You Can Share Responsibilities (Episode 86)

Ever wonder why it’s so dang hard for you to share responsibilities with other people? And why you have so much trouble accepting help, even when you need and want it so much? In this episode, your host Kay Coughlin talks about the generations of women in her family who have struggled with this exact problem and how it shows up in her life today. And the good news is that Kay is finally breaking this pattern, and you can too!

As always, you can expect real talk with no judgment, no guilt and no pressure!

If you are looking for Kay’s podcast producer, Chris Martin, you can find him here.

Learn more about all of this work at

Transcript of episode is below.

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Do you need to find a way to get some rest and take control of your own life again? You can, even if you believe that you can't possibly take care of yourself when the people around you need you so much!

Transcript: You Can Share Responsibilties (Episode 86) 

Hi there. I’m your host, Kay Coughlin, and you are listening to From One Caregiver to Another. I am a life coach for family caregivers and sandwich family caregivers like me, who want to get some rest and feel less alone. I taught myself how to navigate all of my responsibilities and get into the mindset I need so that I can set boundaries, have self-compassion and prioritize myself. So that my needs get met, too. And that’s what I help my clients do. And if we can do it, I know it’s possible for you too.

This is episode 86.

In my one-on-one coaching practice where I work with other family caregivers, my clients often ask me if there’s something that I struggle with. I think this is only fair because of course, 99% of the time, what we’re talking about are things they struggle with.

And there’s something that I always say because it’s always true. And that’s that I struggle with perfectionism. That’s been a lifelong struggle for me. I’ve talked about it in a lot of episodes, so I’m not going to talk about it much here, but this time of year, one thing that I say that I’m struggling with also is quite literally the month of August.

I know I’ve talked about this recently here, the month of August in my house is a month filled with a lot of transitions, mostly having to do with people going back to school. But you know, it’s the end of the summer, lots of things change. This is an annual thing. It’s not like it’s only happening this year. It’s always happening around here.

So, it’s the month of August and the way this shows up really specifically in my life and in my work, is that I mess up my calendar. I have done this for so many years. I always get coaching on it, myself. It seems to happen anyway, every year.

One of the things I’m working on is giving myself just a little bit more forgiveness and grace about the fact that it just seems to be a problem every August.

But every year, I still feel terrible about it. If I miss a meeting or more likely what’s going to happen is I’m just going to put something on my calendar wrong, an hour ahead or an hour behind or something. And, and I feel terrible when I do that to my clients. And I feel terrible when I do that to somebody in my family or in my volunteer life to the point where I actually feel shame about the ways I mess up my calendar. So that’s work that I’m doing for myself.

There’s actually something these two things have in common, my lifelong issues with perfectionism and the way August always seems to get too complex for me. And the thing they have in common is that they have to do with sharing responsibilities with other people.

Now, when it comes to perfectionism that has more to do with, unfortunately, trusting other people and trusting that they’re going to do things the way I would do it. So, like I say, I’m always working on that one. But when it comes to the month of August, what’s hard for me is that I’ve been in a routine of sharing things, sharing the responsibilities. And then I have to change that up.

And I only have, you know, it all happens over a couple of days in August when all that routine stuff and that responsibility stuff gets changed.

And I know that this idea about having issues with sharing responsibilities is a big problem for a lot of family caregivers.

And also, it can be really difficult for parents too. And I know that from firsthand experience, because I have struggled with it as a parent also for 20 years now.

What I find really fascinating about this idea of believing that I’m allowed to share responsibilities and that they’re allowed to look different if other people take care of things, is that this goes back generations in my family. I think I can honestly say that I inherited this problem with sharing responsibilities.

Now I’ve talked a lot about Human Giver Syndrome across many, many episodes of the podcast. And that’s really about how we have all inherited this culture for thousands of years of having trouble sharing responsibilities.

Today, what I want to do is share with you two stories from my own life. Because I just think it’s really important to keep demonstrating and reminding you that you are not alone if this is happening to you too.

The first story is about my own paternal grandmother. So, this is my dad’s mother. My grandparents lived about half an hour away from us for most of my life. I was really, really close with my grandmother. She died, gosh, I think she died back in 2000. So, she’s been gone 22 years now. I still miss her. She was just a really terrific lady.

My mom and I got to talking about, I don’t know if it was talking about my grandmother or talking about being a caregiver. This was a few days ago. And my mom reminded me of something that either I had completely forgotten or it’s possible that I just didn’t know about it in the first place, because it has to do with my grandfather. And he died back when I was 13.

Anyway, as my mom tells the story, my grandmother was literally working herself to death, taking care of my grandfather 24/7. I know this is going to be a familiar scenario for a lot of people who listen to this. My grandfather had suffered a series of small strokes. And then to the best of my recollection, he had at least two really big strokes that left him unable to care for himself at all. This was back in the early eighties and then he died in 1987.

So, my grandmother was taking care of him and it got to be more and more physical labor as he was less and less able to take care of himself over a number of years. So, my mom said to my dad, “Your mother won’t let anybody help her. And I’m really, really worried about her. She won’t let anybody suggest that she get help. She won’t let anybody offer to help. She won’t take help from anybody. Can you call your mother’s doctor? And without asking for any information, can you ask him to please remind her that she needs to take care of herself and let other people help her?”

So my dad did that. He called the doctor and he said, “Please remind my mom that she needs to let other people take care of her.”

Very shortly after that, my grandmother, in fact, did hire a part-time helper to come in and help her with things like getting grandpa in and out of bed and getting him dressed and all of those things that really were taking such a toll on my grandmother.

My mom and dad, and I’m sure we were there too, we went to go see my grandparents. And my grandma opened the door and my dad went in. And the only thing my mom remembers about that visit is that my grandmother, who at the time was probably four foot 10 – so she was a tiny little person – my grandmother came to the door, stuck her finger in my mom’s face and said, “I know it was you. I know you were the one who put your husband up to calling my doctor to tell me that I had to let somebody help me. How dare you.”

This was very unusual for my grandmother. She was usually very soft spoken. She was incredibly intelligent. She was incredibly thoughtful. And she was at the end of her rope. And at the same time, she was furious that someone had, I guess, had the gall or the audacity to call her physician and essentially tell them she wasn’t taking good care of herself.

Now, several years after that, my grandmother actually did come to live with both of my parents. She lived here for the year or so before she died. And she and my mom were very, very close after that. So I know that she forgave my mom. But when I say that I have inherited this problem with sharing responsibilities, I’m not kidding. I inherited it from people who I love and admire. One of them being my own grandmother.

The second story that I have here for you is current. This is something that happened to me last week, and it’s also about sharing responsibilities and having trouble with that. This was last Friday morning. I, you know, I get up early, I’m up at 5:45 every morning during the week. And the way my routine goes is that I have a cup of tea and a little bit of quiet time to catch up on a few things like the news. And then I get some exercise and then, you know, I take a shower and then my workday begins.

I started out the morning last Friday morning, just like I always would. And when I was in the middle of exercising, I looked at my calendar for some reason and realized that it was my morning to drive the cross country carpool. There’s three boys who are in this carpool. It was my morning to drive them to the high school for practice. And I had to be in the car to drive them in less than 45 minutes.

I could have just sucked it up and done it and realized I, as I’ve already said, I tend to make mistakes with my calendar during August. But then I realized that my husband was working from home last Friday. And so he was still in bed. His day had not yet started. It wasn’t even seven o’clock at the time.

And I had two choices. I could just shove it in and get the carpool done because I’m the one who signed up to do it in the first place. Or I could wake my husband up and ask if he was available to do it.

I felt so guilty at the thought of asking him to help out. Not because I don’t like asking him to help, but because I hadn’t prescheduled it with him. You know, I hadn’t looked at my calendar the night before. I hadn’t given him any advance notice that this was coming up. I felt terrible at the idea that I would wake him up and ask him to do something when it was my mistake, that I had either agreed to do it in the first place or that I had forgotten to look at my calendar. And I felt ashamed.

And then I thought to myself, “Wait a minute. What is going on here? What am I doing?” And I went and I woke him up and I asked him if he could run the boys in the carpool over to school. And he said, of course, that he would love to do it. He loves spending time with the boys in the carpool. And I should say, we both love spending time with boys in the carpool more before practice, before they’re all sweaty and grumpy. So, he was delighted to do it.

Here’s what I want you to know about this. What was different for me this time was that I caught myself doing it. I noticed myself falling back into this old thought pattern about sharing responsibilities, this old way of thinking that I’ve had for as long as I can remember, that if I’ve made a mistake or if I’ve promised to do something that I have to be the one to do it.

So, I saw myself doing this. I took a breath. I said, “That’s right. I’m human. This is a pattern that I have. Of course I slid back into this. Doesn’t mean that I have to torture myself this time about this. It doesn’t mean that I actually have to do it myself.” And what I said to myself is, “What do I really want? What do I need?”

And I needed my husband to drive the carpool and he was delighted that he could help. So, I’m feeling proud of myself that I interrupted this pattern that I’ve had for my whole life. And I reminded myself that I’m allowed to let other people share in my responsibilities.

And I hope that serves as reassurance or maybe a good reminder to you too, that if that’s something that you struggle with, the way I do. There is hope for you. You too can learn how to interrupt that pattern, that old habit, and find new ways to work with the people around you so that they can lighten some of your load and help out. Or maybe even just take over responsibility for some things.

If I can do it, I know you can do it. That’s it for the stories for today.

I want to let you know, before I wrap up here, that this podcast is about to go on a six-week break. There are so many podcasts that I follow that went on summer breaks this year and they were off for the whole summer. And I have to say I really support that. I think that’s amazing, but I thought that I would go ahead and make episodes throughout the summer, because that would work for me this year. And I know a lot of podcasts were on break, so I could provide people with some new episodes while other people weren’t. So I think that was a good opportunity, but now it’s time to take a break.

I am still going to be working. Well, with the exception of one entire week that I’m taking off in the middle of September. But other than that, you will still be able to find me in my monthly membership for family caregivers, and on social media. And in the Boundaries community. And if you have not yet joined that Boundaries Community that is free. It’s open to anybody. Please take a look on that. There is the link in the show notes.

And of course you’ll be able to find me here in all of the past episodes of the podcast. And I also know that if you’re not listening to this in real time, as they come out every week, it doesn’t make any difference to you that I’m taking a six week break at this point in time.

I also want to remind you that if you have caregiver responsibilities, like I do, and you also have a career like I do, and you are at your wits end, trying to make it work better for you and trying to get out from under all of the pressure and all of the guilt that’s pressing on you. Well, you might want to think about working with me one on one as a coaching client. If you want to find me on social media or go to my website, which is Facilitator On, you can get in touch with me there to find out what it looks like to get coached so that you can get some relief, if all of your responsibilities are just too much for you. That’s what I help my clients do.

I would like to take just a second here to say a big thank you to my podcast producer. And he’s really my storytelling partner. And his name is Chris Martin. No, he is not that Chris Martin, but we get a lot of good jokes about that often. Chris is amazing. And he has taken a hiatus from accepting new clients, but he’s back. So if you want an introduction, he does work with podcasting and he does work with video storytelling. So if you want an introduction to him, just let me know. His podcast actually is called “Getting Work to Work.”His website for that is GWTW, Getting Work to Work. You can listen to his podcast anywhere. It’s wonderful. You’ll get a good flavor for him if you really want to listen to that, or just let me know if you’d like an introduction.

So that’s it for this season of the podcast. I will see you back here again with new episodes to kick off season five of the podcast. If everything goes according to plan, that is going to be happening the third week of October. Remember, I did just say though, if everything goes according to plan. So I will hope to see you at the end of October.

In the meantime, while I’m gone, while I’m not putting out new episodes, please remember to keep working on setting boundaries. Try to ask for help when you need it. Share the responsibility, if you can possibly bear to do it. And remember you can take breaks, too. And I hope that you will take a break.

If you liked this episode, you have to go check out my monthly membership for family caregivers who want to get some rest and feel less alone. It’s the place for emotionally-safe community, brave self-development and always self-compassion. You can find a link to it in the show notes and on my website at Facilitator On Fire dot net. And that is Facilitator On Fire dot net. If you are looking to connect with me, the best place to find me is in my free Boundaries Community. And I would love to hear from you. I can’t wait to be with you again in the next episode, From One Caregiver to Another.

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your guide

Kay Coughlin, CEO of Facilitator On Fire, is a business coach for the non-profit sector and social justice businesses. She is also well-known for being an advocate for family caregivers.

In every forum she can find, she shouts that it's OK for every human to earn a living, 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 "From One Caregiver to Another" podcast and author of "From One Caregiver to Another - Overcoming Your Emotional Grind."

Kay is well-known for her public speaking on boundaries and self-care. 

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

Copyright 2024. All rights reserved, Julia Kay Coughlin and Facilitator On Fire.

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