How to balance your career and caregiving duties 

Canada Life - 21 mars 2024
If you’re balancing your career and caregiving, it’s important to seek help from your employer as well as your support network at home to help you mentally, physically and financially.
Three generations (a young girl, her mother and grandmother) smile on a couch while looking at an electronic device.

The impact of caregiving while working

Millions of Canadians are juggling working part- or full-time with caregiving.

This could mean taking care of children, aging parents who need assistance, or – for many people - both.

This juggling act can create many challenges, such as having to reduce work hours and income, not being able to prioritize caring for yourself, financial hardship, and experiencing high levels of anxiety and burnout.

The challenges of balancing caring for others while working affect women especially. StatsCan reports that in 2022, 52% of all Canadian women provided some form of paid or unpaid care to children and parents, many of whom did so while still working.

This caregiving can often result in time away from the workplace altogether, such as taking maternity leave when starting a family, or taking a career break to help parents or other family members if balancing their care with work is no longer an option.

This time away from earning translates into less saved for retirement and therefore poorer retirement outcomes for women, known as the Gender Pension Gap (GPG).

If you’re balancing working with caring for your children and/or parents, there are some steps you can take to build a support network that can help you as challenges arise.

Talk to your employer

It’s important to let your employer know about your caregiving responsibilities.

Being honest about the competing demands on your time may:

  • Help your employer understand the reality of how caregiving is or may impact your work.
  • Allow you and your employer to develop a plan for how you can meet expectations at work while still caring for those who need you.
  • Establish boundaries and expectations.
  • Reduce anxiety and worries over balancing caregiving with work.
  • Allow you to access any resources available through work that can help you as you juggle work and caregiving, such as Employee Wellness Programs (EAP).
  • Help you make the most of paid time off such as personal days, vacation days and other leaves of absence.
  • Connect you with support systems like Employee Resource Groups (ERG) that may be filled with coworkers facing similar challenges.

When it comes to where and when you work, your employer may be open to discussing options that could help you manage caregiving with your job.

For example, you may be able to discuss the possibility of flexible and/or remote working if that’s an available option. You may also be able to ask for flexible hours and see whether adjusting your work schedule could help you balance life at work and at home.

It may become the case that balancing work with caregiving is becoming increasingly difficult, and that you may need to take time away from work to properly commit to taking care of loved ones.

Many caregivers need to adapt working hours and patterns as a result of caregiving; according to Statistics Canada, 16% of unpaid caregivers have had to adjust their work schedule in order to be more flexible with caregiving responsibilities.

The report also showed that 7% had to reduce their regular weekly work hours, while 5% were unable to work a paid job at all.

If you find yourself in a position where you need to take prolonged time off work, you may be able to receive financial support from the Government of Canada. Make sure to research your options as to what help might be available to you.

Create a support network at home

In addition to seeking support from your workplace, you can also look at how friends, family and if necessary paid-for assistance can provide you with the help you need.

Work as a team at home

Working and caring for others can leave little time for anything else, so if there are others living in your house, try to work together to manage chores and tasks like cleaning, laundry, cooking meals and putting out garbage.

Search for ways to save time

If you’re finding caregiving responsibilities and work are leaving you time-poor, look for apps and technology to help streamline your daily life. For example, you could:

  • Order groceries online during your commute to save going to the store
  • Book health appointments online
  • Set up automatic prescription refills or manage them via your pharmacy app
  • Use apps and shared calendars to plan your schedules in advance

Make time for yourself

Speaking of time, it’s important to prioritize your physical and mental wellbeing. Caring for yourself as much as others is important to help avoid burnout.

You may find that your busy schedule leads to things like eating poorly or skipping meals, missing or not booking health appointments for yourself, not getting enough sleep and other behaviours that can negatively impact your mental and physical wellbeing.

To combat this, try scheduling periods during which you’re unavailable to provide care or work, and share this schedule with those close to you so they know this is time for yourself.

You can lean on friends and family to help with caring responsibilities, if possible, to ensure you’re getting enough time to recharge.

Pay for help if possible

If your budget will extend to paying for some support, it may help your work-caregiving balance overall. For example, you could enlist professional help to care for your parents or look for paid childcare, or explore getting a cleaning service for the house or a meal delivery service.

How to cope financially

According to Carers Canada, over 6 million Canadians combine paid work with some form of unpaid care.

If your caregiving responsibilities have impacted your income in any way, then chances are it’s impacting your ability to budget and save too.

For example, you may find you’re spending more on travelling to medical appointments or to and from family homes to provide care but earning less as you’ve had to reduce your work hours to do so.

It’s important to carry out a financial health check to see how you’re managing your money now, and see if you need to make any changes to ensure you stay on track with your own financial goals:

  • Look over your budget and see how your busy life is impacting your finances. If you’re spending more and earning less because of your busy schedule, you may need to for ways to cut-back or save, or see about sharing more costs with your partner if possible.
  • Make sure you’re claiming benefits like the Canada Caregiver Credit if you’re eligible for it.
  • Make sure you’re still saving. When it comes to tightening budgets, one thing you may think of is contributing less to savings accounts to free up more money to cover daily essentials. To help cover unexpected costs in the future as well as to save enough for retirement, it’s important to keep contributing even small amounts. Even saving a little over a long period can help you take advantage of compound growth, which can help your money to grow over time.

If you’re worried about your financial future, you can review the financial impact of caregiving with me. I’m happy to help!

What's next?

  • Being part of the sandwich generation affects millions of Canadians. It’s important to lean on your support system for help, and to prioritize taking care of your mental health.
  • To help with this, if you have workplace benefits, make sure to check your coverage to see if your plan covers the cost of services that can help you take care of your mental and physical wellbeing.
  • Even if you’re not caring for older parents now, if it’s a possibility that you could in the future, it’s a good idea to talk to your parents about their plans for care.