Ten new thoughts for family caregivers (Episode 59)

In this episode, Kay Coughlin shares 10 new thoughts for family caregivers, sandwich family caregivers and parents to think. Why do we all need this? Well, we hear way too may old stories about living small, negative, limited and painful lives. What we need to hear instead is a set of new messages to encourage us and remind us that we don’t have to live life the “old” way. Get the PDF of the 10 thoughts in the Library area of the Boundaries Community.

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Transcript of episode is below.

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Transcript: Ten new thoughts for family caregivers (episode 59)

Hi there. I’m your host Kay Coughlin and you’re listening to From One Caregiver to Another. I am the CEO of my own business. I’m a life coach and I am a sandwich family caregiver. That means I have kids at home and I am the primary caregiver for my own mother. And I don’t believe the stories and traditions about having caregiver responsibilities have to be true for us.

I believe we family caregivers can have dreams. We can have careers, we can have futures and we can be happy. We have value as individuals. We deserve to say no, and we deserve to have our own lives. Nobody can do it all of course. But we can decide what’s okay with us, what’s not okay with us, and we can dare to be ourselves.

This is episode 59. And I am so excited to be back with you for season four of the podcast. I can’t believe this is the fourth season already.

You know, I have to tell you, I am so glad that I took a break that I took time off. I rested. I enjoyed time with my family. We had wonderful holidays together. I got a lot of important work, done planning for what’s next for my business. And I’m telling you it’s big. Stay tuned.

And also, while I was on break from the podcast, I really coached my face off for my clients and my clients had a lot of breakthroughs. It was really time that was very well spent, but I’m also glad to be back here with you.

I’ve got just a little housekeeping before I dive in.

Listen, if you have not yet joined my free community to talk about boundaries, go do that now. It’s a supportive place. I already mentioned it’s free. It’s an emotionally safe place. It’s also an intellectually safe place. You can talk about whatever you need to there. Nobody’s going to judge you. And you know, it’s also private. It’s not on any of the major social media networks. So I get to make the rules. And one of the rules is that it’s private. If you want to see what goes on in there and ask me questions you do have to join.

If you really want to learn about boundaries and start practicing them and also have a safe place to land when it gets hard and it will get hard, I’m telling you my boundaries community is the place for you to be. You will find a link to it at my website, which is facilitator on fire.net. And that link is also going to be in the show notes.

Onto the episode back in episode 26, which I recorded just about a year ago, I talked about the stories family caregivers are supposed to, and I put that in air quotes, we are supposed to enthusiastically live into. I just think it’s really important to know what we’re up against. So you might want to go listen to that episode if you haven’t.

Now if you’re a regular listener of this podcast, or if you follow me anywhere on social media, or if you’re already a member over in the boundaries community, you already know that I talk a lot about an ancient set of beliefs that’s called “human giver syndrome.” I think in most cases, it’s because of human giver syndrome that we are told that we are supposed to keep ourselves small and quiet and meek and humble and be as invisible as possible.

But I’ll tell you what we family caregivers, what we need is a new set of thoughts to replace all of the space that these old stories are currently taking up in our brains.

And so that’s what I’m going to do today. I’ve got a list here of ten thoughts I’ve identified that are going to help us open up to possibilities. It’s going to help us realize our value and see ourselves as worthy and deserving of everything that life has to offer.

Now I’m going to be very intentional about this list being uplifting and encouraging. We just don’t need to hear any more of that small talk, the talk that keeps us small.

This list is definitely for all family caregivers and that includes parents. But I really want to talk directly to family caregivers who also hold down a paying job. Or maybe if you’re like me, you own your own business. Now nobody with caregiver responsibilities can afford to believe in living a small life. But for us, those of us who have careers and maybe we’re entrepreneurs, we do not have space in our brains to keep believing the limiting stories. We have to stop believing the stories of smallness and we have to start seeing possibilities.

That’s what we’re doing here today.

So here we go. Number one, the first thought that I’m offering you to replace all of those stories about how smaller lives are supposed to be is. I get to decide what my life looks like.

Can you imagine, can you imagine taking all of the garbage that people throw at you about what you are supposed to do, what your life is supposed to look like and to say “No, thank you. I get to choose. the decision is up to me.” Well I’m here to tell you that that’s a thought that you can have. “I get to decide what my life looks like.”

Number two, I deserve help. This is a big one. Part of human giver syndrome and part of all the stories that go along with it is that we’re taught that we have to help everybody else and that we can’t ask for help for ourselves. And that just doesn’t have to be true. So the new thought for you to start thinking is I deserve help.

Number three, I have needs and wants of my own. Look, it is all too easy to try to be invisible, to try to pretend that we don’t need things like rest and that we don’t need things like the nutritious foods that we enjoy eating or that we don’t need community.

And this is a lie. We do have needs and wants of our own, and they don’t go away just because you pretend like they’re not there, or because people tell you that it’s really not important for you to have your own needs and wants. So we can decide, we can have this thought: I do have needs and wants of my own. And that’s okay.

Number four then is I am allowed to have boundaries. This is a big one. You know, as family caregivers, a lot of people are going to tell us that we don’t get to have agency over our own lives. That the person we care for gets to make all the decisions about what’s okay and what’s not okay. And that is not how it works.

Boundaries are a fundamental human right. Every individual person, regardless of gender, regardless of where you live, what religion you follow, none of that matters. Every single one of us gets to have boundaries. Now that doesn’t make boundaries easy, right? We know that boundaries are actually one of the most difficult things that we can do, but it’s also the thing that we can do that will make the biggest difference in our lives.

It will make us safer. We can be happier when we have boundaries, we can pursue faith the way we want to pursue it. We can have those careers. And that’s when we stand up for ourselves and remind ourselves that we have the right to say, I get to choose what’s okay with me. And I get to tell you what’s not okay with me. So that’s the new thought. As a caregiver, I am allowed to have boundaries.

Number five, guilt and shame don’t have to control my life. I want you to imagine for just a moment what your life could be like if every day you weren’t worrying so much about the feelings of guilt and shame. Now I’m not here to tell you that you shouldn’t feel guilt and shame, or that you don’t have to feel guilt and shame. Those are emotions. Those are human. Those are just part of who we are. I don’t even think it’s a healthy goal to try to not feel guilt anymore. There are definitely times when guilt is helpful and keeps us on the right path.

But I do want to tell you that you just don’t have to be controlled by guilt and shame anymore. I know this is really hard to believe, but when guilt and shame do come up for you, when you start to feel them, it is very possible to notice those to say, “Okay. That’s an emotion that I have right now. That’s an emotional reaction that’s going through my body and it’s totally okay. And it doesn’t have to control whatever I do next.”

Number six, I deserve to rest and take time off. Now I just told you that I took time off from my podcast. You know, when I was starting my podcast, one of the pieces of advice that I got from pretty much everybody who has a successful podcast is that if you commit to doing a weekly podcast, that’s it, you have to do a weekly podcast and you can’t ever take a week off because people are going to expect you to show up every week.

And so for a while, I believed that. But then I looked at my life and I admitted to myself, I’m an entrepreneur, I’m a wife, I’m a mother, I’m a caregiver. I need time off! What has happened since I decided to take this little vacation from my podcast is not only have I come back to this recommitted and so much stronger in my messages and what I want to say and, and how I can be here for you.

But I also developed a whole body of work on how to rest. And I think that’s going to be big for me. I think that’s going to be big for you. If you’re interested in that, go take a look at my website. You can find out more information.

But I really want to stake a claim here. This is a hill that I would die on. We family caregivers, we get to rest. We get to take time off.

Number seven. I am allowed to hold others accountable. There’s this weird thing that happens in family caregiver dynamics. So the relationships between the person who does the caregiving and the people we care for, we end up letting everybody else – the people we care for and oftentimes the other people in our families – we end up letting them off the hook in terms of accountability. We tend to be the only person in the relationship who thinks that we have to be accountable. It’s like we are making it okay for the people in our relationships not to be adults. And so they don’t show up like adults.

They don’t take care of the obligation that they promised. They act like toddlers a lot. They get very upset with us when we have our own needs and wants. And when we try to set boundaries. So what I want to tell you is that you do get to hold other people accountable.

And I want to tell you that if you want to do it in a loving way, you can do that. Holding people accountable is not the same thing as being a jerk. Now they might react as if you’re being a jerk. That doesn’t mean that you are, and it doesn’t mean that you’re wrong. So you get to hold other people accountable. Even when you’re a family caregiver.

Number eight, I deserve to speak up when my needs are being ignored. This is a big one for us when we are family caregivers. And I’m going to say, especially when we’re family caregivers who also have to juggle everything in our lives so that we can hold down jobs. We tend to fall into patterns of perfectionism and people pleasing. And one of the things that happens when you’re a perfectionist or a people pleaser is you don’t speak up when the things that you need are being discounted or completely ignored.

And so we tend to do that, but I’m here to tell you that we have the right to say, “Hey gang, I need some rest. You know what folks, these responsibilities are too much for me. And I need some help.” We get to say, “I need for you to come here and help me because I need to go get some exercise.” We get to speak up when our needs are being ignored.

Number nine. I do not have to live my life according to past rules. So these would be rules like family beliefs about caregivers. Maybe their beliefs about the role of men and women, those so-called traditional gender assignments of who does what. These would be beliefs about who takes precedence and who has to take a back seat.

Those things just don’t have to be true for us. I know that we hear those things all the time. That’s what a lot of those stories that I talked about back in episode 26, that’s where those stories come from. It’s these past rules. About how your life has to be lived. And I’m here to tell you none of it’s true.

Everything is possible for you, but it’s only going to be possible if you can look at things that happened in your past and say, “okay, that’s something that happened in my past. I don’t have to live according to that anymore, unless I want to.”

Number 10 then, and this is the last one and it’s a really, really big one. So listen up. I have a future. I feel like this is a soap box of mine. What we hear as a family caregivers is that our lives halt. They come to a complete stop. What happens for those of us who were in the middle of our careers is we stop everything. And when we come to a skidding halt, we also hit the pause button on our futures.

We have this idea that we are no longer allowed to have a future. We’re not allowed to plan for a future. We can’t put money away. We can’t invest anything toward our future. We couldn’t go back to school if we want to. In other words, Our current condition as a family caregiver means everything is over and it has to be over until those family caregiver responsibilities are completely behind us.

None of that has to be true. We all can have futures. It is going to mean making some choices, knowing what your needs and wants are and setting some boundaries. Asking for help so that you can continue to have a paying job or own a business like I do, or whatever it is that you want to do. But I think it’s really important for you to hear from me right now that you can have a future.

I believe that I have a future and you can believe that you have a future.

So that’s my list of 10. I want to recommend to you that if any of these have seemed shocking to you, or if you think they can be true for other people, but not for you, I’m not here to judge you. I believe you if you think that these things can’t possibly be true for you, but I’m here to tell you that you’re wrong.

And so if you need to listen to this episode again, maybe if you’re not driving write down this list of 10 new thoughts that I’m offering you as a family caregiver, especially a family caregiver who happens to have a job or a career, or owns a business like me, write these things down, read this list to yourself again.

Open yourself up to the possibilities that could happen for you. If you can start believing these 10 new thoughts, if you can start planting these thoughts in your head and let them grow, and eventually these thoughts, they can kick out all of those old stories that people have been telling you.

And I’ll tell you, I’m sure that they’re going to continue to tell you those stories about how small your life has to be. You don’t have to listen. You don’t have to believe them. You don’t have to think those things anymore. I’ve got these 10 new thoughts that you can instead fill up your head with, so that you can see what’s possible for you.

You can kick out the old beliefs that aren’t serving you anymore. And you can have a future.

Thank you so much for listening today. If you haven’t joined my free community to learn about boundaries yet, what’s stopping you? That is the very best place to stay in touch with me. Although you’ll find I’m also very active over on LinkedIn, you can learn more about me and about all of my work at facilitator on fire.net. That’s facilitator on fire.net. There you can get links to everything. You can learn more about human giver syndrome and about boundaries. And you can see a list of the workshops and events that I have coming up.

If you liked this episode, please leave a review and think of two people you can tell about it. If they’re new to podcasts, show them how to subscribe. Word of mouth is the very best way to help podcasts grow. And if we can grow, we’ll be able to help more caregivers find their way here and get the help they need to. I can’t wait to be here with you again in the next episode, From One Caregiver to Another.

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your guide

Kay Coughlin, life coach and CEO of Facilitator On Fire, is on a mission to help family caregivers get rest and feel less alone. In every forum she can find, she shouts that it's OK for every human to set and enforce boundaries around their bodies, thoughts, feelings and actions. You can join Kay's free, private online community to talk about boundaries here.

Kay also teaches about emotional labor, how to rest, and Human Giver Syndrome, and is the host of the weekly "From One Caregiver to Another"® podcast and author of "From One Caregiver to Another - Overcoming Your Emotional Grind." She is well known for coaching family caregivers and sandwich family caregivers who want help to live happier lives.

When Kay works with businesses, she helps teams understand how to work with people of different ages through her decision-making workshops and "Building Trust Across Generations" seminar. 

Facilitator on Fire is a subsidiary of Donor Relations Mindset LLC, which Kay founded in 2015. She lives with her husband and children, and is the primary caregiver for her own mother, in central Ohio. Kay can be found on LinkedIn and Instagram.

Copyright 2022. All rights reserved. Julia Kay Coughlin and Facilitator On Fire.

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