It is easy for me to focus on the hard parts of being sandwiched. I guess that’s what I am – totally sandwiched. It is easy to overlook the ways that make doing it every day even possible. There are support structures that make it possible – not always sane – but possible. It’s important to remember those. Some days, though, it can be hard to hold onto the sanity in the midst of the chaos. But I’m here to attest that those supportive structures help.
I am a working, single mom of two children under the age of 10. I am also the primary caregiver to both my live-in, elderly parents, though my father recently passed away. Mom has dementia, severe neuropathy, and other ailments. She receives love and support all day because of our living arrangement. I am convinced that we have provided a quality of life in her aging years otherwise not possible. My children grow their character daily, as they are learning compassion and empathy. They have the benefit of living with a grandmother who loves them dearly, even during the times she can’t recall. For these reasons, and many more, my personal goal is to fulfill the responsibilities of caring for my family to the best of my abilities.
Dad is Mom’s anchor to her own memories and feeling safe. He remains her anchor because Mom doesn’t usually remember that he has passed away. Almost daily, I repeat a rehearsed series of statements to trigger her memory of his passing. Once I have mom back to a place of remembering, she transitions to telling stories about their dating and marriage.
Although painful, I am reminded that marriage done right, like theirs, is the most beautiful gift two people can give one another and to their whole family. In these exchanges with mom, I go from stressed and scared…to peaceful…and towards a feeling of bittersweet gladness. Mind you, this typically happens just before I turn on my work computer and conduct a recurring 7:30 AM meeting.
If you would allow me another therapeutic moment, I’ll share that my dad passed while I was holding him in a doctor’s waiting room. Though horrible and too difficult to think about for very long, I am so glad I was able to be there at that moment. It happened during the course of a normal work day. I was only able to be present, as I do not work full time in a traditional office setting. My company allows staff to work from their home. On that day, my employer entirely provided me the opportunity to be there at a critical moment in my father’s life. And to be there for a life altering moment in mine.
I feel pressure on every side, most every day. I am tired physically and emotionally. I want to give more, make sure what I do is quality, and add value. This applies to both my home and work life. I know I am not alone; there are so many who are in situations just like me. Fortunately, I work for a company that is flexible and did not make me choose between responsibilities.
My direct manager supports company policy as well as my personal goals. She understands that my work is higher quality when I am not torn between work and my family’s demands at home. She recognizes that empowering me to meet the needs of the ones I love also empowers me in my job. The best professional compliment I have received was from a co-worker who stated she did not realize I had moved four years earlier and was no longer working onsite. This confirmed that it is possible to be a producer, to add value, to not be an obstacle to teamwork…all while working from outside the office. It was confirmed again when I was given a top performers award. I share this not to boast, but to emphasize that quality work is still an output from those in non-traditional working arrangements. And from those who feel supported by their employer.
Yet I am not the only winner in this equation; my employer has gained too. In return, my appreciation towards my company is such that even when things are quite bumpy in the workplace, I am 100% committed to the company, my work, my colleagues, and most of all my manager. I would do anything she needed because of the support she has shown me. This benefit is better than a raise. It’s better than any award.
My story is a shout out to employers and managers who help their employees find ways to balance personal and professional responsibilities. And especially to those who recognize that enabling personal responsibilities does not happen at the detriment of professional ones. In fact, I firmly believe and have lived that when the first is fully supported, the second will ultimately benefit enormously.
Lorraine S. – a mom and a professional woman just trying to be a champion for her family and employer