Sharing My Caregiving Situation with My Co-Workers
Throughout my professional career, I have been encouraged to separate what’s going on in my private life from what’s going on at work. As a caregiver, I find that this professional/personal divide needs to be renegotiated since caregiving issues can (at times) take an emotional toll on my ability to maintain my usual composure.
A couple of weeks ago, I ended up with a slew of caregiving situations coming at me over a two-day period from all parties: Mom had issues with swallowing solid food, my dad may need to have back surgery, and my dog was diagnosed with a heart murmur and Cushing’s disease. And to top it all off, Dad’s dog got out of the backyard and was lost for about an hour.
I didn’t realize how much these issues had tied me into knots and how this stress had been unwittingly transmitted in my reactions to others until two days later. Unfortunately, one of my professional colleagues misinterpreted a phone conversation and thought I had been rude to her. I didn’t have that intent, but I think, in retrospect, my comment that offended her had an additional emotional charge due to my stress level.
During that phone call, I was trying to postpone a conversation until the next day when we would be on a business trip together and tried to get that point across in a teasing way; however, my colleague didn’t hear my comment in the way that I intended. The next day when she was visibly upset, I quickly apologized to her once I realized what she had perceived. Then I explained to her what was happening in my life related to caregiving.
That conversation made me realize that I have to be extra-vigilant with keeping my professional colleagues apprised of my caregiving issues since my stress level tends to be on a rollercoaster. Since I work from my home in another city, my colleagues don’t interact in person with me on a regular basis. Therefore, they don’t have the ability to see my nonverbal actions (to determine if I’m stressed) or to hear the latest updates on caregiving on a regular basis.
I’ve realized that I need to spend a little time when I’m actually in the company office sharing with my colleagues what’s going on as Mom’s health declines (and Dad’s issues surface). I’ve also decided to send e-mail updates to my colleagues when warranted. I’ve learned that I need to adopt a holistic communication approach that keeps those involved with the professional side of my life aware of what’s happening with my duties as a caregiver.