Being a parent ora carer can be a rewarding experience, but it can sometimes be challenging. A challenge can be finding time for yourself or prioritising your wellbeing.
A carer provides unpaid support to someone else because of frailty, disability or additional need (Carers MK). This term can relate to a family member, friend, partner, neighbour or any relationship with an individual with a mental health condition who needs additional support.
Also, with the day-to-day practicalities of managing life, it can be easy for parents to forget to look after themselves while supporting their children. But looking after yourself while parenting is essential because looking after yourself can contribute to your wellbeing and your child's wellbeing (CDC, 2021).
However, this does not mean that you should hide how you are feeling and it can be an opportunity to discuss wellbeing with your children (NSPCC, 2021).
Carers UK (2018) reported that 72% of carers said they had suffered mental ill health and 61% had experienced physical health problems due to their caring duties. Additionally, 8 in 10 people caring for loved ones say they have felt lonely or socially isolated.
The pandemic contributed to a lot of changes in daily routines for families, such as a change in working patterns and caring responsibilities. In the UK, 1 in 8 adults and 5 million people are juggling caring responsibilities with work - which is 1 in 7 of the workforce (Carers UK, 2012).
The combination of working and providing care can impact mental and physical health, relationships, and employment (Carers UK and Age UK, 2016). Although work can provide respite, social support and an opportunity to receive fulfilment outside caring roles, it is important to note that the number of carers leaving employment has risen from 2013 from 2.3 million to 2.6 million (Carers UK, 2019).
Currently, more parents are combining caring for both young children and older or disabled loved ones, known as sandwich caring (Carers UK and Employers for Carers, 2012). Providing care while working can create significant demands on carers. Therefore, they need to receive appropriate support to achieve both roles without compromising their mental wellbeing (Spann et al., 2020).
This page provides practical support for prioritising your mental health while managing your working and caring responsibilities.
Self-care is the act of looking after yourself. Self-care is unique for every individual. For some individuals, it may look like improving their sleeping or eating habits. For others, it may be ensuring they make time to complete activities they enjoy.
For further information on why self-care is important, see The Anna Freud Centre.
What is self-care and why is it important?
This video by The Anna Freud Centre provides a brief introduction on self-care and its importance.
Tips for practicing self-care at work
1. Ask for help
2. Connect with others
You are not alone. You can speak to others about your experiences in a support group or one to one.
- Carers UK - Local support for carers.
- Carers Trust - Online forums where you can chat with other carers and find information about where to seek help in the local area.
- City Parents - Positive and practical support for working parents, delivered through expert-led webinars/seminars, advice, peer support groups, online articles, blogs and podcasts.
- Family Lives - National charity providing help and support in all aspects of family life. Parenting and family support through website and helpline.
- Join a Staff Network for Carers: For instance, Central and North West London NHS Trust have a Carers at Work Staff Network, which you can join by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
Take time to rest and take a step back from caring to practise self-care and complete meaningful activities; for example, meeting up with friends, exercising, taking regular breaks, seeking psychological support.
For more specific self-care tips which you could try, either on your own or as a family, please view our self-care resource for On My Mind.
Although the principles of self–care remain the same, we understand that when caring for a loved one with additional needs, extra support is required.
Here is a list of national support services for carers or parents with loved ones with additional needs:
- Mencap: Charity working with people with a learning disability, their families and carers.
- National Autistic Society: They organise events and meetings for families impacted by autism.
Practising self-care can support your mental wellbeing. But it is not a replacement for seeking professional support. We all sometimes need extra help and advice.
If you would like to speak to someone, you can contact our Keeping Well BLMK team.
Supporting your colleague that is a carer
While supporting your colleagues, take the time to listen and create an open space where working carers can freely communicate about their challenges. You may also choose to attend a carer awareness course. The course can help to identify carers and aid in a better understanding of the experience of carers.
Mental Health at Work have a tool kit called "juggling work and parenting". This website contains helpful tips for carers, managers and colleagues.
- Employers for Carers (EfC): Offer support to enable carers to stay at work through a range of courses and information. Carers and managers at CNWL can access EfC Resources, please contact the Carers at Work staff network by email at email@example.com for login details.
- Carers Milton Keynes - Who is a carer?
- NSPCC - Parenting with mental health problems
- Carers UK, & Age UK. (2016). Walking the tightrope: The challenges of combining work and care in later life. London: Age UK
- Carers UK, & Employers for Carers (2012). Sandwich Caring: Combining childcare with caring for older or disabled relatives. Retrieved from https://www.carersuk.org/for-professionals/policy/policy-library/sandwich-caring
- Carers UK. (2019). Juggling work and unpaid care: A growing issue. Retrieved from: www.carersuk.org/images/News_and_campaigns/Juggling_work_and_unpaid_care_report_final_0119_WEB.pdf
- Spann, A., Vicente, J., Allard, C., Hawley, M., Spreeuwenberg, M., & Witte, L. (2020). Challenges of combining work and unpaid care, and solutions: A scoping review. Health & Social Care In The Community, 28(3), 699-715. doi: 10.1111/hsc.12912
Updated on: 21/04/2022