Mother’s Day is nearly here —a time to celebrate women and their roles as caregivers. While it’s an invaluable job, it can also be underappreciated at times. So as we approach this special day, I want to take a moment to focus on that word, caregivers, and the full reach of its meaning.
First, I’m a caregiver for my son. He’s a typical toddler—funny, energetic, stubborn, and learning at about a thousand miles an hour. My husband and I, who both have careers, are focused on being present, engaged, and giving him all the love and support he deserves, so we manage the delicate balance of ensuring one of us is always in the right place at the right time.
I’m also a caregiver to my dad. He is 86 and has progressive dementia. Late one night a few years ago, a neighbor found him, confused, in the front yard of his house in Atlanta. We soon found out he was no longer able to take his heart medications or handle basic tasks at home. It was a scary and emotional time. I had to convince my dad to leave Georgia, his home of more than 80 years, relocate to San Francisco and move into an assisted living facility near our home—and to give up his car. He has always been a fiercely independent man, so this was a tough situation to navigate.
Caring for him now means a lot of different things. This includes happy moments like bringing him to our house for dinner and watching him play with our son, and tough ones as well, like facilitating countless doctors’ appointments, coming to terms with his severe memory impairment, and dealing with unexpected calls from his living facility when things go wrong.
I’m certainly not alone in my situation. Many parents now find ourselves as members of the “sandwich generation,” simultaneously caring for both elderly parents and children. And while caring for both can be extremely rewarding, it also brings a unique set of challenges such as uncertainty, difficulty finding balance, and most of all, lack of time.
I’m also in a unique position given my role as chief people officer at Workday. I have frequent conversations with employees who face similar experiences. We’re able to exchange stories, relate to one another’s perspectives, and share solutions. All of this has helped me to be a better caregiver. And given my role, I’m not only able to hear about what impacts the daily lives of our employees, I’m able to take this feedback into consideration when advocating for the benefits and support Workday provides to all caregivers.
Support for Caregivers
Becoming a caregiver for children, parents, or other aging relatives can feel like entirely new territory. With this new responsibility can come a swirl of unknowns, and as caregivers, we all need support.
Often, companies provide benefits that can help. Check with your employer to see what resources are offered. For example, at Workday we provide employees with services through Care.com, an online marketplace for finding and managing family care. We also offer benefits like a flexible time-off policy for U.S. employees (and similar policies globally), and services through MyLifeCoach managed by Optum.
And for individuals who have had to put their careers on hold to be a primary caregiver, we’ve started the Workday Returnship Program, which includes opportunities for those looking to return to the workforce.
There are also many public resources available for caregivers. One good place to start is the Family Caregiving Alliance, which aims to improve the quality of life for family caregivers and the people who receive their care.
Another way to find recommendations is through candid discussions with others, including those who have faced a similar situation that you’re going through. In fact, a conversation I had with a fellow Workday employee informed my decision to choose the assisted living facility where my dad now resides. That trusted insight from someone who’s been through a similar experience was invaluable to me.
Sometimes life can present you with a daunting balancing act, and at the end of the day, I try to keep in mind the following and hope you will too:
- Don’t beat yourself up for not being perfect at everything. Caregiving, like life, requires sometimes having to navigate difficult and unknown territory, so do the best you can.
- Take the time to enjoy some of those little moments that matter. There are lots of them, and when life gets busy, they can be hard to see.
- Prioritize what matters most. I firmly believe it’s your health, your family, and your work (in that order).
Caregiving for elderly parents while taking care of young children is a transitional period that many of us have been or will be in. While it’s hard to imagine right now, I know that one day my son may too find himself as a member of the sandwich generation. It’s my hope that if that day comes, he has access to the financial and emotional support needed to be a caregiver. As a society, it’s important that we talk and think about how we can support one another when the caregiving balancing act gets tough. We’re all in this together, and it’s important we have the time and opportunity to cherish life’s special moments.