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March 15, 2021

Caregiver Dating

Caregiver Dating

J Smiles believes that dating is self care. The problem is she cannot seem to secure a date.  She takes the listener on a journey of her pre-caregiver dating existence. 

After Zetty's ALZ diagnosis, there is so much sacrifice, routine, schedule, doctor's appointments, sorrow and exhaustion often J is too overwhelmed to try.

J Smiles shares humorous positive and negative caregiver dating stories. She doesn't see a clear pattern. But she is focused on figuring it out. 

Can caregivers have a healthy dating life?

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J Smiles:

I was so excited. It was going to be a big night, the kind of night where you need appointments, just to be ready. Manicure pedicure, waxing, the underarms, got to get that pit cleared out, as well as the bikini line. I was going on a date. Yay, me. Threading for my brows. I don't really like the waxing of my eyebrow. Threading is much better for me and getting my hair done. Color is a big deal for me. I am natural with my curl pattern. I am not natural with my color. I had my outfit already set, a heel about two and a half just shy of three inches because we were supposed to be going to dancing, to a great seafood restaurant. Seafood is my favorite cuisine, if that's the cuisine, I don't think it is but whatever. Anyway, seafood was what I picked. Wow was I excited? So I'm rushing around getting all this stuff done, so excited and then bah bah bah, bah, bah. That's my alarm, it's not even a damn date, y'all, it's a freaking dream. Parenting Up, caregiving adventures with comedian J Smiles, It's the intense journey of unexpectedly being totally responsible for the well being of my mama. For almost a decade, I've been chipping away at the unknown, advocating for her, and pushing Alzheimer's awareness on anyone in anything with a heartbeat. Spoiler Alert- I started comedy because this stuff is so heavy, be ready for the jokes. Caregiver newbies, OGs, village members trying to just prop up a caregiver, you are in the right place.


Hi this is Zetty. I hope you enjoy my daughter's podcast. Is that okay?

J Smiles:

Today's episode, caregiver dating. Don't laugh at me Parenting Up family, it's not funny, that is so true. I have dreamed about so many delicious dates since I've been a caregiver, I could make a year's worth of podcast episodes. Let me just say before becoming a caregiver, I wasn't a hoe or a whore depending on where you live. I wasn't a floozy, or prostitute. I want to be clear. I was not that I wasn't a woman of the night, but I had a very healthy dating relationship. I was friendly with the guys. They liked me and I like them back, let's put it that way. I enjoy dating. I am affable. I appreciate a good meal. I like to dance. I like sporting events. I like traveling. I love conversation. Okie dokie. I mean, listen, I like politics. I'll even talk about abortion. Hey, I'm Catholic, and I almost married a Muslim. You see where I'm going with this? One thing they never told me in the caregiving one on one class, which by the way doesn't exist, but even the people who were ushering me into the Hey, Jay, as you start to care for Zetty these are the things you should look out for. Nobody prepared me for the cosmic shift in the dating world. So I'm about to tell it, tell it tell it. I'm accustomed to having multiple dating options at once. I did not mislead man, nope, I don't believe in that. But I will say this. If I didn't tell somebody's son that he was my man and we were dating exclusively, then he should think the opposite. You feel me? Yeah, that's how that goes. Here's the deal, I'm single, didn't have any kids, I lived in quite a few different states and cities in a few different countries, so I met a variety of guys, and we enjoyed each other. My motto was more can't we all get along love and be friends, you know what I'm saying? was never quick to fall fast in love and try to get married. I've never lived with someone. I've never been engaged at date. I grown folks date, you know, the kind of, I, I umm I have adult sleepovers, that's what I do. Let me see I've had adult sleepovers and let's say five, five continents. I've had fruitful adult sleep over relationships, very loving kind relationships. I could contact all of these men right now, no love lost. I like the mamas the Mama's like me. Hell, okay, no I was about say I could call the wife. That's not true you can let me know what FYI, you should never call the wives, hat's just not a good idea across the board. But anywho I've been nimble with this dating thing for decades. Dating all kinds of guys, different religions, different socio economic backgrounds, different nationalities, different races, different political views. Like, I'm Jay, I could do this. I put that caregiver hat on, all of a sudden, it's like I have the plague. I can't give a date away. I'm like hey, how about if I take you on a date and pay for everything and I hand you my panties? No, still not? Awful. I didn't actually hand the panties, for anyone who's listening that may have known my grandmother. When you're a caregiver, and you're not currently in a relationship, it is very tough to start dating. That's what I found. I can only talk from my perspective. I promised that I'm gonna keep it honest and I'm gonna be transparent about my journey. As I talked about in episodes, one, two and three, the onset of Alzheimer's for Zetty was so abrupt and extreme. I shut down my dating just to catch up to life. Jocko my dad had just passed and Zetty's illness washed over me like a tsunami. I couldn't manage dating anyway. But hell, you know, within a year or so I was ready you know to dust off my skirt, put on my heels, and get back out there. The first couple of times, I went to happy hours, which is a normal thing for a woman my age. After work go to happy hour to get some drinks, listen to some music , get some appetizers it's grown ass people there, you try to figure out what man is there that looks single. You checking out to see does he have a wedding ring on? Does the ring finger look like it has an indentation that he just takes the wedding ring off? Does he seem to have a difference in skin tone? Y'all know what I'm talking about? Is the band with a ring would have been five skin tones lighter? Or is he keeping his left hand in his pocket? Or behind his back and he won't show it to you all that kind of stuff. Weird. I ain't talking to you. I meet a guy. We go out for drinks after the happy hour, ot that very same night, but the next week. It's feeling like okay, cool. I'm back out there. Y'all, when I tell him, this is my schedule, I can meet you on these dates for these blocks of time, like Tuesday and Thursday, from 6 to 10. I was so honest, but that was early on when I literally only had one caregiver and I had all the other shifts. So I had to be my butt back home by 10pm. We went on a few dates. It felt promising ultimately dude thought I was lying? Yeah, when I told him I was my mom's caregiver and that I needed to be home you know, by a certain time. When he said he was honest with me and "he was like, you know, I just it just doesn't quite feel right. You know at this meeting you but I really kind of like you and it. I don't know, maybe I don't know. I just doesn't sound right. I don't know. It just didn't feel right, Jay. I don't know You don't you don't owe me anything. It's fine. You're a grown woman." This dude thought that either I was married or involved with someone or being dishonest. I was like, Are you freaking kidding me? Like, first of all, you're right, iam a grown ass woman. I don't have to tell you anything and if I was going to lie who comes up with that as a lie? That is the wackiest lie ever. My mom has Alzheimer's, I'm her caregiver, and I have to be home by 10. Ah. I tried the recycle play the old rinse and repeat, a guy that I dated previously. Hey, how you doing? I'm thinking, well, he knows my situation. He's fully aware, my father died recently, my mom has Alzheimer's. I know he's not married. I mean, as much as you can know, you never know what I mean. He could be married to somebody in Croatia. I'm not about to do all that. I'm not chasing down people on the.com. I'm thinking this is gonna be cool. This dude literally only wants to have sex. It's almost like because our previous relationship was a very involved romantic relationship that did have sex, he just wanted to skip all the other stuff and thought I was just calling him for a booty call. Now. I am not saying that I was against having sex with him, but I was like, dang dude, like, Ccan we hold hands, can you open the door, can you give me a cracker? Like I wanted some dating and because I knew he had it in him,I'm like, dude, I know you are fully aware of how to date me. Is it because you think I'm desperate? I mean, I am a little desperate. But damn, are you on some oh, yeah, you know, Jay is at the bottom right now. You know, life has kicked her in the whoo ha. She called me on some oh hey let's hang out. So I'm just, hey, hang in with her. I was like, dude, I thought we had a greater respect for each other than that. He was so lazy. I mean, like zero effort, so they didn't work out, strike two. The good old blind date of friend setting me up that has never worked for me. Not one single time in my entire life. I don't know if it means my friends don't know me that well. Or if my friends don't know, the guys that well, since elementary school that has not worked. Not one single solitary time, but I thought well, hey, why not? Let's give it a shot. This guy sounded good on paper. Sounded caring, understanding, better than anything, guess what, he sounded busy. Yes, he was five or six years older than me. He had an extremely demanding job. Two grown children and he lived in another state. Right, look at this, his is going to be fantastic because he can't expect to see me every night and he had a lot on his plate. Boom. Let's do it. Y'all, talking to him on the phone was like listening to paint dry. Do you hear me? I was like, oh my god are you serious? I'm not a difficult woman to date. I don't believe but I guess you'd have to ask the guys who've dated me. But I thought about it like this, it's already long distance and the phone conversation is putting me to sleep. What the hell is the point in pouring more energy into it? If he's busy? I know I'm swamped. Hey, we gave it a shot. Yeah, then I talked to my therapist, I was like, okay, so am I not supposed to have a boyfriend? Is it wrong that I'm looking for one? And she said Jay seriously, no it's not wrong, just be patient and I thought oh okay, well I've been looking for more than six months and this feels awkward. So then I went to my pastor. I am literally talking to Father Vic, my priest, and he's laughing at me. He's like, there you go again, Jay. Gon make God's time, your time. I'm like, listen here, ain't nobody trying to make God's time, my time. All I'm saying is, I've already thrown my whole life away and everything I was enjoying doing and I'm becoming a caregiver. Can I get somebody to push me on the swing at the park? That don't sound like a lot does it? It is, I got to push myself on the swing, you know how hard it is to push yourself on the swing when you grown because first of all, the swing is too low to the ground and then my knees are up to high, so then my toes don't give me the right amount of push. Ah Finally I locked in, I met a guy, and I just felt it as soon as I met him, he actually was an employee for a care agency. And I thought, look at the man from heaven. He fully understands everything about my world. He was maybe three years older than me divorced, like sounds even better. And newly divorced. So guess what Parenting Up family, he didn't even want something to be serious. I've hit the dating jackpot. The lottery, mega millions, okay, not millions let's just say the pick three. He's not trying to fall in love. He doesn't want to deep and fast. He had been married for a long time and he just was looking to date casually, like cool. He was super attractive, ery good to me, we had instant chemistry. Man, he respected me, my time, my personality, the fact that I was comedian and a caregiver. He loved to cook. What this was how I knew I was ready. I said, Lord, I'mma act right. I actually called my best friend, my cousin and said y'all I'm gonna act right. None of them believed me, but that's okay. I believed in myself. We traveled together. We went skiing, we went to several basketball games, rode motorcycles, went boating, jogging, we enjoyed so many of the same things. We both like physical fitness and we dated probably almost a year, which as a caregiver, let me tell you, I felt like I'm ride this thing out, we can do this. As long as I'm a caregiver, it felt that comfortable because I didn't have to explain anything to him. As a caregiver it's so often that I'm having to define what my life really means because the language that I use, it happens to be common everyday words, like my mother requires special attention and that sounds a lot like a parent to a young child. And I'm like no, it's not quite the same. Or a person may say oh, I understand. I had to help my sister recover from chemo or my uncle recover from a stroke. I'm like yeah, but you're saying recover, there was actually the promise of recovery. There was a plan that the medical team gave you to recover, and they had cognitive skills. My mom doesn't have that. And the doctors and nurses don't ever fully understand where Zetty is like ever, ike not a one. They always ask her questions that are way too advanced for her to answer and they ask a sequence of questions. I was just calling you today to see how you were feeling and if you had anything to eat- calling today, how you feeling, if you had anything to eat, that's three things, Zetty is blown. Anyway, I digress, b ut you're probably used to that by now. He understood all of that language, so I didn't have to explain it. It was so comforting. Actually, he was the only person in my whole world that I didn't have to explain anything to I could lay in his arms and melt. I felt protected and amazed. And guess what? He messed around and fell in love with your girl, yep. He was the one that said, J Smiles. You are perfect for me. You're a little bit younger. You're very busy. You don't want kids. You don't want to get married. I'm coming out of an extremely long marriage. I'm recently divorced. I don't even want to get serious. I was like, you're right. I am the woman for you. And then he fell in love, and he wanted more. Now the great thing was, he didn't beat me up emotionally about it. He didn't say like, oh, you're such an awful person. Why can't you see me more? Why can't we move in together? He told me Jay, I realized that what I want you can't give me and that is actually unfair for me to want it. But I also refuse to keep wanting you so intensely. I was like, no, it sounds like you bout to quit me, are you about to quit me? He's like, yeah I am. I was like, No, wait, hold on....don't do it, don't do it, don't do it. But he shared with me that the week before, he actually had a panic attack because he was holding in so much stress or anxiety about our relationship. We had a weekend trip plan to go to the mountains, very romantic. It was gonna be awesome and emergency happen and I had to cancel. We were going away for two days, nothing extreme, it didn't even involve an airplane. He was able to get all of his money back. But he wasn't able to get the time with me. And in that moment, he said he realized the inability to pinpoint a schedule with me was more that he could swallow or stomach or take. I thought well shit, me either. I didn't want to miss the chance to go to the mountains to do all the things you had planned for us either, dear sir, sweetheart, loverboy. Not only did I miss the trip, now you break it up with me? Great. Not. And you're the one that just do it the most. We had an awesome conversation. I'm starting to sweat right now recording this podcast. It was intense because I knew he cared deeply about me and that he actually understood because his father died of a terminal disease, cancer. He was once a caregiver and in his current employment, he worked for an Alzheimers care agency. Hell, if I can get it to work with this dude, that was a hard pill to swallow. I have not been as open to love since then. I have been on dates, but I wouldn't call it serious dating, where I knew that my mind and my heart were available for the taking, so to speak. Online dating has been suggested, that's not my style. I don't knock it. I have some very dear friends who have found extreme success, it's not my cup of tea. My dating expectations have shifted. Companionship, that's the key word now, non platonic, opposite sex companionship. No big title, no long list of expectations. Respect, mutual affection, affinity care, and concern, if I can find that I would tap dance all the way to China. Cuz y'all right now, my bench has not been this empty since sixth grade. I don't have a starting team, I don't have nobody on the second string, I don't have a waterboy, I don't have a towel boy it's a mess. I don't even know if there's anybody even in the gym, watching the practice. I guess the universe has decided to sweep my whole life clean to bring a new group, or maybe one new person, but whoa, Lord have mercy. There are a few things that I figured out that worked very well for me when I'm dating and that is being so super clear about my time and time management. If we are going to a 7pm movie on Friday night, I need my guy to know, honey, you can't just on a whim decide that we're going to the 6pm movie, or the 9pm movie, we said the 7pm movie, you can't just switch it, because I might be the caregiver later that night so I got to get back home. And I go through ridiculous nauseating detail in explaining how my caregiver schedule works with a guy that I'm dating. Now, sometimes that might end up running them off. Whatever, it is what it is, I've made the decision that I rather you know, upfront and I can also know, the Juke a really flow with me like that it's cool, that's fine. Balance, there are times when I need to be alone. I made sure that the guy that I'm dating understands that, hey, baby, listen, I am J Smiles. I'm doing these comedy shows. I got this podcast, and then there are times where I am all in as my mom's caregiver. I am definitely with you. We are dating. We're going on vacation. We're hanging out. We're going to dinner. We're hanging out with your boys, what have you. But there are times when I need to be O.F.F where I don't show up for anybody. I need you to respect that. Please don't think I'm cheating. I don't like you or I'm mad with you when I need to unplug. Because just because I'm not on shift with my mom or I don't have a J Smiles show doesn't mean I'm supposed to be all up under you, sir. I love you, snuggles. super big thing that I have to work on. Every time I start dating someone, the guilt, the guilt of making time for some new guy that I don't even know if he's an asshole. I am taking time away from Zetty to get to know a human who could be a total jerk, a thief, a killer, how do I know and that small inkling of Jay is this worth it, is this person worth your time? The guilt of should you be doing this or should you just be sleep or should you have given your caregiver the night off and you be honest here for Zetty? Oh, man, the number of times that runs through my brain, some level of guilt is heavy. Because I don't know if this guy is lame or a lover or a lifetime? No, no, but I also know that as a caregiver, self care is important. And having meaningful relationships that replenish my soul count. I'm worth it. I have to try, but now if I go out with a guy and, you know, we know when we know women and men we usually know within a couple of dates if it's not worth it. I tell you this, now that I'm a caregiver, I don't give as many additional chances on the Oh, I don't know. The conversation wasn't that great, but it wasn't awful. I mean, I don't have anything else to do tonight, I guess I could go out with him again. Cut that shit. I don't do that anymore. My mind, my time, my everything is to important for that. Parenting Up family as caregivers, don't use people. I also figured out with one guy, he was kind of using me. It took me a minute to realize this. He was magnetically attracted to me because he was needy and he saw how I loved on and cared for Zetty and thought, Man, she'll make a good wife one day. He didn't use those words specifically, but that is why he was so willing to be patient and flexible with my schedule, my temperament, my needs, my wants. He was like, you know what, she doing all that for her mama, let me get in here and put this good love on her. What she gonna do for me? Thinking uh oh, uh oh, look at that baby boy has his own deficiencies that he thought I could complete. In my mind I was like, oh honey I'm not this nurturing regularly, this is Zetty, like, this is some for Zetty only. I've never done all this kind of stuff for somebody else. I'm not saying it won't happen for other people, but I've never seen it. I have never seen me this selfless, nurturing. patient ever I'm looking at him like, oh honey, I don't know if you should wait on that. Caregivers, if you're dating someone, or if someone is showing some interest in you, be honest with them about your limitations. If it appears that they might want to be married, or maybe they want kids or they want to move in with you and you're not sure if that's what you want, go ahead and have that conversation. Do not be afraid to have the tough conversation. It's better to have the conversation than wait. The idea that all man you know, at least I have someone here, there's someone to give me friendship, companionship, spend some time with me, help me run errands, I don't want to make it too hard, too serious, or get too deep or too heavy too quickly and then they leave and then I'm alone. This is not to suggest that the first five minutes into your date, you ask them for their social security card and tell them to move in with you. But what I amoffering is that you be honest about your parameters. You should know your own parameters before you start dating. You're a caregiver, that's a large responsibility. It doesn't matter if your loved one lives with you, lives in another state, lives in a facility, you have taken on some level of legal, emotional, physical, financial responsibility. And anyone who you may choose to get involved with should be aware. It's fair. I believe it's fair, let's put it like that. I believe it's fair. My experience is solely as a single woman, caring for my mother. Dating as a caregiver can become much more complex. If you're caring for a loved one who happens to be your spouse. I am saying zero. I do not have any advice on that. Agingcare.com and the caregiverspace.org both give great insight to that situation where you are a caregiver to your spouse, and you're looking to date. Because I'm a caregiver, I am much more covetous of my being, self care demands that I not allow negative boyfriends or a ton of bad dates to stack up and take over my life, how cool is that? Before I was a caregiver, I might not have been as conscientious but now let me tell you something, ain't anybody got time for that. My mental well being is way too important. My energy, my vibe, my everything. Dating should be a value add. It should be fun and exciting. Yeah, I know a little bit of work sometimes mightget my feelings hurt, like when oh boy ended up breaking up with me because he fell in love, which was against the rules. We decided we weren't gonna do that, but I am fantastic, so I can't blame him for falling in love with me, I guess I mean, I would have fallen in love with me too. Okay, I'm kidding. I'm not kidding. I don't know, whatever, I've never been in love with me, but I guess there's a great thing to do. A date or dating, a full blown romantic relationship bring all of it as long as it is a value add Otherwise, keep it. I'm good. The snuggle up- number one, dating is a form of self care, give it a chance. Number two, know what you're looking for, from this new relationship. Not that you need a whole contract or a laundry list, but have a framework. Have an idea of what it is you hope to get out of this relationship so that you are not going into it blindly nd you can be honest with ourself and this other person rom the very beginning. Number hree, have fun. You're a aregiver, do not intentionally dd anything to your life that oesn't have fun as the oundational component. Number four, join me every Monday night or a video broadcast. a bodc st. It's a video podcast, it's a l about caregiving, but a c mpletely different topic than w have here. Same title, P renting Up in partnership with g tvokal.com. Follow us on soc al media, Parenting Up has a pre ence on YouTube, Facebook and Instagram with unique car giving content. That's it for now. Thank you for lis ening. Please subscribe for con inuous caregiving tips, tri ks, trends, and truth. Pretty retty please with sugar on top, hare and review it too. I'm a omedian, Alzheimers is heavy, bu we ain't got t