How to Balance the ‘Spinning Plates’ of Your Personal and Professional Lives: From 3 Caregivers

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Betsy Maliborski, Hope Mentore-Smith and Jennifer Moore (from left to right).  Photos courtesy of CGI.

Betsy Maliborski, Hope Mentore-Smith and Jennifer Moore (from left to right). Photos courtesy of CGI.

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Caretaking takes many forms: eldercare, childcare, partner care and more are daily parts of many peoples’ lives. For some caregivers, this role can make it challenging to balance work and personal life — but this is not something to hide. 

Betsy Maliborski, Director, Consulting Internal, at CGI (a company she’s been with for over 25 years), says, “We should not be ashamed or feel that we need to hide that we are caregivers. We should be proud of the caregiving we provide… Caregiving, and all that comes with it, makes us better humans and ultimately better members.” At CGI, employees are referred to as members.

“Early in my caregiving journey, there were times when eldercare didn’t seem to be understood the same way parenting needs were understood.” However, this has since changed, and this is especially true in CGI. “I’ve felt more supported in being honest about my caregiving responsibilities and have also made it a priority to be on a team at CGI that supports and understands caregiving,” explains Maliborski. 

For other caretakers, she advises being honest about your caregiving needs and determining if you need work accommodations. If so, proactively reach out to Human Resources for assistance.

Maliborski is only one of many employees at CGI who have found a supportive culture for caregivers and participates in CGI’s Working Caregivers member resource group. Hope Mentore-Smith, Senior Consultant at CGI, notes that, for her, “family is first… ALWAYS!” Mentore-Smith has older parents who live on their own in New York (while she lives in Virginia) and need extra support. To help her provide this support, CGI gives Mentore-Smith the flexibility to help her family whenever required. 

“Whether I’m caregiving or not, if there is something I need to take care of because of a personal deadline I have to meet or a company’s office hours, I just put a note on my Teams saying that I will be away from my keyboard,” says Mentore-Smith. “I usually try to make up any time I have at the end of the day, but, if not, I take Flex Time or Leave.” Overall, she suggests, “if something is a priority for you, you can’t fret about doing what you have to do.”

Meanwhile, Jennifer Moore, Director, Consulting Expert at CGI (who has been at the company for almost 22 years), emphasizes the importance of a strong support group for caregivers. Moore shares that her husband is a great supporter, as is her wider support group. “One thing I continually find true for us is that while it is hard to ask for help, our friends genuinely want to help and don’t feel it is a burden,” notes Moore.

And for Moore, finding the flexibility she needs to succeed as a caretaker also involves having honest conversations with CGI about what she needs. “I have open conversations with my leadership team at CGI, and we work together to find ways that allow me to stay with my career and deliver for CGI while taking care of our son’s disability needs,” explains Moore. 

Here, these members share more about their journeys, how they balance work and life and their best advice for other caretakers.

Tell us more about work-life balance, what it means to you and how you achieve it.

Maliborski:  I rely heavily on my husband (Steve), who takes care of my elderly family members right alongside me. If I can’t be there to help with something, he jumps in and willingly takes on whatever is needed. I also am grateful to come from a large family and appreciate my sisters and sister-in-law, who help with eldercare as much as possible.

Mentore-Smith:  In my opinion, people mistake work-life balance as being able to do both equally or simultaneously. That is not the case — multitasking really doesn’t work. Work-life balance is making choices based on your priorities, whether caregiving, work, or taking care of yourself.

Moore: I find it easy to be consumed by work, so “balance” to me is about having a life outside of work and feeling like I can be present for my family and friends. Feeling like I can be present for my son’s therapy and school teams as we all work together to support his needs. Feeling like there is time for me to do things that bring me joy. Some days I achieve that better than others. 

Overall, based on a conversation I had with a friend, I view work-life balance less like a scale and more like a bunch of spinning plates. Sometimes, one plate may need more attention to keep that plate spinning, while another may not need as much. So, I tend to think about my plates (work, family, friends, my son’s additional needs and myself) and what they need from me at a given time to keep them spinning. It’s not easy and I don’t always get it right, but I have gotten better at it.

What is your top advice to caretakers?

Maliborski: You can’t help others if you aren’t taking care of yourself. This is easier said than done and not something I’ve been good at in the past, but it’s something I’m trying to work on.

Also, be willing to admit when you need help, and let people know what they specifically can do to assist you. My mom doesn’t like asking her kids to help her, so rather than asking what she needs, my siblings know to check the various to-do lists on Mom’s kitchen counter and tackle those items when they visit. Also, find ways to let people help who want to help but may not have proximity to do so in a traditional sense. For example, my eldest sister lives 1000 miles away, but she helps every day by making phone calls to check in on our mom, sending cards and being my sounding board when I need to tackle a challenging caregiving decision. Everyone can help if they are open to doing so, and you are willing to let them. 

Mentore-Smith: Be kind to yourself. Don’t feel guilty about not being able to do it all (work and care). If you don’t take care of your mental health, you will be no good to your loved ones. 

Moore: Put on your own oxygen mask first. Juggling being a caretaker with work and all the other roles we have is hard. Find ways to meet your own needs first, so you can then take care of everyone and everything else.

Let’s talk about CGI. How does CGI support you?

Maliborski: In the last few years, CGI has begun to recognize that there are many members responsible for eldercare. The Working Caregivers Member Resource Group (MRG) has been a great source of support for me as an eldercare provider, and I encourage anyone in a caregiving role to join this great MRG (whether you are a parent or caregiver for a spouse or an elderly family member of anything in between!)

I was excited to see improved maternity and paternity benefits rolled out in 2022, and I look forward to caregiver benefits being considered in the future. Most caregivers use their vacation time for caregiving, leading to burnout (and worse), so access to caregiver benefits would be life-changing for our many CGI members in caregiver roles.

I also encourage members who are caregivers to look into Family Medical Leave (FMLA) as an option if your family situation qualifies and if you are able to afford to take advantage of FMLA.

Mentore-Smith: What I love most about CGI is their flexibility. In my current role, I am fortunate to have great leadership, from Senior Vice President to the members. My team is good at backing each other up when necessary.  

As a caretaker, CGI has provided me with FMLA, both intermittent and full-time.

Moore: I have been with CGI for almost 22 years, and I always say it’s the people that keep me here. We have the best people. While we are committed to delivering for our clients and stakeholders, we are also committed to supporting our members. We value and care about each other. My team feels like family. Our people are my favorite part of CGI, and I am grateful that I get the opportunity to work alongside them every day.

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