I had been planning to blog about the fairly significant changes that have taken place for Rachel and I over the last fortnight anyway.
But then Carer Watch provided a nice new hook by sending me an email regarding the launch of the first ever Carers’ Trade Union.
What a fantastic idea.
It is proactive, determined, professional, passionate, belligerent, fiercely independent and organised. In short, everything that carers are out of choice and necessity.
“The CTU is intended to become a full trade union representing and negotiating on behalf of unwaged carers,” explains the email. “It will seek recognition within the trade union movement. It will also seek negotiating rights on behalf of carers.”
The union is a long-term project, it aims to raise awareness about the unpaid role so many carers fulfil every day of the week. But it will also provide the platform to lobby for greater governmental support.
The role carers play is recognised in official circles. Politicians have been quick to smile their most sincere of smiles, nod their head in the most understanding of ways and agree that carers are the forgotten horde.
Yet very little in the way of practical support has been forthcoming in recent years.
The other, more important reason why the CTU is a long-term initiative is that carers generally have got something better to do with their time.
Many provide 24/7 care, some juggle careers with caring. But for each and every one of us the priority is always the spouse, the parent, the brother or sister, the relative, the close friend who they care for, so something like the CTU has to be approached as (yet another) unpaid and strictly voluntary initiative.
There are plenty of requirements on our time as it is. But, with enough support and a fair wind, the CTU could develop into the type of organisation we need.
Which brings me on to the changes that have impacted on Rachel and I in the last fortnight.
After a little over two years of self-employment, mainly working from home so that I can juggle career with caring, I’ve accepted a full-time 12-month contract.
In many ways it was an easy decision, primarily because it is a very good job with an interesting organisation. Two weeks in, I’ve no doubt that the right decision has been made.
But in other respects there was a lot of thinking to do. It will – and already is – having a major impact on our home life and my caring role.
Having spent the best part of 18 months getting used to our situation – for me, the fact that I am a carer; for Rachel, the fact that she needs care – we are now going through a period of significant upheaval. It has all been largely positive so far, although Rachel struggled last week.
I found it difficult at times to keep everything in the air, moving without collision. There were a number of times that I walked out of the front door wishing I could stay put and make sure Rachel didn’t have to do anything other than rest.
Throw in the on-going debacle that is our washing machine – we have a new one on order, but last week was spent shuttling washing back and forth to my brother-in-law’s flat (thanks Simon) – and it was a hectic few days.
Yet I’ve still been able to juggle, not least because my office is just 15 minutes walk from home and I’m able to take the short stroll home at lunchtime (not every day).
It also means I don’t have to leave the house quite so early in the morning and I can be home by 5.30pm, or earlier.
There’s a good deal of flexibility in my new position, for which I’m very grateful (the flexibility also extends to being able to continue with some freelance writing and consultancy work).
The security of the 12-month contract is another factor. We haven’t exactly struggled since we became a one income household, but equally it hasn’t always been easy.
And with the merchants of financial doom managing to scare the living daylights out of everyone I have noticed budgets tightening and fees getting squeezed.
The new role, therefore, ticks each and every box. Above all, it is very much the right job at the right time in the right location.
Now that I’m no longer at home the majority of the time, I’m also having to learn a whole new juggling act.
I’ll drop a few balls along the way, I probably have stumbled already.
But with Rachel remaining my main priority, I am still a carer. And I am still fortunate enough to be able to have a career.
I remain a very lucky man.
I will also be joining the Carers’ Trade Union this week.
The first coincided with Blog Action Day and proved such a resounding success that those social media surgeons who took part decided to host another session.
The reason I mention it – apart from the fact that the efforts of all those involved deserve a mention – is that at the last session the Carers Network came away with some invaluable advice and ideas on how it could make use of social media.
Carers often need all the help they can get, not least because we’re not always very good at asking for it.
But events like the surgery and initiatives like the new trade union are a great way of being proactive and getting the right help from the right people.