Staying In Work As A Carer
THIS CARERS WEEK, CONSIDER THE UNTAPPED TALENT THAT WANTS TO WORK.
June 12, 2019
Caring has been put front-and-centre this week to highlight the lives of people who look after others. It’s likely that you know someone who’s a carer – or soon will. One in ten of us is a carer and the number is quickly rising. In many ways, caring is a full-time job and can easily become your whole life. That works for some, but others still want the option to care and work at the same time. In fact, 67 per cent of carers are employed. Half of those who aren’t employed, want to be.
Finding work that fits
It’s not easy to find work that fits around your care. I was fortunate in already having a freelance career established when I became a carer for my fiance’s daughter. The move was sudden – over the space of a Christmas – and was made much easier by the fact that work continued, more or less, as usual. It gave me normality during a tumultuous time, and continues to do so.
Working while caring has many benefits for carer and employer (or client). There have been days where my work has been almost self-care for me. Among all the doctors’ appointments, time in hospital, and the back-and-forth with school, it’s been a relief to sit at my desk and write.
Giving up employment
Plus, I’m an ambitious person. The duty of care fell suddenly on me. I would have felt a significant loss had I been forced to give up my work because of it. But one in five carers has to give up employment. Although that suits some, it would’ve made my situation much worse – both financially and emotionally. I feel lucky that my work style (and my fiance’s) was able to adapt seamlessly.
Building skills through caring
On the flipside, I’d argue that my additional caring responsibilities have strengthened and changed me. I’ve been doing this for a little over seven months now. It’s felt like a crash course in negotiation, empathy and support. I’ve become much more thick-skinned, more persistent and more patient.
Navigating the complex and often opaque special needs system is a challenge. Information is disparate, held by different organisations and people. It takes time to understand the ins and outs of what you’re entitled to and who can help. My fiance and I have spent many nights researching support for his daughter. Not just now, but to set her up for the future.
This has translated into my work. I feel more confident knowing that I can overcome any challenge by slowly chipping away. I have greater empathy for people across all walks of life. Nothing in my work has come close to the complexity of caring for a young autistic girl, helping her understand her new life situation and finding the right professionals to help her.
Being who you want to be
Even more importantly, my stepdaughter sees me working. She witnesses the value of hard work. I never ever want her to feel limited by her diagnosis. There are enough people out there in the world who’ll tell her she can’t be who she wants to be. I want to teach her the opposite. I want her to see that she can do it as long as she works hard for it.
I don’t want employers ever to overlook her because of her abilities – or perceived lack thereof. Yes, there will be adaptations. But that’s the joy of this new era of work that we’re entering. We don’t have to stick to the 9-5. We don’t have to be in an office. We can adapt work to us and not the other way around.
This carers week, consider the untapped talent that wants to work. The people who, for one reason or another, cannot find a work style that fits with their care. Because we have a lot to offer the workplace. We’re motivated, incredibly resilient and strong. My care has shaped me, but it doesn’t fully define me. Like most carers, I’m the sum of many parts. A carer, yes, but also a marketer and writer.
Carers Week runs from 10-16 June. It is an annual campaign to raise awareness of caring, highlight the challenges unpaid carers face and recognise the contribution they make to families and communities throughout the UK. Find out more at www.carersweek.org.
Jade is a freelance marketer and writer. She lives in London with her partner, stepdaughter and many pets. Jade became freelance after several years working in in-house marketing and communications, to look after her family, grow her career in different ways and spend more time with those aforementioned pets. She shares more about her journey here.