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Gretchen Staebler

Mother Lode: Confessions of a Reluctant Caregiver

August 3, 2023
4 PM PDT | 5 PM MDT | 6 PM CDT | 7 PM EDT

Mother Lode redefines ‘coming of age’ in the drama of an independent daughter who moves back to the family home to care for her 96-year-old mother. . . . Specific in detail, universal in appeal, told with wit, wisdom, and compassion. If you ever had a mother…if you ever had a family…if you ever wondered if you could go home again, Mother Lode will intrigue, delight, and open your heart.”

—Christina Baldwin, author of eight books, including: Storycatcher, Life’s Companion, and The Circle Way.

The story:
I had just turned sixty when I returned to my soul home in Washington state, after three and a half decades away, to accompany my elderly mother into her end years. I promised one year in my childhood home where my mother had lived for fifty years, then my sisters and I would find her a new home and I would return to my life. (Spoiler alert: it didn’t go as planned.) In our singleness—she from widowhood, me from divorce—we had both become happily independent, and quickly fell back into our menopause vs. adolescence relationship of decades earlier in our respective fierce resolves not to lose hard-won gains. My hopes of a new relationship with her before it was too late seemed out of reach.

As I met my mother’s advancing dementia, vision loss, and hypochondria with humor, frustration, and compassion—and wine and dark chocolate—I slowly came to accept and respect the mother I got, if not the one I wished for. In the process, I became a self-taught authority on aging and self-care. Especially self-care.

Writing the memoir: 
My memoir began as a blog. I was an experienced blogger—on the topic of life lessons from the garden I was restoring at my home in Raleigh, NC—and had fallen in love with blogging as a form of public writing without the anxiety of having to polish, submit, wait, repeat. As I dove deeper into reluctant caregiving, I desperately needed to write, unfiltered, about the experience that was challenging me to my core. I started a new blog, “Daughter on Duty.” Writing and the connections with other caregivers through the blog saved me.

I didn’t know the blog would become a book, but as I searched for memoirs that echoed my experience, I found only those that seemed to be written through the rose-colored lens of the look-back, when amnesia seems to set in. (How quickly we can forget trauma when it’s over.) I decided, with encouragement from attendees at a writing retreat, that I could write the book I wanted to read. It’s not always pretty, but it is always honest.

As a new author, I didn’t have the confidence—nor the time and desire—to pursue traditional publication. I thought I would self-publish—which I also knew nothing about—but then I discovered She Writes Press, coincidentally begun the year I moved across the country and began my caregiving story. I am grateful for the author support,  the professionalism it leant my book, and especially for the camaraderie of other SWP authors. I couldn’t have asked for a better option for me.

What listeners may gain from my presentation:

  • How one person’s story can be another person’s survival guide.
  • There are many story sharing avenues, including blogging and legacy writing. You don’t have to write a book.
  • There are many ways to learn about writing, publishing, and marketing without leaving home or spending a lot of money. And, in-person writing retreats are life changing.
  • There are no “rules” in writing; it’s okay to follow your own path.
  • It’s not too soon to be thinking about the last third of life, whatever your age.
  • You won’t find time for self-care, you have to make it.  And it’s critical.

Book themes:

  • Taking care of yourself while caring for another
  • Finding the helpers
  • Forgiveness—for yourself and your care recipient
  • Setting boundaries in caregiving
  • Restorying relationships

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Award-winning author Gretchen Staebler is a daughter, sister, mother, grandmother, and wandering adventurer who left decades of grown-up life on the East Coast at age sixty to return to the mountains, beaches, and rain of her soul’s home in the Pacific Northwest. As she reimagines life in its last third, she blogs about her adventures from coffee shops, her father’s desk, national park lodges, her tent—wherever she feels cozy. She lives with her cat, Lena, in her childhood home in a small city in Washington—the real one.

As a caregiver survivor and ally, she uses her experience to encourage and support those who find themselves in this challenging role and to help prepare those who anticipate it—as a family caregiver or as the cared for. She would love to virtually join your book club to discuss Mother Lode, aging, caregiving, and writing!

Resources for caregivers and fun stuff about the book: www.gretchenstaebler.com.

Newest blog about life after caregiving: www.writingdownthestory.com.

Book trailer: gretchenstaebler.com/book/trailer/

Mother Lode: Confessions of a Reluctant Caregiver is available wherever books are sold. (And maybe in your library!) www.amazon.com/Mother-Lode-Confessions-Reluctant-Caregiver/dp/1647422833

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