March 5, 2017
I had planned to post about the latest episode of This Is Us, but before I knew it days flew by and it was Tuesday evening again. But as good fortune would have it, last week’s episode was postponed. Maybe it was because of the president’s address, or maybe it was because the universe loves me and wanted to give me more time. I’m going to go with the latter. At any rate, I’m sure that most of you have had the opportunity to see the episode by now, so I’m not going to include any spoiler alerts. I’m also sure that the episode made you weep, either with your eyes or your heart. Or both.
There are multiple lenses through which we can view Randall’s experience. And I think the most salient lenses are dependent upon who is watching. As I watched, I saw a couple of different things. I saw the revelation of an anxiety disorder, and I also saw the symptoms of that disorder exacerbated by two extremely draining situations: caring for a terminally ill parent, and staying afloat at work.
If you are working, chances are that someone at your workplace is punching out at the end of every day and then figuratively punching in again to do the job of a caregiver. You might be that person. Or you may be thinking, “There’s no one at my work like that. Think again. Based on my experience, I can tell you that many caregivers hide the fact that they are caring for someone, and for important reasons.
In our society, family and caregiving responsibilities are undervalued. No one wants to be perceived as weak or incapable of doing their job because they need time off to attend doctor appointments, for example. There are few reasonable options for caregivers who want to maintain their careers and effectively manage their personal lives.
So now you’re probably thinking about FMLA, an act that will protect your job for up to twelve weeks. And most employers do not provide paid time off during FMLA. This is how caregivers end up trying desperately to balance work and life. And this is one major cause of burn out. The caregivers who I know are hard workers and take pride in their jobs. They want to be valuable in the workplace and they don’t expect special treatment. They desire more flexibility in their schedules and cooperation from their employers. They know that caregiving is a process and that it will eventually come to an end. When it’s ends, life (no matter how hard) continues and folks want to have a job with benefits and possibilities for promotion.
If you are in a management position I challenge you to take a closer look at your employees and see them as whole beings who have lives outside of work. An employee may be late because they’ve been in the emergency room all night, or they’ve spent the morning trying to get the care recipient to comply with medication. If you could help them by being understanding and flexible, more than likely you’ll have an employee who feels valuable and will be dedicated to being your best employee.