The Emptying and Filling of a Caregiver’s Soul


On February 7, we returned home from a week’s stay at the hospital. By February 15, I was feeling fatigued and overwhelmed by the full-time responsibility for the kids and everything at home.

But here’s the thing…

I wasn’t fully aware of my fatigue and need for a break until the possibility of a break was brought to my attention.

That afternoon of the 15th, I spoke with my mom on the phone. She told me that she’d be willing to come and watch the kids for a day if I ever needed a break during this journey through eye cancer. I said “Yeah. Okay. I’ll let you know.” When I got off the phone, I thought about it more and realized I should have just said yes on the spot. So I texted her and told her yes. Please come. A day away will be great.

We agreed on the 19th. But my dad has a rare lung disease, never does great in the winter, and has been very sick with the flu the past couple of weeks. My mom needed to stay home to be with my dad until his new meds got into his system. So we moved my day away to the 20th.

I’m just going to say this…because it’s true. When you’re a mom and have three kids (or for that matter ANY number of kids) it can be hard to take care of yourself.

I needed a break, time away from the kids and all the responsibility. In this case, my husband Seth was out of commission because of his eye cancer. It was not an option for him to give me the break I needed. Most of the people we know have kids of their own to care for, and they work all week. While I’d had a couple offers to watch our kids, the truth was, I needed a big block of time away. I needed a whole day away. And the weekend wasn’t an option because the kids had basketball and volleyball. It was just too much to ask of a neighbor or really anyone else.

My mom had been helping my sister get re-organized at her house, and my niece and nephew had been really sick, too. Add to that, my dad was not feeling well at all. To be completely honest, asking my mom to watch my kids so I could simply “get away” for the day felt very selfish. My dad and sister need help more. Then there’s this vague gnawing away, this ugly feeling that I’m adding to my mom’s burden to care for everyone who seems to need her. And she never has or takes time for HERSELF. I don’t want to be an added burden. I want to provide relief. Or at least, I just want to be benign.

But I needed relief. Yes, I needed relief.

So my mom came the night of the 19th and stayed at our house for nearly 24 hours.

I went to my first writing group.

I crossed paths with the mama of the very first girl with down syndrome I saw for speech-language therapy back in 2000. We hugged big and caught up for a few minutes.

I worked out, climbing the stairs one after another.

Up. Up. Up.

Up. Up. Up.

Up. Up. Up.

I sought out David, the man with down syndrome we greet and high five on our way out of the gym everyday. Earlier in the week, he’d pointed out a pin on his hat that said his birthday was Friday the 20th. So I brought him the picture Maisie and my mom colored in honor of his special day.

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I went to Walgreens and printed pictures from the day I met our sponsored child, Meranyelis, in the Dominican Republic. Because of the eye cancer, I was LONG overdue on mailing the pictures, and I didn’t want to break my promise to Meranyelis to send them as soon as I could. When all those pictures popped up on the screen, I sensed the holiness of the day all over again.

I picked up seven pictures I’d ordered from the day I met Charles last year in HaitiOur sponsorship became official mid-December and I’ve sent a letter, but for multiple reasons, I hadn’t had a chance to print and send pictures to him yet.

I wrote two cards, labeled the back of each picture with child name and number and sponsor name and number, and stuffed them in an envelope to Compassion International. Yes, I thought. This is worth the day away.

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I ate lunch by myself. Quietly. With no interruption. With nobody sharing or digging in my food.

I played on Twitter. Read some blog posts. Connected with a few of my favorite writers and fellow bloggers.

I went to the fabric store to pick up some white felt and elastic so I could make the Santa beard my oldest daughter was worrying about for choir the night prior.

I picked up a new box of eye patches and vitamins for my husband.

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And I went to a movie of my choosing. Birdman. Just the way I like it. Artsy, a little edgy, well-crafted and deep.

Before I headed home, I stopped at a party store and picked up a birthday card for the birthday party my son was heading to in less than an hour.

On the way home, they began calling me. My mom first, then my husband. Where are you? When will you be here? Cooper needs to get to the birthday party. We need the card and the gift card. And you need to get home in time for dinner to be delivered. When are you coming?

Mom had offered to watch the kids for the day. And I needed a break, so I took her up on it.

It was worth it, so worth it. I was, and still am, incredibly grateful for my mom’s offer and presence those 24 hours.

But my day away was coming to an end.

I opened the door to a happier place than I’d imagined in my mind on the car ride home. Everyone was fairly settled. Sure, they needed the card and gift card. Sure, he needed to get to his birthday party. Sure, my mom needed to get back home to my dad. And sure, dinner was going to be delivered in 35 minutes. Sure, things were fairly well.

But I was still needed. Back. Here in this place I called home.

I was empty. I was filled.

So goes the emptying and filling.

Love your neighbor as yourself.





  1. Robyn Krause Sitarz says:

    Reading your blog reminds me why we connected so well all those years ago when you were an angel to Jillian and my son’s first crush. As mothers and wives, our plates get full to overflowing and it’s important to recognize those times when you must ask for help. I hope we connect again soon–it was a gift running into you again!

  2. Doreen Auger says:

    Time away to replenish is something we, as Moms, see as a “guilty pleasure” but we just need that reminder that we cannot give out if the ‘well’ is dry! Continuing in our DAILY prayers for you all!!!! Hugs and blessings…………………….

  3. Carol Femling says:

    So glad I could come and let you get out by yourself for a short day! It made me feel good to be able to help you out. I sensed that you really needed some time alone. I can do it again anytime your little heart desires it. Just remember that I am here whenever you need me–just call and I will come. See you on Thursday night for Cooper’s concert. Looking forward to it! Love you much, sweet girl!! 🙂 XOXO

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