I went to the dentist for the first time in years today.
I could blame it on the pandemic or the fact that we’ve moved a lot, but that’s not really the reason—at least not all of it.
The real reason is that for years I had a dentist who—for lack of a better word—was a total fucking asshole. And he was the only one in my area covered by my husband’s insurance.
He would grill me about what I did for a living and judge me for not having a job while he had his hands shoved in my mouth and I was completely unable to defend myself.
Even if I could have said something, I wouldn’t have because I was ashamed.
Ashamed of myself for not having a real job at the age of 31 because I was caring for my mom who had Alzheimer’s.
I realize now how ridiculous it was for me to feel that way, but I learned to feel ashamed based off of other people’s reactions to what I was doing with my life.
A former co-worker who asked, “Isn’t there someone else who can do that?” when he learned that I was leaving my full-time job to help care for my mom.
Another former co-worker who saw me a few weeks after I had quit and told me I was “living the good life.”
My supposed best friend who texted me one day and said, “Doesn’t Steve resent you for not working anymore? I think I would resent my husband if he just quit his job.”
Some of these people didn’t know any better, but some of them were just like the dentist—total fucking assholes.
I felt so ashamed of myself for not working when in reality I had the hardest job in the entire world—being a caregiver to someone who had Alzheimer’s disease.
In a society that mostly supports and understands women who leave their jobs to have and raise children, we need to do a better job of supporting and understanding people who leave their jobs to care for a sick parent or other loved one.
Some of us do it because we want to, but many of us do it because no, unfortunately there isn’t someone else who can do it.
Whatever your reason for being a caregiver, I support you.
However long it’s been since you had a “real” job, I support you.
Whatever age you were when you put your life on hold to care for a loved one, I support you.
No matter how many doctors, employers, co-workers, neighbors, friends, or other total assholes have made you feel ashamed of yourself for not working or for making the choice to care for your loved one, I support you.
The shame stops here.
The stigma ends now.
No one knows how hard this job is until they have to do it themselves.
Don’t ever let anyone make you feel bad about yourself for what you are doing.
And if all else fails, find a new dentist.
P.S. No cavities, Mom!
* If this post resonated with you, you should check out my mentoring services for Alzheimer’s daughters.
** If you liked this post, you will love my book “When Only Love Remains: Surviving My Mom’s Battle with Early Onset Alzheimer’s.” It’s available on all Amazon marketplaces.