Understanding Care Work and How It Impacts You and Your Community

What is care work and how does it pertain to me?

Everyone engages in some type of care work, whether they are children, aging parents, extended family or friends that they tend to and nurture.

Care work involves all kinds of work, including:

  • Love Work
  • Woman’s Work
  • Unpaid Work
  • Othering Work

Amy Westervelt’s tool “The Invisible Labor Calculator” helps to determine how much daily care work goes unpaid, by calculating all of the unpaid domestic tasks to see what they would have to pay someone else per year to do this work. It really adds up!

How burnout easily affects anyone who does care work

Burnout is most commonly experienced when the care worker is spread too thin and feels undervalued and underpaid for their responsibilities. According to the Maslach Burnout Inventory assessment, a lot of caregivers have to cultivate a sense of emotional detachment. It’s a protective strategy because they’re taking on so much care, and they’re often not receiving care themselves. And so, ironically, to be a care worker is to dull or deaden some of their emotional and relational impulses in order to be able to survive.

In more traditionally feminine care working roles such as nurses, mothers, nannies, and house cleaners, burnout runs rampant as these positions are usually underpaid or unpaid and seen as “pink collar jobs” in today’s society which is something Angela Garbes talks about in her book Essential Labor.

How to create change

Most people who work within care work tend to find it difficult to leave when burnout arises. They feel connected to the people they work with and for, so it’s not easy to leave.

The key to finding balance, avoiding burnout, and reaching a place of fairness in pay is to collectively bargain as a whole. Coming together with others to advocate for your cause as care workers can spark change, affecting what it looks like to be a care worker in today’s society. We have to think about this in terms of a care economy and how it fits into our larger country’s economy. What it means to be a care worker. What care work is. But also what is its place in our society and how do we create a more concrete and equitable place for care work in our society?

So if you’re intrigued by this idea or any of the ideas explored here, listen to our podcast called, “Care Work”. A new series has just started, but there are already many stories from the first series to learn more. A lot of the episodes go into people’s individual stories of engaging in care work, how they take care of others, how they take care of themselves, what it means to them, and why they consider this work important.

Are you interested in reading more stories like this one?

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