Moving in with Mum
Maxine Corlette’s family made an extraordinary decision. Here’s how they found joy in their choice
You grow up, meet a partner, have some kids. Then the kids leave home and you downsize, take up a hobby or travel the world. That’s the way we’re told to expect our lives to unfold. But there’s another life phase that no one talks about - caring for an ageing loved one. The “unexpected” nature of this phase, means it can be fraught and disorienting when it happens- especially if we’re also responsible for children at the same time. But if you’re lucky and know where to look you can also find deep joy amongst the challenges. Just ask Maxine Corlette from Portsmouth. Her husband Damien’s mother suffered a series of critical illnesses which left her almost unable to walk. So Maxine and Damien made an unusual and momentous decision. They and their 10 year old son have moved into Damien’s mum’s house to provide full time support.
That’s not the only big change to Maxine’s life. She’s given up her job with special needs children in order to care for her mother-in-law and young son. That means keeping on top of crucial medical appointments as well as her son’s school work.
“It’s brought us all together “ she explains. “ My mother-in-law and son have their relationship which is lovely to see. Having her at the dining table and finding out how her day was, generally make things better. It makes it feel like we’ve made the right decision to all live together.” But it’s not all sweetness and light. “It can be tricky. We all have our moments.[ My son] is a lot more reserved now. But on the flip side he’s finding his voice and has the courage to tell you when he’s upset. Which for a boy is a very big deal.”
Going from career woman to full time career has led to her developing new ways of dealing with medical emergencies.
“I have to leave my emotional state to one side and take a step back. Then I put on the persona that will listen to instructions and get things done. Then when things are over - I take a breath. I can then process what’s happened.“ She likens it to being a hurdler - focusing on getting over the current crisis before turning her attention to what may be coming next.
The big question for Maxine - and so many others - is how to remain happy healthy and whole whilst caring for different generations. Being stretched to fulfill the needs of the young and the old doesn’t mean you have to ignore your own. In fact neglecting yourself can lead to burnout - which can be disastrous for career and cared for alike. One piece of advice that [the professional careers have all given me is when they are at the house and you are happy your parent is being looked after, take the time to go out.” It doesn’t have to be anything elaborate.
“Grab a coffee or go for a walk,” she says. “Whatever relaxes you, go and do it. So when you come back the weight is not as heavy. Allow the professional careers to do their job and take that time to rest. Even if it’s taking a nap - do it. I learned the hard way.“ Here are some great tips here on how to recognise and avoid carer burnout .https://www.carewatch.co.uk/how-to-avoid-carer-burnout/
THE LITTLE THINGS
So what advice does Maxine have for those who are suddenly plunged Into a caring role? “Take a breath. Get a notepad. Your life really does change. Get as much advice as you can from agencies like Help the Aged,” she says. “Speak to your library. They will have information about groups where you can take your [parent] to socialize”
The day to day business of caring is central to the lives of millions of people up and dew the country. But Maxine says it’s crucial not to allow the daily grind to blind you to the precious gifts these relationships can provide. “Elderly people have lived through history. They can tell you what it was like growing up in the East End during the war, or what it was like coming here as part of the Windrush generation. They are living history,” she says. “And then at some point, when it’s our turn, we will be living history too.”
Maxine stresses it’s also important to grab hold of moments of sheer joy. “Just remember it’s the little things, the moments of just pure happiness that will keep you going. Whatever you can do - have a chat with them, watch daytime tv, watch gameshows - it’s truly the littlest things that make the biggest difference. There will be trying times - but there will be good times too. And they will be so sweet.”
Since this interview, Maxine's beloved mother-in-law Brinette passed away peacefully in her sleep. Maxine believes the family's decision to move in together enriched all their lives.