Caregiving is both a vocation and an avocation for many women and men who find themselves caring for the parents, relatives or children who need them. Caregivers in San Diego have access to resources and support through the County of San Diego, through philanthropic organizations, and through local hospitals and foundations. Two local women brought their vision of another kind of group to the caregivers of San Diego with the Daughterhood circle, and this week we celebrate its second anniversary.

On September 21st, current, past, and even expectant caregivers gathered to celebrate the two-year anniversary of Daughterhood San Diego. The Daughterhood circle is a place for caregiving women to share stories, resources, and laughter, making the “daughterhood” journey a more meaningful one. What is the daughterhood journey? As the founders of the San Diego group, Karen Van Dyke and Christine Lee, say: “Daughterhood is what happens when we put our lives on hold to take care of our parents, our spouse, or another loved one. It’s shocking how hard and time-consuming it is. Daughterhood is the antidote, and the Circles are the place for the magic.”

This milestone celebration featured special guest Dr. Rhoberta Shaler, a relationship consultant, speaker, and author, who works with the partners, exes, adult children, and coworkers of relentlessly difficult people, aka “Hijackals™. She offered the insights, strategies, and support needed to reclaim hope, confidence—and sanity—when dealing with the constant uncertainty and jaw-dropping behaviors of Hijackals at home, at work, and especially as caregivers. The Daughterhood San Diego circle welcomed a ‘sold-out’ crowd at their anniversary celebration, filling the room at their usual meeting place in Mission Valley.

Co-founder Karen Van Dyke, founder of Senior Care By Design, said of the anniversary celebration, “This was the largest gathering of Daughterhood yet to celebrate our two years.  As we pick up more steam and more people learn about the Daughterhood Circle in San Diego (which was the first in the U.S.) we learn that there are now 17 other Circles around the country.  It is growing, so needed and such a soul filled place when we gather with really fabulous people!” Featured speaker Dr. Rhoberta Shaler, author of 16 books, wowed the circle with actionable strategies and tools that caregivers can use with the difficult personality she calls a ‘Hijackal’. Karen says, “Dr. Shaler gave us tips like “be a grey rock” (sometimes just don’t do anything), “trust someone’s behavior” (no explanation needed) and “No is a complete sentence” (might be our favorite!).  Hijackals are real, and Dr. Shaler is so passionate about this topic that she has written a book about it.  We left with tools to manage our caregiver role, especially as it relates to family and friends, as well as professionals providing services to our loved ones.”

The San Diego circle meets every other month, and has occasionally hosted speakers on, for example, California’s 2016 ‘Right to Die’ law, medical marijuana, and self-care for caregivers. Most of the meetings offer women and men a place to discuss the ‘daughterhood experience’, which is both real and universal. In the private group, issues such as the effect of caregiving on women’s heath, the toll on emotional well-being, and the impact on women’s careers are discussed. When they launched the circle, Christine and Karen hoped “that Daughterhood San Diego will function much like mommy groups who support one another in a fun and inclusive environment through the shared experience of caring for loved ones (not just aging parents – but to include spouses, friends, and family members as well.” The last two years have proven to offer just that to the San Diego circles’ members. The daughterhood concept is spreading, as currently there are seventeen other circles that meet regularly around the country in the Northeast, Southeast, Southwest, and the Midwest.

Fourteen San Diego women, daughters and caregivers attended the first meeting of the Daughterhood San Diego circle in September 2015, bringing this cherished concept to life. The San Diego circle is the country’s flagship circle, and is featured on the website: “The San Diego Daughterhood Circle, led by Karen Van Dyke and Christine Lee, has been meeting since the fall of 2015 and is our flagship daughterhood circle. Each meeting is a gathering of friends helping friends where laughter abounds, new ideas are created and peace prevails.”

Next week, in the second part of Caregiving in San Diego: Daughterhood San Diego’s Second Anniversary, we’ll learn about the special nature of the Daughterhood circle, and why the circles are growing.