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Caring for Family

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I’m the emergency point of contact for more than a few of my family members: my work means that I don’t have to ask for leave and, at least in theory, I can drag my laptop along to emergency rooms and elsewhere with little concern. The situation makes sense to me and I don’t have nearly the qualms about it that I have when friends and relatives ask me to drop everything and wait for their cable man.

But caring for family can go beyond short-term emergencies. When a longer-term situation comes up, the fact that a freelancer works at home and has more flexibility makes us the obvious solution. My grandmother passed away a few years ago and I spent her last month caring for her. It was a situation where everyone knew what was coming and wanted to provide in-home hospice care for her.

I made a conscious choice to be a caregiver. Other family members stepped up as well, but I spent several weeks living in the spare bedroom and working from there. I am grateful for the time I had with my grandmother.


The Conscious Choice

I know certain of my relatives were hoping I would take on the role I did, thinking that I was the logical choice. I’m pretty sure that part of that was due to the fact that they didn’t think I had a lot of work on my hands at the moment, as well as the fact that most of them had jobs or businesses where they had to show up every day.

It’s not a surprising set of assumptions. I’ve seen other freelancers face similar situations. But while I was comfortable taking on the role of caregiver, that isn’t a universal. There are more than a few freelancers who face such assumptions but aren’t in a position to cut back on their work anymore than a relative with a job. That can only make a difficult situation worse.

When asked to take on that sort of family responsibility, you have to make a conscious decision on what the best overall option is. That includes making the best choice for yourself, no matter what your family really thinks.

Handling the Discussion

I have once again found myself in a position where a family member needs long-term care. Rather than waiting until someone points out who could conveniently provide that care, I’ve brought it up from the start. No discussion like this is pleasant, but putting it off truly will make it worse. Not only are we in the middle of a very stressful situation, but it’s easy for some relatives to fall into the assumption that there’s already someone in the family whose employment situation makes them the most suitable candidate to provide care — and convincing them otherwise can lead to arguments and more stress.

Bringing it out into the open means that we’ve been able to discuss a variety of different options and what would be necessary to actually implement them. None of us want to leave family members in a bad situation, but that doesn’t mean that we can simply pick up and move a freelance business that easily. In my experiences, there simply isn’t the time to keep up a full workload when acting as the primary caregiver, even if you need a full-time income.

But when you are able to look at the matter, there are options available. Perhaps the family can make sure that you don’t need to work full-time or perhaps another caregiver can be found. Until you talk about these sorts of crises, it’s difficult to find solutions.

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