“In Primes of Careers, Women Bear Burden of Caregiving.” New York Times, September 2, 2019

The headline was striking for a story about women caring for their parents. Even more striking was a quote within the article from a woman who was once a paralegal but dropped that career in order to take care of her mother who has Alzheimer’s disease. She has taken less demanding jobs so that she can be there for her mother. She told the reporter,”I lost ten years of my life. What’s going to happen to me?” A project officer for the Centers for Disease in Atlanta who cared for her mother who has dementia until she was able to get her on Medicaid told the reporter, “Caregivers are physically and mentally and financially dying.”

There can be no doubt that caring for a parent is challenging. However, the article, in its attempt to paint such a hopeless picture for both parent and caregiver neglected to discuss the benefits of the role.

The Barometer had a technician who made and polished hard contacts for her for decades. These skilled individuals are tough to come by in this era of soft lenses and laser corrective surgery. Suddenly, he was no longer at his business. He shut it down for years. When he returned to his business, he explained that he took over caring for his father. He said it was difficult to walk away from a business that could no longer run because he was the nucleus of the operation. But he added, “I would never trade the time that I had with my dad. We developed a great relationship during his last years. I didn’t have that before.” He also explained that after his father died, he came back to his business and was pleasantly surprised by the loyalty of all his ophthalmologists and customers who returned to him for their hard contact lens needs. He was in his tennis shorts that day and explained that he learned through his experience in caring for his father that he could take a little time for himself. He said he had barely visited his father for years before he assumed the role of caregiver. He said that his business was not only back, but better. So also was his life. His experience has been stuck in the Barometer’s mind for nearly ten years. He gave a profound lesson on choices and life.

Nearly all of us have faced or will be caregivers in some form for our parents. Our lives will change in stepping up; new challenges, including job, career, and lifestyle changes will be part of that. However, the Times article presented those challenges as something that no one should face. Worse, the article fell into the either/or conundrum that we use to avoid doing the right thing. Under the either/or conundrum decisions are based on assumed outcomes. Either I find someone else to care for my parent or my career, financial security, and/or life are over. They either/or conundrum commits the ultimate flaw in logic — it assumes the outcome. What the article did not cover are the stories of those who have been caregivers and who can look back, their parents now gone, and realize the impact and importance of stepping up when it was terribly inconvenient, financially draining, and physically exhausting. Those stories could inspire, reassure, and provide perspective on priorities. Funny, how about a description of parenthood? Financially draining, physically exhausting, mentally frustrating, and offering little in the way of career advancement. But, these dear parents did it anyway.

About mmjdiary

Professor Marianne Jennings is an emeritus professor of legal and ethical studies from the W.P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University, retiring in 2011 after 35 years of teaching undergraduate and graduate courses in ethics and the legal environment of business. During her tenure at ASU, she served as director of the Joan and David Lincoln Center for Applied Ethics from 1995-1999. In 2006, she was appointed faculty director for the W.P. Carey Executive MBA Program. She has done consulting work for businesses and professional groups including AICPA, Boeing, Dial Corporation, Edward Jones, Mattel, Motorola, CFA Institute, Southern California Edison, the Institute of Internal Auditors, AIMR, DuPont, AES, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Motorola, Hy-Vee Foods, IBM, Bell Helicopter, Amgen, Raytheon, and VIAD. The sixth edition of her textbook, Case Studies in Business Ethics, was published in February 2011. The ninth edition of her textbook, Business: lts Legal, Ethical and Global Environment was published in January 2011. The 23rd edition of her book, Business Law: Principles and Cases, will be published in January 2013. The tenth edition of her book, Real Estate Law, will also be published in January 2013. Her book, A Business Tale: A Story of Ethics, Choices, Success, and a Very Large Rabbit, a fable about business ethics, was chosen by Library Journal in 2004 as its business book of the year. A Business Tale was also a finalist for two other literary awards for 2004. In 2000 her book on corporate governance was published by the New York Times MBA Pocket Series. Her book on long-term success, Building a Business Through Good Times and Bad: Lessons from Fifteen Companies, Each With a Century of Dividends, was published in October 2002 and has been used by Booz, Allen, Hamilton for its work on business longevity. Her latest book, The Seven Signs of Ethical Collapse was published by St. Martin’s Press in July 2006 and has been a finalist for two book awards. Her weekly columns are syndicated around the country, and her work has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, the Chicago Tribune, the New York Times, Washington Post, and the Reader's Digest. A collection of her essays, Nobody Fixes Real Carrot Sticks Anymore, first published in 1994 is still being published. She has been a commentator on business issues on All Things Considered for National Public Radio. She has served on four boards of directors, including Arizona Public Service (1987-2000), Zealous Capital Corporation, and the Center for Children with Chronic Illness and Disability at the University of Minnesota. She was appointed to the board of advisors for the Institute of Nuclear Power Operators in 2004 and served on the board of trustees for Think Arizona, a public policy think tank. She has appeared on CNBC, CBS This Morning, the Today Show, and CBS Evening News. In 2010 she was named one of the Top 100 Thought Leaders in Business Ethics by Trust Across America. Her books have been translated into four different languages. She received the British Emerald award for authoring one of their top 50 articles in management publications, chosen from over 15,000 articles. Personal: Married since 1976 to Terry H. Jennings, Maricopa County Attorney’s Office Deputy County Attorney; five children: Sarah, Sam, and John, and the late Claire and Hannah Jennings.
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