Juggling Two Jobs: Your Career and Your Parent’s Care

Opening up to your boss about your workplace needs as a caregiver can help you strike a good balance.


- Posted on Feb 24, 2020

A woman at her workplace talking to a co-worker.

This article is based on information provided by Philips Lifeline.

Caring for an aging parent, while rewarding, is a big job in itself. When you add full-time employment into the mix, it can be tough to find the time to do both well. The number of employees who face this conflict grows by the year, as more and more people take on unpaid caregiving duties for their older loved ones. If you are having trouble handling both a career and caregiving responsibilities, you can take steps to reach a balance that works for you.

Here are some ways to start:

Allow Yourself to Process Emotions

Feeling resentful, conflicted or worried is natural if you’re handling both a full-time job and caregiving duties. These emotions are even more likely if you work in a very competitive field, if jobs are scarce, or if you’re a female caregiver.

“Half of working female caregivers feel like they have to choose between being a good daughter or a good employee,” says Rebecca Jelinek, managing supervisor of public affairs with Fleishman Hillard in St. Louis, MO. One quarter of daughters in the workplace perceive a workplace stigma in being a caregiver.

Allow yourself to experience those emotions so that they don’t negatively affect your job performance. Once you’ve processed the feelings, you can begin to deal with your fears.

Many caregivers worry that their supervisors may not be sympathetic to their caregiving needs,” says Jisella Dolan, chief advocacy officer, Home Instead Senior Care in Omaha, NE. “When we don’t normalize this topic, we make employees less comfortable talking with their bosses about their caregiving circumstances.”

Assess Your Loved One’s Needs

Next, realistically assess the level of care your loved one needs and consider how much of a time commitment he or she will require from you. Include your parents’ care team in the conversation, and speak with friends who are providing similar care to their aging loved ones.

Once you’ve put this information together, you can estimate how much time and flexibility will be needed on your part. You can reach out to family members, friends or caregiving services, if you think you’ll have to have additional support. 

“Get help,” urges James Colozzo, a California-based author of You Got to Do What You Got to Do, who cared for his elderly parents for over 20 years. “If you can afford one, hire a responsible caregiver that can help with the daily duties. If money is not available then ask a sibling, relative or friend you can trust to help you when they can.” Learn about in-home and adult day care.

If caregiving assistance isn’t possible, use the information you’ve gathered to discuss specific options with your employer.

Be Open With Your Boss

This is difficult, and it’s all right to feel anxious, notes Venus Ramos, a doctor and fitness consultant in Long Beach, CA. “There is no shame in asking for help. It doesn’t make you a less effective employee. It actually shows that you’re an insightful individual who cares about doing a good job,” she says.

Carve out time to have a private discussion with your supervisor. Make it clear that you want to contribute and remain a valued member of your organization, but that you require some flexibility and support in order to honor your commitments to your employer and your aging parent.

“You have to be 100% open and honest with your employer about your caregiving situation,” says Tom Ingrassia, a wellness coach in Holden, MA, who is the founder and president of The MotivAct Group, and who ran two successful businesses while being a caregiver. “There will be times when your work may suffer because of it, and it’s best that you have that conversation from the start, rather than wait until there is a crisis.”

Look into Alternative Work Arrangements

At times, you may only need permission to miss some work time to take your loved one to the doctor or other appointments. Working this out might simply require a discussion with your employer and any co-workers who have to relieve you. Maybe you can find a colleague who also has an aging mother or father or a young child and would be glad to have you as a back-up, as well.

If you need additional time off, talk with your boss or HR rep about variable work schedules, telecommuting, job-sharing and other possibilities.

Flex-time policies make it easier to juggle the work-life balance with caregiving responsibilities. “A variable work schedule…would help with the various doctor’s appointments, tests, procedures and other care needs depending on your parent’s condition,” Colozzo says.

Certain companies permit job-sharing, in which two employees split a full-time position. A number of firms also embrace telecommuting. If working from home (or the doctor’s waiting room) is appropriate for your position, your company may be open to it on an as-needed or long-term basis.

If your caregiving role is short-term, talk to HR about the Family and Medical Leave Act (for companies with 50 or more employees), which allows eligible employees up to 12 weeks of unpaid [HC1] leave or those who need to care for family members; up to 26 weeks when caring for a covered service member. Some states have legislated additional family leave provisions.

Reaching the right balance between your career and your caregiving duties may take some doing, but with proper planning and help, you can make inroads. You may soon find yourself doing both jobs better than expected, and even enjoying them more in the process!

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