By Kimberley Brown
Like many women who enjoy being engaged in their careers and in the workplace, they also enjoy spending time with friends and taking time to care for their families and children.
But what happens when a “working mom” who’s finally reached the pinnacle of her career now has to take the time to care for a sick child requiring ongoing care? Sara McGlocklin spent a number of years to achieve her goal to be a lawyer and McGlocklin landed her dream job as a lawyer for Children’s Law Center of California where she helps abused and neglected children in the foster care system. Then, bad news arrived. She comments,
“Seven months ago our younger daughter Marian, at 18 months, was diagnosed with early signs of a fatal and progressive genetic disorder for which there is no cure. Now, I have the added pressure of caring for my child in the midst of managing a very busy career.”
“As a young girl I did not expect the challenges of balancing a career with being a caregiver, and I especially did not anticipate being a caregiver for a child with a fatal disease,” said McGlocklin, attorney and mother of 2 children.
It’s no surprise that women are often the predominant caregivers when it comes to providing support to loved ones, especially when that loved one is a sick child. Interestingly, women are 10 times more likely to take time off from work to stay home with their sick children – and – mothers are five times more likely to take their sick kids to doctor’s appointments, according to a recent Kaiser Family Foundation study.
Like for example with Sara, she takes her daughter Marian to physical therapy twice a week, occupational therapy once a week, and speech therapy twice a week. In addition, she has to take her daughter to the hospital every other week so her daughter can take an experimental treatment.
However, in the midst of juggling numerous responsibilities for her family and her daughter, what’s interesting is Sara has actually picked up some unexpected tips along the way to encourage other women who may be trying to manage a career while being a caregiver, including…
It’s OK To Time Off: Sometimes women have a sense of guilt when asking their bosses for time off, even if it’s to care for a loved one. But it’s important to know your limits – which are human, and sometimes you are needed more at home than at work or vice versa. It’s important to carve out the flexibility you need for taking care of a sick child.
Don’t Go it Alone. Ask for help when it’s needed. Striking the balance between independence and accepting support is difficult. However, no one wins points for running themselves into the ground, and while there are many things we can accomplish on our own – accepting the help of a babysitter, friend or neighbor for small tasks adds up to big rewards. Ultimately, one of the most valuable things we have as mothers and professionals is our time. Sometimes saying, yes, when people offer help – and even voicing the need yourself brings a sense of teamwork, comfort and support. Most importantly, it is a gift of what we are all short of: time and energy to spend with our families and also meeting our needs and aspirations personally and professionally.
Take Some Pressure Off. Yes, I know everyone may be depending on you, especially if it’s a child but remember to find some down time in the midst of it all – even if it means something else isn’t getting done perfectly. Reading a good book (or watching a favorite show) or laughing with a friend can help relieve stress and recharge you so that you can be more energized to provide the care that you need to give.
Connect. Make meaningful connections with other people or communities. Women are more likely to lose friendships in their thirties and forties than to gain and create meaningful ones. Similarly, and conversely, deep and meaningful connections to other people are a critical component to happiness.
While many women continue to face some level of stress and pressure when managing their careers and serving as caregivers, it’s important for them to remember the importance of self-care as well. These simple tips should help women to gain better control and balance of their lives so they can continue to be a source of strength for loved ones and even for the co-workers who are depending on them as well.