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Irene C. , Ohio

Caregiving in Ohio

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Irene Clark lives in southwestern Ohio where she used to own her own small business. For years she paid Social Security taxes for herself and her employees. In 2009, Irene’s business began to struggle, and in May of 2010, she was forced “I just to close its doors. Irene found herself in a precarious position. She was a single mom with two children, one older and another was still very young. She had no support system and needed to figure out how to recover from the loss of her business. As she began her job serach, she realized that the job market posed an even more significant
challenge.

“I must have applied for a hundred jobs, but most of them were temporary, low paying, without benefits and with crazy unpredictable hours. What is a mother of a young child supposed to do? I believed that it was important to be there for my son. When I had my daughter, I worked long hours and wasn’t available for her- a decision I couldn’t help, but one that I regret. As a single mom, I wanted to be the person to influence and raise my son. I wanted to be there for him until it was time for him to go to school. I also had to think about our future. My experience as a business owner made me want to seek higher education so that I could gain more stable employment in the future.”

Irene made the decision to get a college degree in order to create greater opportunity for a financially secure future. Before her son reached school age, however, Irene’s daughter was unable to take care of her son so Irene’s grandson came to live with her. “There was just no way for me to work full-time and give my son and grandson the care that they needed.”

Now Irene is close to graduation and has totally remade her life. Her son is in school and her grandson, for whom she was the primary caregiver for a year and a half, is living with his mother again. “I feel good about where my life is heading. But I don’t think people really realize what a hard decision it was for me to come out of the workforce to take care of my son and grandson. I know that I did the right thing for both of them and for me, but I also know that I will probably have to work longer because I lost Social Security credits during those years. We don’t need to live lavishly, but I have struggled financially for years now. I don’t want to struggle like that when I’m elderly.”

Irene goes on: “I had my son late in life, so if he goes to college, he will just be entering the workforce by the time I reach retirement age. I do not want to rely on him to take care of me. I believe that our children are better off when a parent is allowed extra time off from work to care for them. I just don’t understand why people don’t place a higher value on caregiving- because to me, it is invaluable.”