Making Work and Life… work

My solopreneur life.

One of the main reasons I decided to make the mid-career decision to hang out my own shingle as a independent consultant and coach is because I knew I would need the flexibility to juggle work and increasing eldercare responsibilities. I know I’m not alone. While employer-supported care leave has come a long way, I didn’t want to be in a position where I needed to negotiate permission, use up vacation time, or deal with the self-imposed guilt and pressure of having to “abandon” my team to do what I need to do for my family. It was a prescient decision, as I now find my #workanywhere location includes a seniors’ residence, while my 96 yr old mother recovers from a fall. She will need 24/7 supervision for a month or so (and realistically, much longer than that). While we manage in-between wait times for long term care, and the cost of additional private care, this will be my “home” office view for a while. I’ve been remarkably productive away from the distractions of my regular home office, while still able to take mum to the 15-minute “strength and balance” class in the recreation room. Everybody wins. And like any solopreneur, my work day already extended well beyond 9 to 5 anyway.

What are my LinkedIn-friendly take-aways from this experience?

1. The saying goes, “It takes a village to raise a child”. That same village needs to rally around our elderly in their declining years, and in case you haven’t been paying attention, it’s a population that is going to dramatically increase pretty darn fast. And it’s not just the health-care system that needs to step-up. Central to this village will be employers who are understanding of the demands of eldercare, and who will continue to create flexible work policies and infrastructure for their employees. If you are one of those companies, share it and celebrate it! And I will gladly spend my consumer dollars on goods and services (for myself and for my mother) with you if you truly support your employees to be there for their elderly family members.

2. Re-thinking “retirement” and “work” for people over 50. There are myriad articles shared on LinkedIn about retirement at age 65 (a figure based on 1930’s life-expectancy of men) being an outdated concept. People are living longer, and also working longer for many different reasons. It’s also not hard to find an article about ageism in the workplace, and the struggles of people over 50 to keep or find full-time employment. Does anyone see a disconnect there? While I’ve decided to take the solopreneur route, that is simply not going to be the answer for everyone. The aforementioned “village” also needs to ensure the sustainable financial viability of our 50+ workforce, and integrate a variety of work options to enable them to stay an active part of the workforce past 65, if they choose.

3. Lastly, I’m also reflecting on the idea of legacy. I am able to make the choice to balance a variable self-employed work schedule with supporting someone who spent much of her own life after age 50 providing 24/7 care for elderly relatives with dementia, and then my father during his journey with cancer. Quite simply, it’s my turn and my duty. And if this gracious, strong and eternally grateful woman sitting by the window as I type this has taught me anything, it’s that I don’t want my epitaph to read “Delivered Shareholder Value”.