Those who know me well also know I have moments where “clumsy” doesn’t even come close to describing just how ham-fisted I can be.
The hardest job I’ve ever done was a summer spent working in a double glazing factory helping to reorganise the shop floor and doing lots of general labouring.
It included carrying large double-glazed panels, it was a two-man job and the foreman ended up with the short straw and always ended up lifting the other end. I could lift the weight of the panel without any problem but I did it in the most awkward and ungainly way which it made life extremely difficult for the person at the other end.
“You’re a good worker,” the foreman told me at the end of the summer, “but you are the most cack-handed bloke I’ve ever met.”
I took it as a compliment. I get things done, even if it does tend to be in my own lumbering and inelegant way a lot of the time.
So, without wishing to sound too immodest, I’ve been quite impressed with myself these last five years and how well I’ve managed to juggle my career and carer roles.
According to figures released as part of Carers Week, I’m not alone. There are an estimated three million – that’s one in eight of the UK’s workforce – who currently balance a career with some caring responsibility.
In my own case the juggling initially involved working freelance, mainly at home which obviously helped in the early years of Rachel’s diagnosis with ME/CFS. But more recently it has meant caring for Rachel whilst working five days a week in an office. I’ve enjoyed some flexibility and worked from home at various point during the last couple of years and the office is only a 20-minute walk away so I’ve always been on hand if I’ve been needed.
It has worked out quite well, although I’ll happily admit I felt more able to provide the level of care and support I want to give Rachel when I was working from home full-time.
But I’ve managed to keep most of the balls in the air for most of the time.
I’ve dropped a few along the way, but despite the initial feelings of angst and failure I haven’t spent too long beating myself up about it. I’m only human, after all.
When the juggling has proved problematic, it has been Rachel (along with the knowledge that we have a great, supportive family and excellent network of friends) who has helped me to take a few moments, pick everything back up and start all over again.
We’re a strong team. We’ve always been a strong team but that strength has undoubtedly increased since Rachel’s diagnosis.
Working together, talking together, enjoying our life together is the best solution to the situation that we find ourselves in and that has led me to try to perfect the great career-carer juggling act.
I may be the most ungainly juggler you’ll ever see at times, but what I lack in panache I more than make up for in perseverance.