I’m a Carer, Unpaid But Never Unkempt

I got up today and thought about our schedule, I mused on our appointments, car journeys and finally licked a finger, stuck it outside momentarily to assess the weather; wind direction, chill factor, air pressure, moisture levels – mmmm – a nice day.

I thought we might take ourselves up the road, ascending the steep exit slope of our Everest like street via the South Col Route favoured by Sir Edmond Hilary. I looked at my footwear, all neatly laid out ready to be selected, and thought runners would be the most practical.

We intended to pop into the post office, the bank, the supermarket and have coffee – what to wear? I remembered being at Royal Ryde Rehab on similar days wearing skirts, I love skirts, and my weakness for pretty flared, cotton print designs was responsible for many embarrassing M&S exposures. My range of lingerie is known to most of Ryde, every time I lent over to be useful my skirt would swirl around my waist, alarming me and bystanders! Today 3/4 jeans would be practical.

Emily feels the cold and because she can’t regulate her temperature she often wears scarfs and jumpers even in the warmer weather. Whenever we travel in the car the passenger side is cranked up to heat her to 22C while I have the air con on its lowest setting as I waft in and out of hot flushes. I regularly suffer her abuse as I wind my window down to stick my tomato red face out into the cooling breeze whipping past, like a puppy, eyes closed, until Emily insists on me retracting my head due to oncoming traffic. I always throw a lightweight cardigan on to the back seat to ensure I’m covered for all eventualities. I picked a modest black number as the most practical.

Do I or do I not have time to shower ? Does that include washing my hair as that takes extra time because my conditioner needs 3 mins to nourish my dry ends….will I have time for make up? No one is looking at me so I can shave time off my tight routine by going barefaced. Quick shower, hair wash Sunday, Tuesday and Thursdays with make up on high days and holidays. Yes that is a practical approach. No one looks at my nails, I could wear the same outfit each day, changing every other week, that would reduce the washing! Yipee, that is incredibly practical.

STOP. I’m spiraling downward on this practical approach to dressing. I actually love clothes and my real Achilles is a kitten heel. I drift as elegantly as Audrey Hepburn in my mind’s eye, with a few Carmen Miranda moments in the ’80’s. I think the most depressing vision is catching a glimpse of myself passing a pane glass shop window always looking older, slightly shorter and slightly chubbier than I imagine.  So let me rewind; I am a carer but not invisible, if I start to act and dress invisibly I will become invisible.  The way I present compliments my family and friends and I’m here, right now, present and living and enjoying life so…..I will wear kittens or my new red wedges ascending Everest today. I will wear a skirt and gamble on the rude wind gusts. I will wear what I like, what suits me, hot flushes and all. I’ll take time in the shower because it makes me feel good, I want to be well presented and I’ll wear makeup because I’m not going to allow myself to be washed out as a carer. When I make an effort about my appearance I boost my self-esteem, my demeanor is positive and I feel creditable. I maybe unpaid but I’m never unkempt.

Dressing is the most basic social presentation, I dress for myself, I dress positively, to entertain my sense of style and I strive to hold myself well and then I feel the day change around me reflecting my inner confident vibe. I am a role model for my children and they aren’t slack in their attitudes, we bounce our energy off each other and generate vitality into our daily activities. I think Sir Edmund Hilary would have nodded his approval as I strutted up my mountain in heels, Audrey would have liked my style, Carmen would have heckled “Chica Chica Boom Chic” and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay would have been proud at the shopping I yomped home.

Being a carer doesn’t mean I lose myself behind the role. I am encouraging all my children to be strong, social and independent, I aim to lead by example, self care goes a long way towards expressing myself. Taking time and care when dressing is the simplest way to improve my mental well-being and a little modest self-pride can be powerfully uplifting on ordinary days. 

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