At the turn of the year we think of what has passed and what the coming year may bring.
One thing you might not have thought of – but which isn’t unlikely – is that in 2014 you may become a family carer. It’s more likely to happen if you are a woman, but misfortune is gender- and situation-neutral. Anyone can become a family carer. It’s not really a matter of choice.
Now, you may think that in such a case your emotional energy will be focused on your parent, your child, your partner, on the person who has become so tragically dependent – and it will. But please, please save some for yourself. Cos sure as shit you won’t get much elsewhere.
Why is this?
Carers are hostages: held in hock to the love we feel for those we care for. And society – yes, that’s you – relies upon this love to save you – still you – money.
Carers are slaves. No joking. Literally a million of us are literally working 168 hour weeks every week for months, years on end, for no pay or prospect of advancement. Suck that up, European Working Time Directive! How does it look to you, unions? After 13 years I am still flabbergasted that you – that’s you, again – should care so little.
Carers are martyrs. Again, no joking. Living without support not only blights our careers and futures and leads to poverty and poor health – it also shortens our lives. So why does media and public outrage focus on the plight of unpaid interns? Go figure.
Carers don’t have fun. This is because carers are different from you, more altruistic. They don’t need holidays, or evenings out, or – anything really. So that’s all right.
Carers are patronised. Would you trade in your career and your salary, your holidays, your pension, and most of all, your autonomy – all that lovely free time you don’t realise you have, for a session of aromatherapy or a pat on the head or a nice cup of tea?
Carers are silent. If you are exhausted, and poor, and isolated and you spend all your time ensuring someone else’s welfare, you haven’t the energy to shout out. How very convenient for a society that wants to close its ears. So as a result..
Carers are dismissed. The movers, the shakers, the media, and society in general haven’t noticed the plight of the one person in ten who is a family carer. We don’t count because we fell off the ladder and we’re not at your boardrooms or in your newsrooms or on your front benches. – Oh, you had noticed, had you? You just think it is ok that we live like this? Because.. (and this is the bottom line..)
…Carers are other people.
“Oh no we’re not!” Like I said, you could become a carer tomorrow. Or you could need full-time care tomorrow. That’s the you that’s sitting reading this, casually, and thinking I have a good theoretical point. As the headstones say:
Remember Man as you go by
As you are now so once was I
As I am now so shall you be
Prepare yourself to follow me
Don’t get me wrong, I do want to appeal to your better nature – especially at this time of year, when we think of the connections between us all, and get a nice warm fuzzy feeling of shared humanity.
But I also want to appeal to your sense of self-preservation. Do everything you can to make carers’ lives more tolerable today, because a carer’s life today may be yours tomorrow.
In part 2, tomorrow – in 2014 – WHY carers are invisible