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How carers can grow their careers while looking after loved ones


January 30, 2019

One in eight workers in the UK cares for someone in their lives. Many others wish to work, but find they can’t find a role which balances their responsibilities with their skills and talents. Here at Hoxby, we’re always trying to make our world a better place. We aim to do this by encouraging #workwithoutbias and helping talented people everywhere to #lovewhattheydo. One of these brilliant people is marketing and communications specialist Katerina Gilbert, who lives in North Yorkshire. Fellow Hoxby Associate, copywriter and PR consultant Victoria Scott, spoke to her about how the birth of her youngest child, changed her life - and her career - forever.

Katerina Gilbert’s marketing and advertising career has taken her all over the world. Originally from Greece and trilingual, she and her husband were happy and secure in their globe-trotting jobs right up until a life-changing event entirely shifted their focus.

In 2009, their youngest son was born prematurely at 27 weeks gestation. He spent months in intensive care undergoing multiple brain surgeries, followed by a series of health scares. His parents weren’t able to hold him for three months, and they weren’t sure whether he would come out of hospital. This devastating situation caused them to hit the pause button on their careers and reset their lives.

“We basically re-evaluated everything” Katerina told me. “We didn’t really know how both of us could get on with a 9-to-5-career. We just knew our lives had changed dramatically.”

When their son was finally able to move home to be with his family, Katerina and her husband were delivered a damning forecast for his future by a senior consultant in London. “Your parental instincts kick in, you know, and we were determined to make the best we could for him and our family” she says.

Both parents knew that they would need to devote a large amount of their time to achieve this. As a result, they decided to take turns working full-time, while the other worked part-time, devoting the rest of their time to their family.

Their efforts have certainly paid off. Far from the pessimistic future predicted by the doctors, their now 9-year-old son is now in mainstream school. Although he requires a high level of support, he’s continuing to progress and develop at his own pace.

However, his complex health needs - among them global developmental delay, cerebral palsy and epilepsy - mean that Katerina must work flexibly so that she can manage doctors’ appointments, meetings and assessments, long absences from school and sleepless nights.

And despite her skills and experience, she says she’s found it incredibly difficult to find suitable flexible work within her field of expertise. “We (carers) are expected to have junior positions or shift jobs, as if our personal circumstances are limiting to what our brain/creativity/experiences can offer” she says.

Aside from the inevitable financial compromise, Katerina says that it has also been a personal challenge for her. “The lack of self-fulfilment creates a huge emotional void” she explains. “Being able to have access to work one has chosen to do is very important, especially for a carer. Otherwise, on top of everything, there’s another factor depressing you further.”

It was this realisation that led her to Hoxby. Attracted by its mission and the flexibility it promises, she’s hopeful that it will allow her to work successfully and profitably in a way that suits her and her family. “Hoxby is a platform which allows carers to continue pursuing their career choices, and shape their work style around their personal circumstances,” she says. “Seven per cent of all children are disabled in the UK, so there are a vast number of parent-carers who need support.”

Meanwhile, her son continues to develop and grow. “He’s a truly remarkable boy, full of energy, humour, cheekiness and intelligence,” says Katerina. “He has gone through a lot, and our family has gone through a lot with him. We will always be around to support him, no matter what the challenges are.”

Young Carers Awareness Day is January 31, 2019. You can find out more about the day, as well as the Carers Trust’s #CareForMeToo campaign here.

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