In the Working Daughter community, we talk about how two different things can be true at the same time. Like when a sibling finally steps up and helps out with caregiving but… struggles with it. We may be grateful for the support, but also gratified that they are finally experiencing our daily challenges. Or, we feel both grief that a parent has passed away, but also some relief that they are no longer suffering.
When people ask us if caregiving is a blessing or a burden, we often respond both. And research bears out our answer. According to the Pew Research Center’s analysis of data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), Americans who provide care to an adult report being happy doing a third of their caregiving tasks, but also report “being very tired during 8% of adult caregiving activities and very stressed during 5% of these activities.” Two things are true at once.
In our day-to-day challenges trying to balance eldercare, career, perhaps raising children, and more, we can lose perspective as we struggle to complete our daily to-do lists. But the truth is many of us find caregiving to be “very meaningful.” According to the BLS data, caregivers rated about half (47%) of their caregiving experiences that way. Interestingly, caregivers view fewer of their leisure activities the same way. According to the data they consider 34 percent of leisure activities as very meaningful. The activities that are classified as leisure include, “Personal grooming or obtaining personal services such as haircut; socializing; spending time with romantic partner; participating in recreational, entertainment or sports activities; travel related to leisure and personal activities. “
Does this mean all of those reminders about self-care are unnecessary? Absolutely not. We must continue to prioritize our own physical and mental health in order to care for others and prepare for our later years too. Does it mean that even though the song says girls just wanna have fun, working daughters don’t really need a break? Absolutely not. Social activities contribute positively to our health as well.
I believe the insight we can derive from this data is to remember that caregiving doesn’t just take, it gives too. As working daughters we can easily, and understandably, focus on what we believe we are losing as a result of caregiving: our ability to focus on our careers, our personal relationships, our lives as we once knew them. But caregiving also gives to us. We gain purpose and meaning from our eldercare responsibilities. Two things can be true at once.