Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Get-Away Plan

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A friend told me about an out-of-town trip she was taking alone. If you are the primary caregiver, you know the basics of the story, something along the lines of the following:

Primary Caregiver makes all the necessary plans for her trip. “I’ve checked schedules,” she tells her family. “’I’ve arranged rides and overnight care.” She books flights and hotel and reserves the rental car. She is confident all is well in her world…until about two weeks out.

“Where are you going? When? Don’t go. We need you!”

Guilt rears its head. “How will they manage? Am I insane?”

Caregiver plods forward…beating herself up mentally along the way. She works doubly hard to get everything ready. She not only packs for herself, but also arranges for even the tiniest detail that will occur while she’s gone. In my friend’s case, she had three sports-minded and super active children to make arrangements for.

Caregiver goes to the grocery store to stock the cabinets. She makes a last minute dash to the pharmacy. Having the family run out of anything while she’s away would be disastrous. The day before the scheduled trip she frantically handles last minute details, doubting herself the entire time. Caregiver answers questions while trying not to let negative jabs derail her.

“Too late,” Caregiver says to herself, “I couldn’t back out if I wanted to.”

With every item on the list checked off, Caregiver crawls into bed (two hours later than planned).

Let’s face it. Life is simpler when everyone has assigned roles and fulfills them. But when the Family Manger needs to take a short leave (whether business or pleasure), it’s no easy task to make sure all the fronts are covered. With careful planning, a Caregiver can leave town and everyone will survive. Here are some tips to help you prepare your family for your time away.

1. Create a schedule. A friend includes Google Maps for her sitters.

2. Don’t complicate the schedule. For example, reschedule the orthodontist appointment for when you are home.

3. Explain your travel agenda and how available you’ll be. Check in regularly, but also keep boundaries.

4. Arrange the pet sitters or any other odd job that you usually handle. Leave instructions for duties that are typically covered by you. Sharing these jobs with your children when they are old enough to be helping will make future trips easier.

5. Leave your family contact information.

6. Be sure everyone has access to cash.

7. In case of medical emergencies be sure your sitter or spouse has the insurance card and/or medical consent form.

8. Having a thought-out plan with back-ups you can count on is important whether you are leaving home on an emergency, a business trip or just for fun.

It’s usually the ‘fun’ trip that causes a Primary Caregiver the most anguish. It is good to remember the occasional trip to recharge, regroup, refuel your interests and desires and, yes, to have some fun along the way, can benefit not only the Primary Caregiver, but also her family when she returns invigorated and refreshed.

As my friend talked about how hard it was to stay on course, she said, “But the most interesting thing is what happened when I finally did get in my bed the night before leaving town. As I lay my head on the pillow with the intention of going over my to-do list for the morning, I realize I was ‘hearing’ something else in my head. I heard myself say, ‘I am so very, very happy.’”

What a great example to share with your children.

Allyn Evans
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