I have been fortunate as I have had the opportunity to dedicate myself to family life while Emily recovered from her traumatic spinal cord injury (SCI). But it was inevitable, sooner or later, that I would be returning to work, to resume my career.
Returning to work
My return to work has been governed by a physical and mental realisation that I am able to leave the home. Supportive caring is so deep-rooted that prioritising myself has to be acknowledged as awkward. I feel clumsy as I step back into my own life after facilitating Emily’s recovery for the last few years.
Four years ago when Emily fell, I fell too – into a caring, facilitative role nurturing her back to independence. I struggled with many issues, hers and mine, and now face the reversal of that abrupt role change. I need to return to my own existence as Emily is capable of returning to hers. She has not had to intimate that she would like to be self-reliant as she has told me plainly! Emily is determined in her studies, aiming at attaining a professional status, her return to work will implement her economic, social and physical independence.
Four years after her accident it is me who has to reassert myself back into my life. It is me, the carer, who has to keep up with Emily after her SCI. It is a joy to write that and more joyous because it didn’t appear an obvious reality several years ago. There was a period of quiet physical recovery while Emily adjusted her self image. Slowly and insidiously Emily has grown and developed into an incredibly able individual, equally gutsy as prior to her injury. Adversarial growth and development happens slowly so that one Sunday I woke up and pinched myself that I hadn’t seen her independence arrive.
The opportunity of returning to work
It has taken an opportunity to bring about my re-employment. The trick was verbalizing my availability and never completely leaving my professional self behind. My workplace colleagues contacted me due to our prolonged alliance. A reiteration that keeping up with friends matters.
One revelation when trying to pick up my old self is that I have changed in the intervening time. I have a new divergent lifestyle as a caregiver. I can practically see it on my right hand for any palm-reader to confirm. I have returned to work fewer hours with more flexibility. Having a job that allows some adjustment or negotiated flexibleness is rare so again I feel very fortunate. Carers returning to work pivots on the understanding of their managers and the adaptability of the workplace environment. The Australian Government have the Carer Recognition Act 2010 that came into effect on 18 November 2010. The aim of the Act is to increase recognition and awareness of the role carers play in providing daily care and support to people with disability, medical conditions, mental illness or who are frail aged. CarersNSW has some helpful information regarding work and finance on their website.
Planning to return to work
I have been preoccupied through an intense reconstruction of our family life so I emerge into the workforce tentatively. Planning to work outside the home can induce stress, conflict and practical obstacles which complicate our lives. It is time for me to be brave, to step away from the comfort of being needed at the kitchen sink and tackle my renewed quest for my self. It sounds as if I’m John Wayne riding into the wilderness of the new frontiers but I’m only off to work Saturday clinics. Admittedly it is a big step as it is a resumption of a past that included the classic sentence “I’ll be back” prior to slamming the front door! A sentence rarely used by me for four years.
Reservations regarding my return to work
Returning to work means integrating back to a professional workplace and leaving my informal caring role at home during my shifts. The challenge for me, when I work, is not bringing my everyday caring role to my desk. It is a skill to compartmentalized life in practice. Rarely have I read any return to work admissions from carers but I expect my reservations are shared.
Returning to work addresses life’s balance
As a carer I have read repeatedly that I mustn’t let my role define me just as SCI doesn’t define Emily. Yet for the last 4 years my caring duties have been the overriding story line in my life so it did dominate. Returning to work addresses my life’s balance, working outside the home cultivates social interaction and economic benefit and induces mental stimulation culminating in a sense of self-worth and purpose.
Emily and I, as her everyday carer, both have hurdles to overcome as we endeavour to reintegrate back into society addressing our redesigned lifestyles. Returning to work emphasises the positives, it’s good to be back.