Last week someone (I’m going to call him Derek) made a comment that struck me as a little odd at the time and still has me puzzled more than a week later.
When I mentioned that I was trying to get back to some part-time work Derek said, “Yes, you’ve got to get back to real life sometime, haven’t you?”
I probably should have pressed him on what he meant but I wasn’t in a particularly argumentative mood at the time.
Does he think that full-time caring takes place in some kind of alternative universe? That I’ve been on a sabbatical? Off on holiday? Living in a wacky, hippie retreat from the world? Perhaps because I’m not at pensionable age yet Derek thinks I’m supposed to be employed, not getting benefits (which is a whole other article right there).
I still can’t quite make it out, though. Because for me, caring for someone is real life writ large. You can’t get more real.
Take my Dad. Amongst many other things, Dad needs help with washing, dressing, shaving, brushing his teeth, going to the toilet, standing up and moving around, eating his dinner and drinking his tea.
What could be more fundamental to the everyday reality of human existence than being fed and watered, cleaned and dressed, toileted and generally up and about?
For those of us that don’t need care, it’s easy to take the ability to do these things for ourselves for granted. There’s nothing particularly exciting or trendy or novel about it. It’s why you rarely see the glamorous movie heroine or action hero nipping off to the loo, cutting their toenails or washing their armpits.
And when you’re caring for someone these jobs can get, frankly, pretty boring at times. There’s not much intellectual stimulation in such oft-repeated daily tasks.
But just try living without them. To be hungry, dehydrated, dirty, stuck in bed all day in soiled sheets. You’d be trapped in your worst nightmare (at least I would, you may have your own bogeymen to deal with).
Getting back to work for a few hours a week is about a lot of things for me – trying to boost my income, dusting off my brain cells, doing something as a working woman in my own right, aside from being a carer.
Whatever the purpose, it’s not about getting back to the real world. I’m already there.