Sabbath for Caregivers and Helpers

Sabbath for Caregivers and Helpers

Originally published in full at the Upper Room Ministries Blog.

As a child, I was taught that Sunday is a time for the Divine, when replenishment and slowing down was a guilt-free and natural part of life. God “rested” on the seventh day, and called it “good.” But through the years, finding time to rest in the stillness and presence of God has become a challenge for me. Sabbath, a day of “rest”? What’s that?

When I was more focused on unfinished tasks when I was supposed to be praising God, my sabbath living suffered. I made the mistake of not putting God first, and my body, mind, and spirit suffered from stress, tiredness, and anxiety. Then I realized that I didn’t need to recreate childhood and depend on Sunday family time and 11:00 a.m. worship to find a sense of sabbath again.

Through these experiences, I learned that I do my best self-care when I seek human connection and community experiences that hold me accountable, not when I just oblige and help others but pause and care for my own personal and spiritual needs: setting aside moments of quiet time, making quality time for loved ones, growing a closer relationship to God, moving my body at least 30 minutes a day. I need external expectations in order to follow through with these internal goals and needs.

I do best when the expectations of others actually help me take care of myself. When I was a child, I was expected to set aside time and go to church on Sundays. Sunday was a break from the normal routine of the busy week. Now, in our culture, Sunday has become just another day for errands, chores, shopping, doing business. We’ve lost something. We have lost the external expectation that we need to break from the norm and break from the busy.

I wrote For Sabbath’s Sake for “helpers” like me, who need a reminder that God put in place the perfect tool to fulfill our human needs: sabbath.

Helping Mom sneak in a milkshake, despite doctors’ orders to the contrary.

3 thoughts on “Sabbath for Caregivers and Helpers”

  • Shalom!

    I was very interested in this article because I thought it might address my problem of working on Saturday as a caregiver. I have worked with a 41 year old woman who is non verbal and cannot ever be alone due to her developmental disorders and is mentally about 3 years old. She would be a danger to herself if ever alone. Well I have always worked on Saturday with her, I actually work Friday evening until Monday morning, as nobody ever wanted the weekend shifts and to me it was not an issue. I include her at my Friday Shabbat meal with myself and my husband and often my grand daughters. We also stay at my home for the entire weekend and she is also included in the Saturday Sabbath. I guess I really do not know what to do at this point, my husband wants me to not work on Sabbath. Giving up the amount of hours for Sabbath would financially put a heavy strain on our finances and there are no other shifts available as my coworkers have been working their weekday shifts also for many, many years and they are not willing to switch or change shifts with me. I was told by someone that being a helper on Sabbath is a necessary position that is for a lack of better words exempt. Any advice or words of wisdom to help me move forward? I do consider keeping Sabbath with her valuable to her as well as myself.

    • Rachel–Shalom!

      Thank you for sharing your situation. You are encountering a similar circumstances that many clergy–rabbis, ministers, and chaplains–find themselves in. They work on the Sabbath to hold space and provide care for others. This is why many clergy choose to shift their own personal Sabbath practices to another day of the week, such that they can ensure they are embracing time for rest, worship, and community with a single focus. I admire and applaud your work; you are also holding space for your client, and that is the essence of Tikkun Olam. I’m wondering, too, how you may find balance: is there a way to take a few weekends off per year? This may help you also embrace true Sabbath time with your family. Meanwhile, on the weekends you work, consider how you may also add Sabbath practices during the week. Peace.

      • Dana – Shalom!

        Thank you so much for your response! I appreciate your input very much and I am happy that you took the time to answer my question. I do take off some time on the weekends here and there for family balance and since she stays at my home on Fridays nights, I am always able to have the Friday Sabbath meal with her and my family, which I believe is a true blessing to do it with her as well! I do studies just about every evening and your response actually helped me realize that I am doing just as you suggested by balacing throughout the week. I have been very torn over not being o bedient to the Torah, but also feeling like the work I do is important and forgiven as she needs me. Thank you so much for your valuable input! Truly you have made me feel so much better for the work that I do even if on Saturday!

        May Yahuah bless you and keep you!

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