Cali Williams Yost, whose new book, Tweak It: Make What Matters to You Happen Every Day, will be released on January 8, believes we’re creating problems for ourselves by trying to find a balance between our work life and our personal life. She wants us to forget about balance and instead embrace fit.
Who will drive that fit? You.
You’ll do that in two ways. First, you’ll impact work/life fit because of your caregiving role. Cali believes the number of working family caregivers will influence the corporate culture so that the two—a career and a personal life, including caregiving—do fit. It’s not about one or the other—it’s about a life that fits both.
In Tweak It, she writes:
“I’m often asked, ‘Seriously, Cali, people have been trying to bring the way we live and work into the twenty-first century for more than two decades. What’s going to be the tipping point that finally gets the attention of the powers that be?’ My simple answer is ‘Elder care.’”
In a recent interview with me, Cali spoke about how elder care experiences will change the work/life fit. “Elder care will radically transform it,” she explained. “Family members, all ages, all generations, will be required to provide care. Unlike caring for a child, there’s no formula of how an elder care situation evolves. With a child, there’s a formula. With elder care, you can’t gauge how long it will last, what will happen when.”
A personal experience changed how Cali views the caregiving experience; Cali and her two sisters cared for their mom for eighteen months until her death from cancer. “I thought I understood what caregiving required,” she said. “Not until I got into it did I experience the unique difficulty. I wish I had known I could prepare in advance; we never had a conversation with my mother (about her needs and desires prior to her diagnosis). She was single and young (in her early 60s) when she was diagnosed.”
Cali’s sister, single and living near their mom, took on the day-to-day responsibilities of caregiving. “My sister worked while my mom was sick. At the end, she quit her job to be with her. It was tough. Really, really hard.”
Cali, who operates her own business, Work+Life Fit, Inc., learned to focus on her priorities during caregiving, coordinating schedules with her sisters and understanding her limits. For instance, she brought her laptop and worked while at her mom’s side in the hospital. “I did say ‘No’ to certain things. I gave up a client because I didn’t have the bandwidth.”
Toward the end of her mother’s life, she did debate about shutting her business. She decided to continue her business, understanding that life after her mom’s death would be much harder if she also had to start over with her business.
For Cali and her sisters, the struggles they faced in caregiving weren’t about affording care. Her mom had the resources to pay for the care she needed. “She didn’t want anyone to care for her because, in her mind, she wasn’t dying,” Cali said. “She fell, she broke her arm. It was a nightmare. How do you deal with that?”
The family used Hospice services at the end. “Hospice is great but it’s not full-time care,” Cali said. “At the end, it was one hour of help, then a nurse for an hour, but then they go. You need to provide 22 hours of care somehow. We tried to find nurses she liked. She was in a lot of pain and it made her very upset when we weren’t there.”
At the end of her life, Cali’s mom said to her, I really hope you can use this experience to help others in your work. I think you learned a lot.
In her book, Cali shares what she’s learned—that fitting work and life, particularly a caregiving life, isn’t about waiting for your employer to create a policy or mandate. And, that’s the second way you take the lead in your work/life fit. It’s about understanding your priorities each day and then making tweaks to make those priorities happen.
Throughout the book, Cali includes advice and insights from experts who share their best practices for all aspects of your life, including managing career, health, relationships, money and caregiving. (I’m one of the book’s caregiving experts.) She includes what she calls “Practice Stories,” examples of how individuals can tweak their professional and personal lives to meet their daily and weekly priorities. One of the Practice Stories involves a daughter caring for her father with Alzheimer’s.
During our interview, Cali emphasized the importance of preparing in advance of a caregiving situation and then creating structure in the family and in the community during the experience. When caregiving happens, Cali said, you must consistently have a plan in place. “We can’t afford to quit our jobs,” she added. “How will you prepare to continue to work and provide care? You only can if you prepare yourself.”
A work/life fit isn’t something that just happens to us—it requires us to attend to it and put controls around it. “You have to come up with the plan,” Cali said. Her book, Tweak It, helps you do just that. And, according to Cali, the plan begins when you ask yourself this simple question, “What do I want?”
To learn how to order Tweak It: Make What Matters to You Happen Every Day and to read Cali’s blog, visit her website, www.worklifefit.com.
Program Note: Cali and I will continue our conversation about managing caregiving and a career on Your Caregiving Journey talk show on Monday, January 7, at 3 p.m. ET (2 p.m. CT, Noon PT). Listen to the show and join the discussion in the chat room here. Do you have questions you’d like us to address during our show? Feel free to share them in our comments section, below.
- The Caregiving Years, Six Stages to a Meaningful Journey, holds your hand during the caregiving experience, from when you worry your future may include caregiving to after the experience ends. You can read the synopsis here and purchase the eBook here.
- Download your weekly care plans (plans just for and about you) here.
- You Can’t Wait 10 Years (caregiving.com)
- Working and Caregiving: Communication, Flexibility, Creativity (caregiving.com)
- With Self-Care, You Keep (caregiving.com)
- Tell Us: Holiday Tips for the First-Time Family Caregiver (caregiving.com)