Three months ago, I moved out of my apartment into my mom's place in Beverly to help take care of her. (She's had health issues, and is currently in rehab for a recent amputation). Since I've been transitioning into freelancing (with actual paid work!), I thought caretaking my mother would be easier. After all, didn't many of my colleagues assure me that I would be "living the dream" when it comes to freelancing? You know, the whole "work-in-your-pajamas" cliche?
Well, it isn't...and before you point the finger and say "white male privilege", let me explain...
One of the challenges of freelancing is the constant work search. Yes, I'm doing some paid work (allowing me to regularly update my LinkedIn profile as well my portfolio and Professional Services pages), but scheduling work time to include chunks of time for "things to pop up), following up on Mom, making sure, taking care of her house...is a challenge. A challenge which many of my friends will commend me for taking...but far too many colleagues don't understand. Granted, I'm lucky - I've had enough experience in social services to know how to navigate the bureaucracy, and have enough time to pursue both freelance and creative efforts...
But many of my colleagues still engage in some very misinformed beliefs. Some of these include
"Why are you seeking full-time work and freelance work? Choosing one or the other will give you focus" - Try maintaining focus when you have additional responsibilities caring for any other human being, let alone someone older.
"Have you considered applying to (insert employment agency name here)?" Yes, I have...and the process is similar to applying for full-time jobs: a submitted, revamped resume with a cover letter that goes into the great void....
"You shouldn't complain - taking care of a parent isn't a struggle, it's a blessing" - One of my cousins actually wrote this to me via Facebook. I no longer speak to that cousin, because it can be a struggle.
"Having a low-paying job is better than no job in this economy" - I know my value. I'm not expecting to become wealthy beyond my dreams; just enough to take care of expenses, eventually move into my own place, pay off some bills, and enjoy the occasional movie/outing....
"Why not get training to be a caretaker? That way, you can help your mother when a paid caretaker is not available" - Long story short - it's a major effort just to put together the paperwork. Even if I qualify for training and receive it, I have to engage with a particular agency who may send me to other clients....meaning that yes, I can care for others with little time to care for Mom.
In short, many of the messages I'm hearing seem to say, "You're not good enough for paid work, so just give up and care for your parent full-time."
In this economy, it's tough....I love freelancing and wish I could be doing more of it. I wish I had more time to find private clients. But on the other hand, I have some constraints on my time.
But one good thing about this experience...connecting (and reconnecting) with friends and talking about these issues. Conversing with a former coworker about privilege and economic disparity while geeking out about Doctor Who. Having an open conversation on Facebook with a friend/former Chicago Now blogger about wealth disparities and employment issues. Having great conversations with old and new-ish friends about social issues. And reconnecting with an old friend from my St. Louis days.
In short, I'm feeling like I'm rebuilding my community.
Times are tough for a lot of people, both in our country and especially in Illinois. Many of us are facing the challenges of trying to survive. I'm very fortunate in that I have several freelance gigs that provide some income, and that I made a move that allows me to help my mother transition back into "normal" life. (She has a housekeeper, but she's going to need help that I have neither the experience nor skills to provide). So for me, freelancing has provided some work/life balance...but I often wish that some of my colleagues and friends could be more understanding.
But I'm letting that go for now.
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