3 Strategies to Overcome the Most Stressful Part of Daughterhood
There is almost nothing in life more stressful than feeling like you are 100 percent responsible for a situation over which you have zero control.
This is happening a lot these days in my house because somehow, somewhere, my daughter has grown into a teenager and I’ve lost control of all but the biggest decisions in her life.
At least she’s my daughter and I am nominally in charge. So as stressful as it is, it’s only a fraction of the stress women face when they feel like they’re entirely responsible for their parents’ health and safety, but, at the same time, have no control over their parents behavior or the choices they make.
This is a recipe for a nervous breakdown — when you have all of the responsibility but none of the authority!
I have so many stories from Daughterhood readers about their parents who they need to ….. Go to the doctor, get down off the ladder, exercise more, stop driving, move to a safer place, hire a home care aide, and on and on. But, their parents, for whatever reason, WON’T do these things.
I’ve been thinking a lot about this problem we have of taking responsibility for the very things we can never control and I’ve come up with three ways of changing how you think about your situation that can help reduce your stress.
Let Go of Some Responsibility
Chew on this for a minute…. Just because you’re the daughter does not mean that you are responsible for everything that happens to your parent or that you have to figure everything out and solve every problem.
Unfortunately, as women, it seems we really, really have this tendency to take responsibility for things that aren’t our responsibility. And,I can tell you from my own experience that it’s an energy drain. So, my advice is to try to remember that everyone else’s bad days are not your problem to fix.
I’m here to tell you that you DO NOT have an obligation to solve every problem for everyone. In fact, learning to NOT try and solve everyone’s problems is part of setting good boundaries. And good boundaries, hard as they are to set, always lead to less long-term stress.
Maybe try to consider letting go of how much responsibility you take. For example, it’s not your responsibility to make your parent go to the doctor when he or she just won’t go, just like it’s also not your responsibility to make your sister feel better that she’s not there to help you.
Let Go of Outcomes
Unfortunately, it’s the consequences of your parent’s decisions that can be especially hard to let go. Particularly when these decisions create problems and suffering for them and more work and challenges for you.
If my mother doesn’t stop climbing the ladder, she will fall and really hurt herself. And, I don’t want anything bad to happen to her life or mine so I MUST GET HER OFF THAT LADDER!!
But, consider this for a minute. Let’s say that she does fall and hurt herself, upturning your lives. The truth is that somehow you’ll both still be able to handle it and ultimately you’ll be okay.
As hard as it is to get to this place, when you’re able to realize that you’ll be okay no matter what the outcome — no matter what anyone thinks about you or how complicated your life gets — then, you will be operating from a place of peace.
I recently heard Maria Shriver talk about how her mother rejected every home care aide they hired to help her. And, how frustrating it was. After some time in contemplation and prayer about the situation, Maria realized that her job was not to control her mother’s decisions but to be compassionate about what her mother was going through. Once she let go of trying to persuade her mother to accept an aide, she was able to relate to her mother’s experience of being unable to care for herself. And, that relating made all the difference.
But none of that would have been possible unless she abandoned trying to control the outcome.
Based on my experience, I’m convinced that much of human suffering is a matter of perspective. In fact, I read somewhere that even in some of the world’s worst slums in India, where food and shelter are scarce, there is bickering and squabbling among neighbors about trivial social conflicts — no different than you’d find in upper-middle class American suburbs.
I believe firmly that this is all a matter of letting your world get too small. When something bothers us, it’s so easy to let that small problem take up the entire lens of our vision.
In the isolation of caring for your parents, it’s so easy to lose perspective, and let your world get really small. You just have to fight against that.
The key is to widen your lens connecting to people and things that are bigger than yourself and finding inspiration in the world. There are tons of ways to do this but some that work well for me include gardening, walking in nature, watching an inspiring movie, reading a great book, and getting together with friends. Also, talking to a professional counselor can be a good move.
I hesitate to suggest volunteering since you’re already taking care of other people most of the time. But, you might enjoy volunteering to help other caregivers and there are lots of avenues to do this, not the least of which is starting a Daughterhood Circle in your community.
The bottom line here is that, if you’re feeling really stressed and anxious about the consequences of decisions your parents are making that you can’t control, you must remember this: The consequences are theirs and it’s not your responsibility to fix every situation. Just try and focus on letting go and getting perspective. Make that your daily practice and know that, no matter what, you and your parents are going to be okay.