The mind plays funny tricks on you at times.
Well, my mind has a habit of wandering off into places it has no business of visiting.
That is probably why I’ve been wrestling with something that my head was telling me was a serious dilemma for the last couple of months. And it also explains Rachel’s rather non-plussed reaction when I mentioned it to her the other day.
The dilemma goes something like this: “Now that I’m doing a full-time, office-based job I can’t be a classed as a carer any longer. Can I?”
My logic was simple (at least it was in my own head). Surely as I now have a proper day job, I’m no longer doing the carer role I fulfilled when I was self-employed and working 99% of the time at home.
Right? Wrong, explained my ever-patient but frequently perplexed wife.
“You are still a full-time carer,” she pointed out. “I still rely on you to do all the things you did before. The only difference now is that you go out to work all day as well as doing all the other stuff.”
End of discussion. Actually, not quite.
It prompted Rachel to express the worry she’s had for some time now – that I’m stretching myself too thinly and trying to do too much.
As well as doing my eight(ish) hours a day in the office, I’m sorting Rachel’s breakfast and lunch out before I leave in the morning (as well as feeding and fussing the narky cat), I’m doing the shopping, the cooking, the washing, the cleaning, the ironing and whatever else needs doing.
There is always “stuff” to sort. Like skimming pebbles on the beach, no matter how many you throw into the sea there will be always be plenty of others left to pick up.
But that doesn’t mean to say you have to do everything, or clear the beach of pebbles every day. I’m still avoiding the gardening, for example.
Also, the plan was to carry on doing some freelance work too but that has slipped away somewhat as there really aren’t enough hours in the day.
Yet it still feels odd, at times, to classify my role as carer. The things I do to help are things I do without question and would continue to offer to do if Rachel was in better health.
Yes, I have to do these things because of the severe limitations placed on Rachel by her illness. But I want to do these things because I would much prefer Rachel to have the space and energy to concentrate on the more important things in life – herself, her creativity, us.
This difference between have and want is something I’ve felt awkward about since Rachel first became ill and why I’ve always struggled to call myself a “carer”. Maybe securing a full-time job has just provided me with another excuse not to use the c-word in reference to what I do?
Whether that is true or not, we once again proved how good it is to talk.
There was me worrying that I’d abdicated a whole chunk of responsibility and no longer pulled my weight as carer. And there’s Rachel, worrying that I’m about to buckle under the strain of the twin role of full-time job and full-time carer.
The worry probably hasn’t gone away completely, but the awareness and understanding has undoubtedly increased.
I’m resolved, therefore, to do a bit more to highlight some of this “secret” work I do and which so many others in this country do without much in the way of recognition or support.
It is Carers’ Week in June and I’m hoping to do what I can to raise awareness of the UK’s truly “secret service”.
I’ve written before about how lucky I feel at being able to juggle a career and caring – something denied to so many in a similar position. We all have a different story to tell, different experiences to share, different priorities in life.
The efforts of campaigners like Carers UK on a wide range of issues – such as a long overdue shake-up of the benefits system to recognise the role of carers – are important to us all, even those of us fortunate enough to still juggle career and caring.
The last two or three years have shown just how unpredictable life can be and how difficult that can be to deal with. I used to pride myself on not planning too far in advance and was quite zealous in my desire to take each day as it comes.
There are occasions now when I would dearly love to be able to say: “In 6 months time we’re going to…” and know that there is a very strong possibility it will happen.
Perhaps the biggest lesson of the last three years is that there are very few certainties. Therefore, perhaps we should celebrate those that we do know.
So I’m a PR & Marketing Manager, a “resting” freelance journalist and consultant, an occasional blogger and I’m a full-time carer.
I still care a lot. And I have no intention of buckling.