Carry You…

Many years ago, when my son wanted me to carry him, he would say, “Carry you?” and nothing more.  It was such a simple phrase yet little did I know the impact it would have so many years later.

Today, after speaking with several parents whose children are really struggling, those two little words came to me as if my son had said them yesterday.   I’m not sure what triggered that memory, but it suddenly resonated with me differently.  As parents, we all carry our children yet it typically ends when they are either too heavy or too large to lift.  Not for parents of children with special needs.  The carrying continues for years and sometimes, for a lifetime.

These parents have the job of lifting their children and keeping them hoisted high above their heads at all costs.  And while their children need their strength to move forward, who lifts the parents?  Even the strongest parents find that sometimes, the weight is just too much.

As is the case with so many parents, one of them is completely exhausted…no fried, from months and months of endless struggle.  With school.  With family.  And yes, with their child as well.  From home to school and back again, the issues have continued mounting with little chance to catch a breath no less take a shower.  And this is on top of a full-time job that was asking for more yet giving less.

During our conversation, I told this parent that their job was to “carry you” — meaning their child — but that they also needed to be carried.  By a spouse, a parent, a friend — by anyone able and willing to lift them, even briefly, so they can regain their strength to continue their march ahead.  Many parents never ask to be carried and many fail to notice that these parents are going down for the count.  Yet when we’re talking about the parent of a 2nd grade child with autism or a 15-year-old with a learning disability, carrying is what it’s really all about.

So if your life is touched by a parent who is struggling to carry it all, a little lift will help enormously.  They will continue to “carry you” (meaning their child), yet carrying them … even for a brief time, will help them continue to put one foot in front of the other while lifting their child into the future.

What Work-Life Really Means…

Work-life — ask anyone what it means to them and you’ll likely hear just about anything and everything that impacts them whether they’re in their 20s or 50s.  From the daily struggles of trying to balance their job with their parenting or elder care responsibilities to figuring out how to handle their finances, health, retirement planning, volunteer interests … the list is endless.  It’s about the day-to-day balancing act that leaves many overwhelmed and most underprepared.

A few years ago, someone commented to me that if you’re working, the job comes first.  When I questioned what happens “if or when” any number of non-work related situations emerge, this person replied — without missing a beat — that everything else comes second.  “In principle, perhaps, but not in life” was my response to which the conversation quickly ended.  Their premise sounded far more like theory than practice to me.

Every HR person knows that employees today are stretched thin, many to the breaking point.  Organizations are adding programs and services in an effort to “stop the bleeding” before the patient cannot be saved.  The C-suite is being bombarded with messages about employee engagement and productivity.  Yet somehow, with all the efforts (and many needs are indeed being met), the basic premise upon which these efforts are being based has become somewhat amorphic.  The reality is that work-life really means one thing … living.

I know not one person for whom work-life balance is not an issue from awakening to sleep (if sleep can be had).  Whether a full-time employee, stay-at-home parent (and yes…this *is* a full-time job and then some), part-time employee, or someone looking for a job, trying to achieve any sort of balance — and this alone is a topic unto itself — is a herculean task at best.  Yet it appears as though many believe that once work-life balance is achieved — if only for a certain period of time, it is supposed to miraculously be sustained.

The saying “the best-laid plans…” seems to fit the days and lives of many.  Plans set forth have changed, life processes have run amuck, deadlines are moved, appointments rescheduled … what might have been balance yesterday is chaos today.   And then add to it children, aging parents, stress, health issues, business travel, the economy … well, you get the picture.  This is living — it’s a dynamic, fast-changing process unto itself that requires flexibility, just like work-life balance.

A job-sharing situation that lasts for three months may ease some pressing work-life balance issues yet when it ends, it’s a new day.  Working from home two days per week might cut down on commuting costs yet there are other “costs” that require new ways of working.  It’s all about realizing that work-life balance means being able to adjust and adapt to change, just as with living itself.

Organizations expect and need employees to be flexible, to multi-task, and to be ready to change.  Children need (or school requires) their parents to be able to handle their needs…immediately.  Elderly parents hope their children will be able to tend to their needs which often emerge without notice.  This is living.  It’s unpredictable, messy and often relentless.  It might be easier for everyone from the C-suite down to start referring to work-life as living because this is something every one of us can understand and support.