It’s “Hug Your Sister” Month
by Sharon K. Brothers, MSW
CEO, Institute for Professional Care Education
It’s not really “Hug your Sister” month — but maybe it should be.
If you’re a caregiver, you probably can relate to the groans I hear whenever a family caregiver starts talking about their siblings.
“He’s a great help — as long as he can phone it in.”
“I’m doing all the work, and she shows up once a year to visit. The way our parents treat her, you’d think she was the one doing all the work — not the one popping in to tell me how it should be done.”
“My sister disagrees with everything I want to do. She insists mom isn’t as bad as I say she is — she has no idea.”
It seems like every family has a breakdown among siblings, especially when mom and dad need help. One child — usually a daughter — becomes the primary caregiver or decision-maker. The other children typically take a seat as far removed from the action as possible.
Stop for just a minute this month to look at your own family situation from your siblings’ perspective. Maybe they’re not doing the work, but look at the time they’re missing out on, too.
Francine Russo tells the story in her book, They’re YOUR Parents, Too ( http://www.yourparentstoo.com/) of being the “bad sister” — the one who rarely visited and left the heavy lifting to her sister.
At her mother’s funeral, Francine realized how much she had missed by not being actively involved in her mother’s care. While feeling relieved that she didn’t have to do the work, in reality she was robbing herself of an opportunity — forever gone — to get close to her parents and to have the kind of relationship that her sister had.
She learned, as many, many caregivers learn, that the greater the challenges of caregiving, the greater the rewards and sense of joy and accomplishment the caregiver often feels at the end.
So this month, if you’re tempted to think, “Why doesn’t she step up and take some of the load?” try rephrasing the question.
Try thinking, “She’s missing so much. I’m sorry for what she’s missing.”
And go hug your sister.