Daughter, Caregiver, Worker

June 6, 2024

Yes, that's a legit fanny pack. And we'll get to that. But first...

Last week I was researching statistics for a talk on the rising number of people who, in addition to being employees, are also caregivers. Hard to imagine since it’s already reported at 73% ! As our population ages this percentage is likely going to keep climbing and I’m committed to figuring out best practices to support everyone. Particularly the caregivers. In perusing the landscape of self-care options for people wearing the dual hats of caregiver and working professional, I came across an article I can’t help sharing.

By the time you hit 40 most of us know that taking care of a person who is ill, or under 3, can be trying. It’s also exhausting, time consuming and guilt inducing. What people rarely talk about, however, are any upsides. What you gain from the experience. Well, my good friends at the Harvard Business Review - not true I don’t have any friends there - took the time to report about the benefits. They also put them in fine print to encourage employers to be more, rather than less, inclined to hire them!

I love this.

There is often a perception that those who have loved ones in need at home - whether it’s children or aging parents - are distracted, pulled in too many directions to focus. This can be true, there are definitely hours or days when attention must be paid at home. But what’s great in this article, Research: Caregiver Employees Bring Unique Value to Companies, is how it reveals that these life experiences actually make us better contributors to office life.

From a survey of 131, nearly 50% reported feeling more empathy and 39% said the caregiving made them more efficient. Other pros included being better at multitasking, having more patience, gaining more skill at prioritizing and higher emotional intelligence. What office culture wouldn’t benefit from people with increased skills in these areas? Especially now when the need for human connection is at an all time high.

Maybe it’s because Father’s Day is fast approaching, but I am reminded of caring for my father when cancer was having its way with him almost 30 years ago. I would race from my office job near Union Square over to my parents’ apartment in the East 50’s to read to him from the NY Post, feed him some vanilla pudding when he had an appetite and check the level on his morphine drip. I was a single comedian who, as my mother used to love to point out to my dates, “couldn’t take care of a plant.” Professionals were there to fill in the gaps of my 20-something caregiving ability, but even with them in the background I also learned patience, resilience, empathy and the skill that has probably served me best from then on, how to find laughter where you least expect it. I have used that one every day since. I’ll admit that toward the very end of his life every time the phone rang at work I jumped a little wondering if this was “the call,” which may have been odd for co-workers. The good news is that everytime I picked up the phone and it wasn’t about my father I was so relieved I became the most gleeful receptionist in all of New York City.