Balancing Caregiving with a Job

In 2019, Meghan Steinberg’s life literally changed in the blink of an eye.

Her husband, Mike, had an unexpected fall that resulted in a traumatic brain injury and that turned her world upside down.

At the time, the couple had a three-year-old son and Meghan was just two years into the launch of her business — SteinbergHR — a boutique human resources consulting firm.

Meghan and I have been friends for many years, and she was kind enough to share her story, along with some of the lessons she learned about balancing caregiving with a demanding career…

Sometimes You Have to Give Things Up

As Meghan explained, she needed to keep a laser focus on Mike’s recovery, getting him through rehab with the goal of returning to his baseline health.

That meant setting priorities. For example, at the time, she and I had been on the board of the South Shore Conference for Women together — she quickly realized that she needed to step back from that. It was hard, but necessary and while we missed her presence, we fully supported her decision.

But, as she pointed out, stepping back doesn’t necessarily mean forever — it means figuring out what’s most important right now and working from there.

Put On Your Own Oxygen Mask First

Seventy-five percent of caregivers in the U.S. (two-thirds of whom are women) have reported an increase in stress since the start of the pandemic.

But even with these demands — maybe because of these demands! — it’s important to make time for yourself, even if it’s just 10–15 minutes a day.

In Meghan’s case, she always made sure to maintain her daily meditation practice. Doing so gave her the clarity and focus she needed to “keep putting one foot in front of the other.”

Keep an Open Mind Regarding Work

Working a full-time job while caring for another person — whether an older adult, a child, or a spouse — has many challenges.

As an HR specialist, Meghan explained that you don’t need to share the full details of your situation at home with your employer. But, by sharing the impact that your caregiver responsibilities are having on your ability to do your best work, you open up the possibility of uncovering workable solutions. It is less important to discuss the details of what is going on, but rather the impact that caregiving is having on you and your job.

Examples include requesting additional flexibility in work schedules, moving to a part-time or modified role in the company, or taking a temporary leave of absence (Massachusetts offers a Paid Family and Medical Leave that many find to be generous).

Some companies also offer Employee Assistance Programs (EAP). For example, 2Sisters works with a number of EAPs so that when somebody needs support for an aging loved one, we are brought in (and often paid for) by their company to help.

And remember, too, that what you need right now may be different from what you may need two months down the road. Things change, whether it’s an upcoming surgery, a move to an assisted living, or something else entirely.

Become Your Own Advocate

Maybe the most essential message that Meghan shared was the importance of speaking up on your own behalf. Take stock of what you need and want. If you are not specific about those things, your employer can’t be of much help.

Thank you, Meghan, for your time, insights, and willingness to so openly share your story. We wish you and your family all the best!

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