Earlier this week, Yahoo! announced it had hired a new CEO. On that same day, that new CEO, Marissa Mayer, announced she was expecting her first child in October. She’s the highest-profile pregnant woman hired as a CEO.
That of course makes me wonder when we’ll reach another milestone–when a CEO talks about his or her caregiving experience. When, for instance, will the day arrive that a recently-appointed CEO says she cares for–and lives with–her mother with Alzheimer’s?
The struggles and challenges of working moms have been in the news lately because of an article in The Atlantic (“Why Women Still Can’t Have It All?”) written by Anne-Marie Slaughter, a former State Department employee. In her article, Slaughter writes that she could not find a balance between her work life and her family life while working her dream job as the first woman director of policy planning at the State Department.
After two years in that job, she left to return to a previous position at Princeton University. She loved her job but didn’t love the impact of the long hours and constant demands on her family.
Slaughter concludes that woman can have it all as long as they also are “superhuman, rich, or self-employed.”
It’s interesting to me, in all these discussions, the talk around balancing work and family seems to focus solely on the difficulty of raising children and having a career. I completely understand this challenge. I guess I’m wondering, in all this debating, where’s the dialogue about how you have a career when an aging parent heads into the last 10 years of life? Or, when a spouse receives a life-changing diagnosis? Or, when a child needs constant care because of several chronic illnesses?
Parents and family caregivers can face the same tough decision: Do I scale back on my job to be available to those who need me? Do I stop working? And, for those parents and family caregivers who opt out of the workforce, the same challenge arises: How do I find a job after my absence from the work force?
We know that working family caregivers, like working parents, make sacrifices. According to The 2006 MetLife Caregiving Cost Study, sponsored by MetLife Mature Market Institute and National Alliance for Caregiving, at least six out of 10 employed family caregivers make work-related adjustments for their caregiving responsibilities, including 9% who leave the workforce and 10% who reduce their hours from full-time to part-time. And, in our most recent annual family caregiver survey results, 25% of respondents said they left their jobs for their full-time caregiving gig.
According to The Metlife Study of Caregiving Costs to Working Caregivers: Double Jeopardy for Baby Boomers Caring for Their Parents, adult children age 50+ who work and provide care to a parent are more likely than those who do not provide care to report that their health is fair or poor. The study reports that, individually, average losses in wages, pension and Social Security benefits equal $324,044 for women and $283,716 for men because of time taken off due to caregiving. The study reminds us that the percentage of adults providing care to a parent has tripled since 1994.
Women and Alzheimer’s Disease: The Caregiver’s Crisis, a study released in June, found that, while three quarters of survey respondents feel capable of providing care, 49% feel overwhelmed, 36% report depression, and 65% have not had a vacation in the past year.
I appreciate Slaughter’s point that only those with very special perks (wealth being the biggest one) can manage demands of a high-profile career and a family life, including a family life of caregiving. I think the CEO’s personal experience with the tug, the war and the anxiety of trying to do both can only help those of us who don’t have those special perks (wealth being the biggest one).
I think we’ll all be watching Ms. Mayer with hopes that she’ll find a way to juggle a new job and a new baby. I also hope that her juggle will bring her comfort rather than regret, that she will view her time at work and at home as being well-spent. We hope that her success will bring solutions to the workplace so that employees can find–and, perhaps more importantly, feel–a better balance between office and home.
Just like we hope that a future CEO who’s also a family caregiver shows us how to provide care and manage a career. Because that CEO could be the catalyst for change that means more working family caregivers not only have the flexible work schedule they want but also the support and compassion they need.
- Download our free eBook, The Working Family Caregiver
- Eleven Years Later, Caregiving Is Still Difficult (and Perhaps Getting More Difficult) (caregiving.com)
- Tell Us: What’s the Worst Caregiving Advice You’ve Received? (caregiving.com)
- Tips to Help You Manage Your Caregiving Role (caregiving.com)
- Enter Your Art in Our Second Annual Caregiving Art Show (caregiving.com)
- New Study Shows The Stress of Working, Caring (caregiving.com)