Review | The selfish pig’s guide to caring

Caring for a family member is often hard work, usually unpaid, and can be overwhelming. This book is about having a life outside of that role so you don’t spontaneously combust under the pressure. Essentially: self-care for carers.

The Selfish Pig's Guide to Caring

How it started

A colleague of Mumdrah’s read this book, Mumdrah put a photo of the cover on Twitter, and twenty minutes later I had seen some reviews, bought a paperback copy, downloaded a free sample for Kindle, and read two chapters. And yes, it is fabulous. I suggest you do likewise as soon as you’ve read this.

Self-care for carers

The premise of the book is that there are hundreds of books about caring for people and doing a better job of it and all the things the person being cared for needs from you, but this book is about looking after yourself and not becoming swamped by caring and losing sight of who you are outside of that role. In short: self-care for carers. With a sense of humour.

Of course I liked it. It ticks all the boxes: darkly funny, relatable, empathetic, often sarcastic, and a bit political (with a small ‘p’.)

The pig thing

The author sets the tone early on by announcing that he doesn’t know of a good name for the recipient of care, so he invents a pleasing acronym: ‘Person I Give Love and Endless Therapy to’, or Piglet, making the carer the pig. The ‘selfish’ bit comes in when we dare to think about doing something for ourselves and feeling bad about it. We shouldn’t feel bad. Self-care is a healthy survival strategy.

Excerpts

‘What’s so hard to take is not the reality of having to be self-reliant. There’s a lot of satisfaction in that. It’s the failure of expectations which catches you out. It’s like reaching for a banister on the stairs, discovering there isn’t one, and almost falling over the side. If you knew there wasn’t a banister in the first place, you wouldn’t have had any trouble climbing the stairs.’

‘Asking politely doesn’t always work. Hang on, maybe I should re-phrase that. Asking politely only works when you’re not dealing with Officialdom. In the case of Officialdom you have to insist, insist again, carry on insisting more and more loudly, bang the table and stamp your feet. It may be something you can do easily, something that’s completely in character. Or it may be the kind of thing you’d sooner die than do. Whichever, it’s almost certainly something you’re going to have to get used to doing. There’s almost nothing more likely to make you feel alone and isolated than attempting to communicate with a government department. So for your own protection, it’s best to develop a thicker skin. And for the sake of your piglet, ie if you want to get help for them, you’re going to be a more effective carer if you really concentrate on being a shameless, practised, determined, strong-minded, and utterly SELFISH PIG.’

Screenshots of bits I particularly liked from the Kindle version

pig 4

pig 1pig 2pig 3

Especially helpful

Chapter 19 is a list of potential sources of information and help. As this is a general book about caring, written from the perspective of a man caring for his wife (who has Huntingdon’s disease), some of it requires a bit of lateral thought to apply it to the adoption context and to your child(ren)’s specific needs. But beyond the usual triad of social services, the NHS, and the education system, it discusses the founts of knowledge and help that can be accessed through occupational therapists, carers’ support groups, the Citizens Advice Bureau, and a lot of creative Googling. I would also add ‘get active on Twitter‘ because there will be someone else who has been where you are and can share resources or at the least, make you feel less alone.

Summary

The core message of self-care for carers is a vital one. Carers of all kinds should read this book. Adoptive parents will find a lot to relate to. The stuff on dealing with ‘Officialdom’ is especially helpful (and amusing, assuming you share a rather cynical sense of humour about such things).

The details

The Selfish Pig’s Guide to Caring
Hugh Marriott
Piatkus
£9.98 (Kindle £6.99)
Second edition published June 2009


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