The struggle to balance my career goals and caregiving responsibilities

A columnist faces a difficult dilemma as she juggles work and caregiving

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by Sylvia Amuta |

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Over the years, especially since I got married and had kids, my focus has been primarily on others, rarely allowing me the chance to think selfishly. Now, as a dedicated caregiver to Ada, my little cousin with sickle cell disease, I’ve learned to prioritize her needs above my own.

Recently, however, I’ve been feeling dissatisfied with my job and life in general. I have my own unfulfilled dreams and aspirations, but I’ve kept them to myself to avoid any accusations of selfishness. Being a caregiver has kept my hands full, making it challenging to pursue my personal goals.

Recently, an old classmate presented me with a life-changing career opportunity, which initially excited me. That excitement quickly turned into guilt, however, as I pondered how my decision would affect my family. Pursuing my dream of practicing medicine outside the shores of my home country of Nigeria would mean leaving behind many of my family responsibilities, including taking care of my cousin. It’s hard to believe three years have passed since I promised my aunt I’d care for her daughter.

My aunt faces numerous challenges that make it impossible to imagine sending Ada back to her care. The weight of my responsibilities and the weekly calls from Ada’s mother in the village, filled with prayers and concerns, leave me feeling even guiltier.

It was a true dilemma: accept the job and feel bad about leaving my family, or decline the job and miss out on a great opportunity.

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I discussed this issue extensively with my husband, and he supported my aspirations despite the difficult decision it entailed. He believed he could manage with the help of our extended family, and our children would get the chance to bond with their grandparents.

The challenge that remained was how to break the news to Ada. At 11 years old, she’s a bright and perceptive preteen who’s very aware of her surroundings. She’s become like the daughter I never had, especially after having two little boys of my own.

When she saw my face, she instantly sensed that something was amiss and asked if someone had passed away. It saddened me that she’s faced so much adversity, including the loss of her father at a young age, and has grown accustomed to seeing such a worried expression on my face. I felt guilty knowing she’d have to experience that emotional distress again when I told her the truth.

Tearfully, she asked me if I was leaving her and who would take care of her. My heart broke at causing her such pain.

Preparing for my departure

Despite her initial sadness, I assured Ada that even though I’d be physically away, she’d still be my family, and I’d stay connected through regular communication. I bought her a mobile phone to facilitate our ongoing contact, and her smile, though faint, reassured me that she understood.

As my departure date draws near, I’ve been diligently organizing a first-aid box and stocking Ada’s supplements and medications in preparation for any potential sickle cell crises that may arise during my absence.

However, Ada fell ill one recent night and developed a high fever. Fortunately, I happened to be awake during one of my sleepless nights, and when I entered her room, I noticed her restless tossing and felt her burning forehead. Without hesitation, I sprang into action and administered a paracetamol analgesic tablet to alleviate her fever. I’ve learned that addressing fevers promptly can help prevent potential crises.

This incident has weighed heavily on my mind and made me contemplate the challenges my family might face in my absence. How will my husband and my mom handle situations like this? These concerns have added to my hesitation about moving away for my career.

Life is stressful now as I try to balance my work aspirations with my caregiving responsibilities. I still wonder how things will unfold once I leave, but I’m determined to make it work and stay connected with Ada and my family, regardless of the distance.

Note: Sickle Cell Disease News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Sickle Cell Disease News or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to sickle cell disease.


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