Agape Love in a Losing Battle with Terminal Cancer

AGAPE LOVE IN A LOSING BATTLE WITH TERMINAL CANCER

sheqoz

How We Met:

I met Melissa during my pre-natal clinics. She was the most beautiful blue-eyed blonde l had ever known. Her personality lit up a room as soon as she walked in. I picked up on her southern accent pretty quickly, which was unusual because most people pick up on mine first.

We had depths of interesting topics to discuss which made 30 minutes go too fast. Her name was called out first so we hurriedly exchanged numbers. My turn came and l went in and out but no sight of Melissa.

She reached out a few days later and we set up a lunch date. We had such a strong bond, she was like a twin sister from a different mother. We giggled the whole time because she had a great sense of humor.

Unbreakable Bond:

That was the beginning of a lifetime friendship between a southern blonde and a Kenyan country girl. Our bond became so strong that we made plans to tour the world. Melissa wanted to start with Kenya. Due to earlier travel commitments to my other friend Tanisha, I introduced them, and it went very well.

Tanisha was a beautiful sun-kissed lady with a pure heart, and she was very energetic too. All the positive vibrations needed in the world was present in those two beauties. However, there was a problem, something out of my control.

The Losing Battle:

They both battled cancer. Although they were on continuous treatment, the cancer had spread too rapidly to other organs. I had met Tanisha about 10 years earlier and had witnessed her struggles.  She had almost given up and would often turn down treatment.

Melissa managed to persuade her back on treatment several times. They gave each other a reason to fight for another day. They were both wives and young mothers in their 30’s, except that one was black and the other white.

It wasn’t long before Tanisha gave up the fight. I remember she held her mum and Melissa’s mum’s hands, gazed outside the window and made them promise to keep their families close. A few hours later, she took one last deep breath and left us.

Melissa on the other side fought with hopes of surviving. She knew she was terminally ill but believed in miracles. Unfortunately, few years later her cancer spread to her brain. She’s not with us anymore.

She departed the same way Tanisha did, all three families were present except no one was crying. We were laughing at her silly jokes about dining with Tanisha that evening. She told us that she wanted to take a nap and that was the last we saw her beautiful blue eyes.

Left Behind:

So close yet so far! I don’t have my friends around anymore. I can’t feel their heartbeats or hear their giggles except on the videos we recorded. The love and kindness they shared made a lasting impact on all who knew them.

Through their eyes l saw beyond cancer and color. I saw oneness, genuine love and humanity. Sadly the good in the world is often tossed behind the scenes. The negative people clattered with hatred get the most attention and exposure.

All the same, there are a lot of good people who don’t jump on the hate wagon. These are the people who truly care for the generation behind them. It breaks my heart to see how ignorant we can choose to be. We are all human beings. We all need each other in this walk.

My Plea to All:

If anything went terribly wrong with the earth, everyone will be equally affected. We are all born empty and will leave this world the same. It doesn’t matter how one is buried or cremated. To keep my friends’ wish alive, l made the decision to love everyone the same regardless of the changes and hate in this world.

Why waste our energy hating each other and teaching our children to do the same? The worst anyone can do to someone they hate is kill them, right? Then what? The soul cannot be touched and the afterlife fact awaits the murderer whose life isn’t permanent either.

I honestly pray that the good people out there will continue to show love without boundaries. There’s a lot of good going on every day which will always outweigh bad. Melissa and Tanisha are resting in peace now, and the impact they made will live on.

I might never understand why they both had to go too soon, but one thing l know for sure is that they gave me the courage to just be me, to live my life without noticing skin color. That doesn’t mean others will not notice mine; we are all entitled to our feelings and opinions.

I share these thoughts from the bottom of my heart, with the intention of letting anyone else who feels the same way I feel know that they are not alone. Little is much, anything you do for love makes a huge difference.

My plea for people to get along as human beings may not change the whole world. Nonetheless, it sure did change three families from completely different backgrounds. Shine on Tanisha and Melissa, you will be forever missed and loved. Your voices are still alive.

“People fail to get along because they fear each other; they fear each other because they don’t know each other; they don’t know each other because they have not communicated with each other.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.

Making Friends With Other Parents Is Like Dating

MAKING FRIENDS WITH OTHER PARENTS IS LIKE DATING

Lyz Lenz

THE GIST

  • Make friends by trying new activities with your child; volunteering at school; joining local mom groups; and signing up for baby yoga, music lessons and story time. 
  • Find like-minded parents in the places you already frequent: parent-child classes at your gym, mom night at a local wine bar or a baby-friendly movie screening. 
  • Be proactive about introducing yourself to other parents in your neighborhood.
  • Initiate conversations without expectations — just because someone doesn’t want to hang out, doesn’t mean they hate your face. 
  • Find your people by searching interest-specific Facebook groups and Reddit forums for parents in your neighborhood.
  • The isolation of the early weeks and months of parenthood is a finite phase, like teething. As your kids age, making friends will become easier, with more opportunities to connect.

The birth of my second child threw my world into chaos. I went from being a working parent of one manageable child to a stay-at-home mom with a toddler and an infant. I felt alone, and my nipples ached while I cleaned poop off the floor. What I needed was a friend. 

I struck up a conversation with a mother at my daughter’s preschool. I thought it went well, so I asked, “Want to go out for coffee sometime?” She shrugged, “You should go out with my sister. You both seem to need friends.”

I never went out with her sister. But by continuing to make my neediness known and asking moms online and offline out for dates, I did find my friends (and I stopped bragging to my toddler about my degrees). Study after study show that people with strong friendships are happier, healthier and more satisfied with their lives. Additionally, friendships are a relief valve for the pressure of other roles in our lives, like parenthood. 

Finding parent friends can be just as fraught and unnerving as dating, so I spoke to two authors who wrote books about parenting and friendship, and to parents from all over the country, about how to find new friends as a parent.

WHAT TO DO

Start close to home.

Melanie Dale, author of “Women Are Scary: The Totally Awkward Adventure of Finding Mom Friends,” offers a practical, step-by-step approach to meeting new parent friends. She advises that parents stick close to home — try meeting local parents at a park or pool, or even a mall playground close to you. Some movie theater chains have mommy-and-me screenings on weekday mornings and afternoons (Google your city and “baby-friendly screenings” to find some). 

It can seem a little awkward to go to your local children’s museum just to “pick up” another mom. But rest assured, you aren’t the only one on the lookout for friends. Michael Auteri, a New Jersey-based father of a toddler, met his best dad friend on the bus commuting into New York City. They saw each other every day, so Auteri struck up a conversation about a book the other dad was reading. One thing led to another: Now, they meet at least once a month at a park with their kids in tow.

Make the first conversational move.

Dale advises starting a conversation with a fellow mom by giving her a compliment, something about her child or clothes or ability to calmly handle a tantrum. But you may be able to bond over negativity, too: I met a mom friend when my son was an infant and I was breastfeeding at a park. She overheard me grumble to myself about boob sweat, and we’ve been friends ever since.    

Dale also encourages parents to initiate contact without expectations. “If another mom tells you she can’t hang out, she may just be busy or maybe she was burned from her last friendship and she’s nervous,” Dale said. “And for those of us who are not initiators, maybe we need to say ‘yes’ next time someone gets up the courage to ask us out on a mom date.”

Rachel Bertsche, author of “MWF Seeks BFF,” encourages new parents stuck at home with a baby to sign up for a music class or baby yoga. These classes are really for the parents, she explained: “No 1-month-old is going to turn into a concert pianist. It’s just a fun way to get out of the house and meet other parents.” 

Find an online parenting group that’s right for you.

Online parenting groups can be miserable, with in-fighting and passive aggressive comments, but they can also be an amazing way to find your tribe. Bertsche recommends trying Facebook Groups, Meetup or apps like Peanut and Bumble’s friend feature to find your perfect parent match. You can search Facebook Groups for parent groups in your neighborhood. Even in my small Iowa town, there are hundreds of groups organized by interests ranging from yoga to a favorite TV show to cloth diapering. Meetup also has meetings organized for parents filtered out by interests. My local baby store has a Facebook group for parents in the area and regularly hosts meetups at the store. Most online groups will come with scheduled events and playdates that make it easier for you to take initiative. 

It’s hard to know what groups suit you until you spend some time in them, learn their rules and see how they handle controversy. Try to find groups that reflect your personality. If you are low-key and jokey, filter through groups for that tone. Bertsche met a mom friend by swiping through Bumble’s friend feature and swiping right on a woman who said she wanted to do things without her kids. “That’s how I knew we’d get along,” she explained.

Let your kids do the talking.

As the wife of a pastor, Lisa Cooper, based in Michigan, has moved quite a bit, so she relies on her children’s friendliness to make friends. “It helps when you have kids who will talk to other kids. My youngest toddled over to another toddler, and they started playing. So I talked to the mom of the other kid. Now we’re best friends!”

Host a playdate outside your house.

When kids are little, before the blessed drop-off playdates begin, Bertsche recommends meeting at a neutral third-party location, where kids can play and parents can talk. Go to a playground and then to coffee. Or the zoo and then lunch. Or pack a picnic and go to a concert in the park.

Bertsche suggests finding a place where you won’t always be chasing your kids and hosting more than one parent at a time. “It takes the pressure off, and there are fewer awkward silences when there are more parents around,” she said. It also makes it easier to leave if the interaction is going south. 

Accept that not every relationship is built to last.

Dale breaks down the stages of parent friendships into “bases.” No, you don’t have to kiss anyone. For Dale, first base is the awkward small talk at the park. Second base is the initial playdate at a neutral location. Third base is a playdate at home. And a home run is when you hit it off and start meeting without children around. “Some friends come into our lives just for a season, sometimes literally a baseball season or a soccer season, and then you change teams, your kid quits the sport, and you never see each other again and that’s O.K. But once in a while, you find a lifelong friend,” Dale said. 

Raquel Reyes lives in Miami and said that every parent she meets seems to cycle in and out of the city, which makes keeping and maintaining friendships hard. She met a group of good parent friends by volunteering at her local Unitarian Universalist church. They keep in touch by scheduling monthly lunches and checking in weekly on a WhatsApp group chat.

The initial desperation to create new parent friendships is just a phase like teething. Give yourself some kindness. Eventually you will find your people. And then, when kids start school, you’ll find a whole new set of parent friends.

Put in the effort to maintain new friendships.

Parents are busy; it’s hard for them to prioritize friendships. And making good friendships takes time. Researchers at the University of Kansas found that it takes about 50 hours of time together to go from acquaintance to casual friend, 90 hours to move from casual friend to friend and 200 hours to move from friend to good friend. Bertsche suggests penciling in a regular time to meet up, whether it’s a monthly playdate or a happy hour. “Having that standing date keeps the guess work and effort out of maintaining the relationship,” she advised.

SOURCES

How to Quit Porn: 6 Essential Steps

HOW TO QUIT PORN: 6 ESSENTIAL STEPS

Douglas Weiss

If you’re wondering how to quit porn, you’re not alone. Skim through the comments below and you’ll see. Quitting porn doesn’t have to be so complicated, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. If you want to quit watching porn, it’s going to take some intentional work, and I encourage you to get real familiar with these six steps.

Step 1: You need to want to quit watching porn.

The first part to quitting porn is you really have to want to quit porn. You need to be sick and tired of porn and the sickness that it causes you in order to quit. If you are not committed, you will only be quitting untl the next time you look. Deep inside you have to want to stop.

Step 2: You have to be willing to try a different way.

Secondly, you have to be willing to do things you haven’t done before. Seriously, if you keep quitting the same way, you’re likely to fail again. To quit, you have to give up what you’ve  been doing and do what you have to do. Have you tried using Screen Accountability yet?

Step 3: You need to be brutally honest with another person.

Thirdly, you have to tell someone else about your struggle and desire to get free. This person may be a male friend, your wife, a person of clergy, a life coach, or a 12-step group person.  Somebody has to know the truth about your porn usage for you to get and stay free.

Step 4: You need to get rid of all your porn.

Next, you have to do what I call “clean house.” You have to get rid of the porn you have. Throw away the discs, magazines, anything you have used as pornography, and make sure to dump and clean out your computer. This is just a start, some you have to clean house regularly.

Step 5: You also need to block porn from coming in.

The next step is you have to block entry points. This means have a porn blocker and accountability software like Covenant Eyes on your phone, computer at home, and at the office. If you have people sending you compromising emails, block them. Unsubscribe from porn websites. You may have to decide if credit cards are a problem. You know how porn is coming into your life. If you had a gun to your head you could block entry points in a minute.

Step 6: You need a friend to help you stay on track.

Finally, get accountable to a man on a daily basis about your porn usage. Make a call a day and a commitment to call this person before you even consider looking at porn. People who set consequences for porn relapse do better. Seriously, if you look at porn, set a consequence. Some guys run laps, give money to the political party they don’t vote for, do leg lunges for a half mile, give up some privilege or just pick up trash on the highway for a few hours.

A porn-free life is a better life.

You have to decide that you are worth living porn free. I decided that almost 25 years ago and just passed a polygraph verifying my freedom. I believe you’re worth it but your behavior will show you if you are. Don’t believe your words. Believe only your behaviors; otherwise, you can be in denial as to your commitment to being porn free.

One of the most effective tools I’ve found to quit porn is Covenant Eyes Screen Accountability™. It helps with four of these six essential steps. Not only can it block porn before it gets to you, it also provides a weekly report of your internet use to a trusted friend–forcing you to be brutally honest and making it easier than ever for you to have the open and honest relationship needed to beat your porn addiction.

Remember, you are not the only one being affected if you are married or want to be married. She is in pain because of your porn usage. Your children are being affected as well. They deserve the best man you can be. You decide. Do they get the porn-drunk you or the porn-free you? I recommend the porn-free you. It’s the better you.

Family Time Means Quality Time

FAMILY TIME MEANS QUALITY TIME

Intentional Living

Whether it’s at the dinner table, in church or watching a movie together, families form strong bonds when they connect on a personal level.

There was a time when parents would read to their children every day. It could be a beloved fairy tale, a favorite Bible story or a library book, but it helped build intimacy, comfort and trust. Mothers and fathers had an opportunity to build morals and principles for living.

Intentionally spending time as a family is extremely important. How a family interacts will have great influence on the development of a child’s personality.  As an Intentional Parent, you will help your children feel secure in your love for them.

Dr. Randy Carlson explains how “Ten Commandments for the Family” might be a good guide for living in your family.

Families that emphasize organization and sets of rules, for example, will likely produce children who highly value organization themselves and rely on regulations to help them know boundaries in life.

Families that place an emphasis on freedom of expression are more likely to have free-spirited children, who may have trouble setting or distinguishing boundaries without help.

Prevailing attitudes often stem from the family atmosphere present in homes where the parents were raised. For example, strict, repressive homes may produce children who grow up to be legalistic, overbearing parents.

Children raised in that atmosphere, depending upon their individual makeup, will either likely rebel against it, or become overly cautious in adulthood themselves. Moreover, family crises and problems can have effects on a child. Parents who are tense and worried about finances may find themselves parenting a child overly interested in making money.

While families, like individuals, take on unique personalities, there is one contributing factor that will help produce happy, well-rounded children: the home should provide an atmosphere of love and attention.

This is one thing you should strive to be very intentional about.

Intentional ONE THING Challenge

If you could do ONE THING and know that it would make a significant, lasting, possibly life-changing difference in your life, would you do it? Dr. Carlson shares the power of ONE THING and why you should get started doing your ONE THING today.

Tell Us

How do you spend time as a family? Do you read the Bible regularly? We’d love to hear your success stories. Post your comments below.

Have the Courage to Change – Part 1

HAVE THE COURAGE TO CHANGE – PART 1

Dr. Randy Carlson

When I was a kid growing up, I remember a saying that hung over my dad’s desk. It’s often referred to as the serenity prayer: “Lord grant me the serenity to accept the things that I cannot change, the courage to change the things that I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

The law of change says nothing stays the same.  Everything either grows stronger or weaker. In physics, there’s entropy which is the tendency for things to go from strength to weakness. We often can see this in our own lives.

You’re not the same as you were yesterday. We all experience little changes each day of life, and we often can’t perceive them until we see a photograph, or a health report, and we go back and take a checkup. Then we realize how much change has occurred.

The reason we focus on the things in our life that we can’t change, like the mess in Washington, DC, or a spouse’s bad attitude, the jerky person that we work with, or the stock market is because in that moment, we are no longer responsible. But ask yourself this question: What is it in my own life that I need to change or should change?  It’s at that moment we become intentional.

Change starts by first taking 100 percent responsibility for our thoughts, actions and attitudes.  It requires changing our thinking, our attitudes, and our behaviors.  This theme of the failure that many of us have – and let’s face it – many of us do – is we fail to take personal responsibilities for our lives.

When you think about it, we grew up in a time where it’s hard for us to take personal responsibility.  In fact, our culture does anything but take responsibility.  Every group in our culture points to another, saying it’s their fault. We need to have the courage to change, and until we accept the reality of this law of personal responsibility, we cannot fully mature into a spiritual and relational point of being an adult.

Christianity is not a passive religion; it’s an act of faith. The Bible uses words like choose, defend, fight, forgive, love, plant, seek, teach, train, visit, worn, work, and worship.  The Bible is full of verbs that demonstrate a very active faith. God’s design for us is to be intentional in taking these verbs and living them out:

  • When we’re obedient to know what the scripture teaches about how we’re to treat our spouses, there’s a payoff for that.
  • When we’re obedient to be intentional, to take the verb, and we use the verb, and we act on that verb in our lives, when it comes to how we live, with our finances or with our faith or our health, there’s going to be a payoff for that.
  • There’s always a positive return on investment for being intentional.

Accepting personal responsibility should cause us to have the courage to change by facing the reality as it is today, resulting in actions that will glorify God and bring benefit to ourselves.

Giving Your Adult Child Space

GIVING YOUR ADULT CHILD SPACE

Intentional Living

Most parents with an adult child have faced the temptation to become critical of their child’s decisions. The transition from age 15 to 20 can be hard on both of you. You’re learning to give him or her space and they’re trying to make adult decisions on their own.

You’ve given them direction and instruction for so long, it’s difficult to make the switch to a supportive role, offering advice when they ask you for it instead of when you think they need it. Honestly, you should not tell a 23-year-old how you think they should live.

As a parent of an adult child, you have to move away from, “What I want for you,” and “What I expect from you.” Most adult children refuse this approach and interpret it as critical or unsupportive of their life goals and dreams. Instead, say to your son or daughter, “I am observing something. Would you give me permission to share what I’ve observed?” It’s really hard, but if they say no, then bite your tongue and back off.

Now there are a lot of young adults still living at home. You have every right to set very clear expectations and boundaries with a 23-year-old still living in your home. Be careful not to position your conversation in a way that says, “This is what I want for you,” but instead set boundaries within the home with words like “Your mom and I are willing to do this…, and we’d like for you to do that while you are living with us.” Discuss money. Maybe you want to help with your child’s tuition, car payments, gas. Will they pay rent, help with groceries? Discuss relationships. Are their friends welcome to come over? How late are friends of the opposite sex allowed to stay? Do you expect your adult child to let you know when they’re going to be late getting home or not coming home at all?

Your child has to make his or her own decisions. But it’s important to define the things up front that you will and will not tolerate in your home. Treat him or her like an adult and expect the same in return. Remember, it’s your home—you set the boundaries.

Parenting continues, but looks very different as your child enters into adulthood. Your job description changes as you release them into God’s hands to accomplish what He intends for them. This is an important phase for you to handle prayerfully and intentionally.

Intentional ONE THING Challenge

If you could do ONE THING and know that it would make a significant, lasting, possibly life-changing difference in your life, would you do it? Dr. Carlson shares the power of ONE THING and why you should get started doing your ONE THING today.

Tell Us

How have you successfully transitioned from parenting a child to parenting an adult? We’d love to hear your stories. Post your comments.

Navigate Empty Nest Effectively

NAVIGATE EMPTY NEST EFFECTIVELY

Family Life Radio

For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven. ─   Ecclesiastes 3:1 NLT

Research shows that about 25 percent of people will experience Empty Nest Syndrome. A syndrome is really a collection of responses that come together to become a pattern or condition. Empty Nest is depressed and lonely feelings that come after your children leave home. Many parents admit that of all the transitions in life, empty nest can be the most difficult. We see an increase in divorce at this stage in life because the children have been the focus for decades.

Let’s look at four facts about the empty nest time:

  1. Life is made of seasons. Ecclesiastes 3 says, in everything there is a season and a time for every purpose under heaven …. There’s a time to be born, there’s a time to die and there’s a time to build up and there’s a time to tear down.  There’s a time to raise children and there’s a time to let them go. 
  2. Empty nest is one of the many normal losses.  The word loss here is used because you’ve been investing in your children every day and now that looks different.
  3. Just because you have an empty nest today doesn’t mean you’re going to have an empty tomorrow.  Thirty-six percent of millennials are living at home again with their parents.
  4. Empty nests make room for buried issues to come to the surface. When the last child leaves home, those areas in marriage relationships are now exposed. 

Understanding that these challenges may come during this season can help you to navigate them more effectively.

Today’s One Thing

Talk about empty nest with your spouse or a close friend if you’re a single parent. Pray together and ask the Lord to help you understand the season you are in and how to prepare for the seasons ahead.

At 75, Taking Care of Mom, 99: ‘We Did Not Think She Would Live This Long’

AT 75, TAKING CARE OF MOM, 99: ‘WE DID NOT THINK SHE WOULD LIVE THIS LONG’

Susan B. Garland

Lynda Faye, 75, and mother, Yetta Meisel, 99, and her mother’s cat

Not many years ago, Lynda Faye planned to spend her retirement gardening in Amherst, Mass., and visiting her eight grandchildren. Not on the list of golden-years pursuits: caring for a frail elderly parent.

Ms. Faye is 75, and her mother, Yetta Meisel, a widow, is 99. The former art teacher fills her days helping her mother bathe, making her meals, picking up medications, scheduling home aides and transporting a wheelchair for excursions.

“Ironically, we did not think she would live this long — she wasn’t all that healthy,” Ms. Faye said, noting years of painful stomach ailments and arthritis. Besides difficulty walking and some cognitive impairment, “she is doing fantastic.”

Ms. Faye and her mother are part of what many experts say is a growing phenomenon: Children in their 60s and 70s who are spending their retirement years caring for parents who are in their 90s and beyond.

Because of longer life spans, many adult children and their parents are now “aging together,” said Kathrin Boerner, an associate professor of gerontology at the University of Massachusetts Boston.

“People in their late 60s and early 70s thought this would be a time of life when some of their responsibilities would drop off,” Dr. Boerner said. “Even though it may be a gift to still have your parents, it can be really rough.”

Besides forcing Ms. Faye to abandon her retirement dreams, her mother’s longevity has taken a financial toll. In 2001, Ms. Faye, an only child, persuaded her parents to move to Amherst from Rochester, N.Y. They paid for an addition to Ms. Faye’s home, where they intended to live. Instead, her parents moved into a three-bedroom condominium nearby. Ms. Faye and her husband, who is 77, turned the addition into a bed-and-breakfast suite. “It was fun — I loved it,” she said.

After Mrs. Meisel’s husband died five years ago, she qualified for a state program that paid some of the costs of home aides. While Ms. Faye ran her B&B, she paid for round-the-clock care for Mrs. Meisel and her mother’s other expenses by dipping into a nest egg of about $250,000 that her father left. Within several years, the money was gone, she said.

On the advice of a financial adviser, Ms. Faye has put her house — with her “fabulous” gardens and an art studio — on the market. The B&B is closed. Ms. Faye and her husband moved into Mrs. Meisel’s condo, and her mother moved into a one-bedroom unit in the same building.

To save money, Ms. Faye cut back on the home aides. She cares for her mother three days a week, and Mrs. Meisel’s Social Security and the state program pay the balance for her care. The $200 left over each month from Mrs. Meisel’s Social Security payment does not cover the rest of her expenses; Ms. Faye said she chips in from a $1,000 monthly pension she receives from a government administrative job.

“Even though it may be a gift to still have your parents, it can be really rough,” said Kathrin Boerner, an associate professor of gerontology at the University of Massachusetts Boston.

With no assets of her own, Mrs. Meisel would be eligible for nursing home care paid by Medicaid. “I could have said to my mother, ‘Off to the nursing home with you,’ but I couldn’t say that to her,’” she said. As difficult as her responsibilities are, Ms. Faye said, she considers herself “incredibly fortunate” to have a mother with a good sense of humor and who thanks her regularly.

Dr. Boerner is using a federal grant to study the relationships of 120 parents who are 90 and older and whose children are 65 and older. She found that many late-in-life caregivers, typically daughters, suffer from their own failing health, which can worsen with the stress, physical tasks and isolation that often accompany caregiving. And the financial picture can become dire. “When parents outlive their resources, the child spends resources meant for their own later life,” Dr. Boerner said.

The situation can be difficult enough for families who are close and loving. But if the parent and child had a “toxic” relationship many years ago, the child can become particularly stressed as old resentments bubble up, and the quality of caregiving could suffer, she said.

The deleterious impact on an older caregiver’s health may continue after a parent’s death. One study found that married daughters who cared for their mothers were more likely than non-caregivers to become depressed and to develop high blood pressure. Single men had higher incidences of heart problems than non-caregivers. These conditions persisted after the parent died.

“It’s hard to get rid of these chronic conditions once you have them,” said Courtney Harold Van Houtven, a co-author of that study and a population health sciences professor at Duke University School of Medicine.

To alleviate stress and to stay healthy, experts recommend that late-in-life caregivers take breaks, get regular checkups, maintain social connections and exercise. Ms. Faye said her exercise regimen, Pilates and running her two Havanese through a dog agility course, “helps keep me sane.”

But taking personal time could depend on the family’s ability to pay for home aides, adult day care and other “respite” programs. Medicaid picks up some costs for people with limited assets, but the number of hours allowed differ by state.

To figure out what’s financially doable, it may help to seek professional advice. An accountant will calculate tax breaks for home care and other services. Local senior programs could offer guidance on free and reduced-cost programs, including counseling for burned-out caregivers.

geriatric care manager can estimate the costs of different kinds of support a parent may need over time, said Steven A. Starnes, a certified financial planner with Grand Wealth Management in Grand Rapids, Mich. With these assumptions, a financial adviser can assess what the caregiver can afford.

A financial review, Mr. Starnes said, may “help people get more comfortable with spending money on some level of support” — perhaps adult day care once a week. But children who are draining their own retirement savings should consider a nursing home that accepts Medicaid, and then pay for restaurant outings and other extras, he said.

“I don’t recommend putting your own financial security at risk to help your parents,” Mr. Starnes said. “Of course, it’s easier for me to say it than for someone emotionally to do it.”

Even when they do not pay for care, many older caregivers make financial sacrifices. In some cases, children, particularly women, are retiring earlier than they planned or are cutting back on hours, experts say.

Americans’ longer life spans mean more families are “aging together,” as researchers call the trend.
Americans’ longer life spans mean more families are “aging together,” as researchers call the trend.

Margaret Willits, 70, and Judi Flamenbaum, 72, who are sisters, left full-time professional jobs to care for their mother, Frances Silverstein, a 100-year-old widow. The three live in a two-bedroom apartment in Brookline, Mass.

Three years ago, when she was 97, Mrs. Silverstein was living alone in Brookline, and Ms. Willits was working full time as a nurse in charge of assessments at a nearby nursing home. She cooked her mother’s meals, did her laundry and ran errands. “I was no spring chicken, and I was doing all this running around,” Ms. Willits said.

Mrs. Silverstein’s walking ability had declined, so Ms. Willits decided to move her mother into the nursing home, where she could keep an eye on her. Mrs. Silverstein paid the facility with the roughly $20,000 in her Individual Retirement Account, and Medicaid picked up the tab when those funds were depleted.

Four months later, the nursing home closed. The sisters decided their mother would not fare well in another facility, so Ms. Willits found a place large enough for three people. Both sisters are divorced.

Ms. Flamenbaum retired from her job at LaGuardia Community College in Queens and moved to Brookline. Ms. Willits had found another full-time job, and Ms. Flamenbaum planned to care for their mother while her sister worked.

“I loved my job,” Ms. Flamenbaum said. “It was a difficult time, and my friends thought I was crazy. We were going to travel.”

But the demands of caregiving forced Ms. Willits to cut to part-time administrative work she could do from home — a loss of earnings she said put a dent in her retirement savings. She had planned to work for two more years.

Mrs. Silverstein’s Social Security pays for part of the rent and some bills. Medicaid pays for an aide six hours a day for six days a week. When the aide is in the apartment, the sisters visit restaurants and museums, meet friends and go to the movies. “You have to be good to yourself,” Ms. Willits said.

Even with a knee replacement, Ms. Willits can move her mother from a chair to her walker. Ms. Flamenbaum’s scoliosis and osteoporosis make physical work more difficult. If their mother eventually needs additional care, the sisters said, she will probably move into a nursing home.

The sisters said they are preparing for their own longevity. Their apartment building is run by a nonprofit organization that provides a range of services for seniors, and they said they have told their children that they do not expect them to become caregivers. “I would not do this to my child,” Ms. Flamenbaum said. “Put me in a nursing home.”

Mrs. Silverstein says she keeps busy watching CNN and listening to books on tape. Though she and her daughters, she said, “don’t see eye to eye on certain things,” Mrs. Silverstein praised the care they provide.

“Their life has been really rough since I can’t really move too much,” she said. “I am very lucky — they have been wonderful in every way.”

I’ve Picked My Job Over My Kids

I’VE PICKED MY JOB OVER MY KIDS

Lara Bazelon

I am a lawyer, a law professor and a writer. I am also a divorced mother of two young children. I’m often asked some version of: “How do you excel at work and be the best mother you can be?”

Every working mother gets this question, which presupposes that a “work-life balance” is achievable. It’s not. The term traps women in an endless cycle of shame and self-recrimination.

Like many women, I often prioritize my job. I do this because, as the head of a single-parent household, I’m the sole breadwinner. My ex-husband, who has joint custody, is an amazing father and my life would be impossible without him. Neither of us pays the other support.

My choice is more than a financial imperative. I prioritize my work because I’m ambitious and because I believe it’s important. If I didn’t write and teach and litigate, a part of me would feel empty.

In 2013, I was the trial lawyer on a case to free an innocent black man improbably named Kash Register. As a teenager in 1979, because of police and prosecutorial misconduct and witnesses who lied, he was condemned to serve life in prison for a murder he did not commit.

Thirty-four years later, he was still behind bars. Even though we had presented the district attorney’s office with what we believed was overwhelming evidence of my client’s innocence, it insisted on what was essentially a retrial in front of a judge.

At the time, my son was 4 and my daughter was 2. One month before the retrial started, I moved from San Francisco to a tiny apartment close to the courthouse in Los Angeles. I went long stretches without seeing my children. They were lovingly cared for by their father, their grandmother, my son’s preschool teacher and my daughter’s babysitter. When I would fly home, I was often not fully present. My client needed me more than my children did. So he got more of me. A lot more.

During these months, my son had a lot of questions. “Why are you gone so much?” “Why are you always on the phone talking about that guy with the funny name?” I explained what was at stake. The good guys are fighting the bad guys. If we lose, it means racism won and a man’s life was destroyed.

“Are you going to win?” he wanted to know.

“That’s my job,” I said.

I have missed meetings to take my kids to the park or a museum, and picked them up early to go to karate class. Recently, I turned down an offer to teach an extra class for a significant amount of money because I didn’t want to lose that time with them.

But there is always another client to defend, story to write or struggling student who just can’t wait. Here are things I have missed: my daughter’s seventh birthday, my son’s 10th birthday party, two family vacations, three Halloweens, every school camping trip. I have never chaperoned, coached or organized a school event.

Sometimes my choices make me sad. My daughter’s seventh birthday was the worst. She cried, and I did everything I could not to. I felt sick to my stomach. But I had a trial starting the next day, six hours away.

I had picked the date, not the judge, because I knew that the other side wasn’t ready. Delaying even a few days would have meant losing a crucial advantage. I wasn’t going to risk it knowing what was on the line for my client.

Of course, I sometimes feel doubt, shame and fear. I know I’m not a “normal” mom, because my kids tell me so. I remind myself that this does not make me a “bad mom.” I also remind myself that if I were a dad, I would be getting accolades for all the times I scheduled a doctor’s appointment or arranged a play date.

I am proud of what I have accomplished. I am prouder that I can support myself and my children. But sometimes I wonder if my choices will damage them.

In 2017, my son’s third-grade class had a midday Thanksgiving potluck. Driving back from court, I dashed into the Whole Foods, bought the first thing I saw — a loaf of lemon poppy seed poundcake — and rushed over to school. The room was full of mothers with a smattering of dads. I was the only person in a suit. I put the lemon poppy seed loaf on a table, next to another mother’s homemade stew. My son looked over at me and winced.

After the meal, it was time for presentations. Each child had been given a piece of orange paper shaped like a leaf with prompts to answer: “I appreciate my parents because” and “this helps me to.”

One by one, the children stood up and read what they had written. Many of them talked about how much they loved their moms, because they made them delicious food or gave them a safe place to live.

I grew uncomfortable as I listened, my smile frozen on my face. What on earth was my son going to say when it was his turn? That he lived in two different houses and routinely ate boiled hot dogs and chicken fingers while his mother told true crime stories? That he had once told me, politely, as we sat down to dinner, “Mom, I think you forgot the vegetable”?

My son was one of the last children to speak. He stood up and, in a clear voice, said: “I appreciate my parents for being lawyers because they get people out of jail. This really helps me reflect, do the right thing and have positive role models.”

He looked over at me, the barest hint of a smile on his face. I wanted to leap out of my pint-size chair, raise my fists in the air and yell, “That’s my boy.” I have his orange leaf on the wall in my office. Sometimes I look over at it when I’m working late at night.

I hope my kids get it. I think they do. I love them beyond all reason, and their existence gives my life profound meaning. And I have the same feelings about my job.

Why Are Pregnant Women So Sweaty?

WHY ARE PREGNANT WOMEN SO SWEATY?

Jessica Grose

A lot of parenting questions boil down to: Is this a thing, or is something wrong? We’re doing an occasional series explaining why certain things seem to happen to your kid (or to your body or to your relationships) as your child grows. This week, we’re talking about prenatal and postpartum night sweats. 

For this week’s edition, I put out a call on Twitter for questions about your weird prenatal and postpartum symptoms — and, wow, did you all deliver. In a beautiful and bizarre outpouring, you told us about painful carpal tunnel, constipation, thyroid malfunctions, excess drool, itchy nipples, strange divots in your thighs and shins that won’t go away, cured aversions to cilantro … the list goes on, because the human body is a magical, horrible wonderland. I tallied the responses, and by my extremely unscientific calculations, night sweats seemed to be the most common unexplained symptom from our respondents (e.g., “I had to sleep on a beach towel because of all the sweat and the milk leaking”). So that’s what I’m delving into today.

Q: Are pregnant and postpartum night sweats really a thing?

A: Waking up with a soaking nightgown during or after pregnancy is common. In a study of about 430 women published in 2013, for instance, researchers found that 35 percent reported nocturnal hot flashes while they were pregnant, and 29 percent reported them postpartum. In pregnant women, night sweats peaked during week 30, while in postpartum women, they peaked during the second week after birth.

Why it’s happening is a little more complicated, so we asked four ob-gyns and a researcher who has studied night sweats about what might be going on in your body, and what you can do about it.

Why are pregnant women so damn sweaty?

The short answer is, we don’t know for sure, because there’s a lack of systematic research on the topic (more on that in a bit). But it probably has to do with their ever-shifting hormones.

During pregnancy, there’s a huge rise in the levels of progesterone and estrogen. Once you give birth, the levels of those hormones fall off a cliff.

Rebecca Thurston, Ph.D., a professor of psychiatry and director of the women’s biobehavioral health program at the University of Pittsburgh who studies night sweats and hot flashes, said that nocturnal hot flashes in pregnancy seem to mirror hot flashes in menopause, and that those hormonal fluctuations might play a role. (Several of the experts I spoke with said that prenatal and postpartum night sweats were a rehearsal for menopause … yay?)

Do all pregnant women get hot flashes?

No. While every person who has given birth experiences these hormonal fluctuations, not all of them get night sweats, and we still don’t fully understand the underlying physiology as to why this might be, said Dr. Thurston. More than just hormones are probably causing the hot flashes, and they don’t just happen at night.

The hormonal shifts are part of a complex set of changes that happen during pregnancy, said Dr. Jen Gunter, M.D., an ob-gyn, frequent New York Times contributor and author of “The Vagina Bible.” (Dr. Gunter said she remembered sweating so much at night when she was pregnant with triplets that she’d think, “my bed is a swimming pool.”) “There’s an increase in body temperature, and there’s changes in the blood vessels — they dilate more and increase blood flow to the skin,” said Dr. Gunter. So some women may find that they’re more sweaty in general, not just at night.

According to what little research has been done, African-American women and women with depressive symptoms are more likely to report night sweats during pregnancy and the postpartum period. Women with high pre-pregnancy B.M.I.s were also more likely to have night sweats during pregnancy but not necessarily postpartum.

I find the connection between night sweats and depression particularly intriguing, as there is evidence that women who were depressed during and after their pregnancies may also be more sensitive to hormonal shifts.

What can we do about our sweaty, sweaty bodies?

First, report your night sweats to your doctor or midwife, said Dr. Dara Matseoane-Peterssen, M.D., chief of general obstetrics and gynecology at New York-Presbyterian Allen Hospital. If you’re experiencing other symptoms along with night sweats, such as a fever or a racing pulse, that may be a sign of a more serious problem, such as an infection or a thyroid issue.

If your sweats aren’t a sign of something more serious, exercising can be an effective first line of attack — whether you’re pregnant or not. Dr. Julie Chor, M.D., an assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Chicago, said there’s some evidence that women who exercise are less likely to experience nighttime hot flashes than women who don’t. While experts aren’t sure why this may be, exercising during and after your pregnancy is beneficial to your health in general, so you might as well try it (as long as you’re following safe exercising guidelines).

Focusing on creating an optimal sleep environment can help you avoid creating a veritable saltwater marsh in your bed, too. If your household and energy bill can tolerate it, set your bedroom’s temperature to around 65 degrees at night, said Dr. Thurston. Dr. Colleen Denny, M.D., assistant clinical professor in the department of obstetrics and gynecology at N.Y.U. School of Medicine, also suggested keeping cool water and a cold compress by your bed, and dressing in layers so you can take them off as the night, and your sweating, progresses.

As a fellow night sweater during pregnancy, my personal suggestion is to keep a second set of night clothes by your bedside so that you can make a quick change out of your wet pajamas in the middle of the night without groping around in the dark.

Why don’t we know more about night sweats?

“There are major gaps in knowledge about women’s health and women’s bodies,” said Dr. Thurston. Women overall have been less likely to be represented in clinical trials, because researchers have historically been men. And pregnant women in particular are “severely underrepresented,” in part because of fear of harm to their fetuses. Many of the experts I spoke with mentioned that we’re just starting to care about the health of the mother, and not just the health of the fetus, as vital to the overall health of the pregnancy.

But there is also a lack of study on the day-to-day experiences of women, said Dr. Gunter. Something like night sweats could just be a “nuisance” symptom — which is to say, uncomfortable but ultimately not harmful. But these sorts of symptoms could also be associated with better or worse pregnancy outcomes, and “we don’t know because they haven’t been studied,” Dr. Gunter said. In preparation for our interview, Dr. Gunter scanned her copy of the latest edition of a 1,400-page medical text book, and there were just two lines about sweating, referred to as “increased cutaneous blood flow” — she couldn’t even find the word “sweating” in the index.

Dr. Thurston emphasized the importance of reporting these kinds of symptoms to your midwives or doctors, not just to rule out serious problems, but also to add to the body of knowledge that exists on women’s health. “The more we know about these symptoms in the medical community, the more we can generate research around them,” she said.

%d bloggers like this: