Women’s Unpaid Labor is Worth $10,900,000,000,000
"In the United States, women perform an average of four hours of unpaid work per day compared to men’s two and a half hours. Back in 1965, when the government first started keeping track, American women did almost all of the unpaid work in the home. Although the gender gap in unpaid labor has narrowed, women still perform a disproportionate amount of unpaid work — and on top of their full-time jobs."
That disproportion and number of hours is greatly increased if you are caring for an elder. This often feels like a burden that is more than anyone can bear; yet millions of us (mostly women) are now or will soon be the primary caregiver for one or more relatives.
In her article for Aging Care.com titled "Should You Quit Your Job to Care for Your Elderly Parent?" Carol Bradley Bursack writes:
"Family caregivers typically look into community services and in-home care for assistance. They research adult day care centers and assisted living communities. However, most seniors are adamant about wanting to remain in their own homes and receive assistance from their own children. They don’t want “strangers” in their house or driving them to engagements."
This is my experience. My father has lost weight recently because he forgets to eat lunch. If I am there to make it for him he eats enthusiastically. The building he lives in has daily lunch delivery. We tried that. Epic fail, he hated the food, can't blame him it was colorless and bland. Then I hired a woman to make him lunch and do whatever small tasks he might need mid-day while I was at work. Although he said she was lovely, he hated her just "hanging around". So now what? You could argue at 91 if you simply don't want to eat lunch you shouldn't have to. For now that is where we are, although as anyone who has ever been a caregiver can tell you, things can change by the minute and often do.
Ms. Bradley Bursack continues: "Sick days and paid time off begin to dwindle. Performance suffers and unpaid leave becomes the only option for taking time away from work to handle emergencies and doctor’s appointments. Eventually, like so many other family caregivers, you consider quitting your job, putting your career on hold. While it won’t be easy, it’ll just be a temporary solution, ideally with minimal impact. Right?"
It is easy to feel that there is no one better than you to care for your loved one, While that may be true - what will happen if you quit will be very different depending on your circumstances. The problem is, as we learned from my mother's long term care, it is impossible to know how long or how much care any individual may need. You leave the workforce for an unspecified amount of time. You spend without earning both your resources and those of your parent(s).
Ms. Bradley Bursack continues:
"It is highly likely that your parents will still need care in a senior living facility at some point, regardless of whether you embrace unemployment to personally spearhead their care. When the time comes for placement in long-term care, their financial resources will dwindle quickly unless they are fortunate to have a very good long-term care insurance policy or abundant savings. Therefore, assuming that you will financially recover after “it’s all over” is very risky. Even if a personal care agreement is put in place very early on to compensate you for your services, there is still no guarantee that your parents’ funds will see them through. Obviously, this decision involves giving up a paycheck for a certain amount of time, but that’s not the only thing that’s on the line. Consider the implications that may not initially occur to family caregivers who are contemplating quitting their jobs."
There are so many unknowns when making a decision to leave the workforce. Consider carefully what is best for you personally and professionally before leaving quitting for what may becomes years and years of service.