Oh, yikes. I was going to blog more regularly this semester. Oops. OK, maybe NEXT semester I will keep to it. I’ve just been SO busy and also, I’m not one to just blog to put it out there so bear with me while I try to do it as often as possible 🙂
I wanted to write about caregiving and how it affects our careers and work as women today because I think about this a lot. Every. Darn. Day. I want to talk about this because it’s important and I think a lot of women deal with it but maybe not very publicly. I am a mom to two wonderful kids and they certainly impact my work and my time but I also moved my grandmother in with us three years ago and I am her primary caregiver. She’s not chronically ill and she’s somewhat independent for 88, but she is always THERE. For a time I was a single mom with a grandmother to take care of. That was rough. But I acknowledge the privilege I have being an administrator in academia where I have sick time and a flexible schedule when necessary. Even with that, it all takes its toll.
I am really exhausted. Like, I am dragging myself to the end of the semester and some time off but then there’s also the dread of the time off. Do you ever have that feeling? Time off for a couple of weeks will be great but I will still have ALL of these people in my house. It’s overwhelming. And I am at the point in my life where I am beginning to recognize that this isn’t all working for me and that I need to make some big adjustments in 2017, mainly in regards to my grandmother’s care. So, first off, if you too are in a caregiving situation that is overwhelming and negatively impacting you, let’s make a promise to find a solution in 2017…a way to make it more manageable.
This post is probably way more personal than most of mine are. It’s also mostly for women, since caregiving is one of the most gendered things in this country. It’s not about running a library. It’s about trying to get a hold of the OTHER part of my life so that I can continue to run a library. And maybe it’s also about providing encouragement to others out there that you CAN be a bosslady and do all of this other stuff. This isn’t about self care. There’s plenty of blog posts, books, articles, and the like about that and it’s important. Definitely do it. This is just about the fact that women mostly become the caregivers to family members. Women often sacrifice their careers for that care. And I want us to support each other so that we don’t have to do that. Let’s climb the career ladder AND care for others and do it all like the fabulous women I know we are.
It’s also that time in the semester, right? We are all a little worn down and tired. We just had a big holiday and the world seems to be going straight to hell, so it’s all a little nerve wracking maybe to say the least. But, for me, and for many other women, the caregiving is on top of your job and your career. How do we do this? How do we balance it all and feel like we are doing the best that we can and still manage to maybe even excel in our careers and advance? How do we take care of healthy kids, sick kids, sick parents, grandparents, even healthy family members who aren’t completely independent? How do we do all of this and still manage to achieve our goals in our careers?
How do we, as women, still put enough energy into our career priorities to achieve our goals and take care of others?
I don’t know that I know the answer, but here is my short list of a few things I’ve done or am publicly committed to doing.
- I’ve worked a lot on paring down the things that I attend for school functions for my kiddos. (And I didn’t volunteer to be room mom this year either.) Major things like class parties: fine. Minor things like everyone gets a trophy for running around the block? No. There’s a big difference between I can and I should. If you have the time, it doesn’t mean you should. If you have a flexible schedule, it doesn’t mean you should. And here’s a thing I’ve learned….I’m the one that created the expectation in my kids that I can and should and WOULD attend EVERYTHING. So, this school year, we’ve dialed that expectation back. If I can and I want to because it’s important, I will. If not, GET OVER IT. (I’m trying really hard not be bothered by “but so and so’s mom was THERE.”)
- I take a work from home day. I realize this is a luxury but it’s the only day of the week not completely filled with meetings and I get a lot of reports/writing/scheduling done on that day. It’s invaluable.
- We have to ask for help. I need to make sure I am expressing my needs to my partner and to my grandmother’s other adult male children. If I am ignored by any of them, they need to make the conscious decision to ignore me. I am an avoider of conflict. I can’t do that anymore.
- I need to set firm boundaries in my own home and with my time.
- I need to do the research and find out what’s available and what our next steps are. Assisted and independent living are both options. So are more day programs. I’m going to spend my holiday break looking into those things so we can plan for the future.
- It might be time to think about family therapy. (I just squeezed my eyes shut as I typed that, in horror.)
- Everyone is updating their “paperwork” in December. Wills, living wills, etc. Myself included.
I’ve got to make these things a priority so that I can still think about my job and my own advancement, including my writing and my publishing or other professional opportunities that come my way.
If this is a topic that interests you, I’d like to invite you to join our discussion for #libleadgender on the topic of caregiving and career development on Wednesday, November 30, at 8 pm EST on the Twitter.