t caregiving. The study was lead by David Roth, Director of the Center of Aging and Health at John Hopkins University. The study focused on stroke risk. The data indicated that caregivers were 18 percent less likely to die than noncaregivers over a six year period. Even when all other factors were accounted for, caregivers had a lower mortality rate than noncaregivers. Lest you think this was one, slightly skewed study—there are others! Lisa Fredman, a Boston University epidemiologist, noticed very similar findings in her study of the differences between caregivers and noncaregivers in four major urban areas. Although the caregivers did indicate they felt more stressed, they had a lower mortality rate. In more than eight years of follow up, the caregivers continued to outperform noncaregivers on a variety of tests. Caregivers did significantly better on memory tests and other measurements of their physical health. In fact, although the two groups were the same average age, caregivers scored at the level of people 10 years younger. I’m not sure that caregiving will help you fit into those jeans from 10 years ago, but you will be healthier and live longer if you are a caregiver.
No one is debating that caregiving is a tough job, especially for Solo Moms who may feel strained by the constant demands of their own family. But there are tangible rewards to caring for your parents that you may not have considered. Both you and your children could develop a relationship that is positive and rewarding. A sense of purpose, although hard to quantify, can give you the strength you will need to move through your day. And despite feeling more stressed, you will live longer and be healthier than if you weren’t caring for another person’s needs.
Image via Shutterstock.com
Julia Liu is the daughter of a Solo Mom and has a degree in professional communication. She is the mom to two sons. She has worked in early-childhood education and was the director of a nonprofit private preschool for many years. You can follow her on Twitter at @notaDNB1.
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