In the Fall of 2017, I found out I was pregnant. I was excited, joyful and… concerned. There are so many things a new baby means, but I had just started a new job, and we didn’t feel ready—what does ready even mean when you’re bringing a new person into the world? As my partner and I began our journey, trying to figure out how to balance work and our growing family, I knew one thing was true—at least I had my mom.
My mother, a spritely Puerto Rican woman from the Bronx, has been someone I looked to for support my whole life. She shifted her career to care for me and raise me. The values that she instilled in me that I still hold most dear today— hope over fear, community not isolation, and joy instead of doubt—made me confident that we could all make this work, together.
We welcomed a healthy child in May of 2018. We were able to have a nanny come in part-time, as I worked from home, and my mom jumped into action the other half of the workweek taking care of her new granddaughter. Funds were tight, and it was a delicate balance, but together, we were making it work.
But when my daughter was five months old, my parents volunteered to take her for the weekend. As I was running through my checklist, of all the dos and don’ts, my mother got a strange look on her face. My daughter fell from her arms. My mother collapsed. She had a heart attack.
My mother made it through, but all of our lives were changed. Overnight, I became a family caregiver—sandwiched between two generations of needs. Coordinating doctor’s visits, medication pick-ups, changing diapers while answering phone calls, and emailing nurses all became too much, and even though we were together, I felt like all the tasks and responsibilities fell on me alone.
The place where I worked continued to ask for me to work at full-capacity—vacation days only went so far. My mother needed support purchasing wheelchairs—Medicare coverage only went so far. My child’s care bills were piling up—money only went so far. I was one person, and I could only go so far.
We put together a patchwork system. Between all of us, we were able to figure out how to plug holes, set alarms, figure out who would take what shifts. It felt like barely enough, and it didn’t seem fair. But still, we made it work.
In February of 2020, right before the pandemic, I came to work for Caring Across Generations, and realized that my story was far from unique. Unfortunately, it took a devastating pandemic to finally put a spotlight on what caregivers like me are going through.
As you can see from my story, care is not one size fits all. What supports could I have used? Paid family leave, so I could be there for my mom. Help around the house and to support her based on her needs and wants, which would have provided respite to me and my dad. Affordable and safe childcare, so that I can work and know my daughter is getting the quality care she needs (and that’s needed even more now during this pandemic!). We deserve a comprehensive care infrastructure that will support all our needs.
We need to work together to make real change: to build a more caring future for my mother, for my daughter, for you — one where we can all care for one another, live well, and age with dignity.
Sade Dozan is the Development Director of Caring Across Generations.