A career in international education can be exhilarating. We have the privilege of traveling the world, experiencing other cultures, and meeting new people as part of our job. But, as we age, many of us take on responsibilities that do not co-exist well with these career benefits. The thrill of travel and stepping into different worlds can suddenly feel like a burden when commitments at home begin to stack up.
One such responsibility international educators may experience is the necessary care for aging or sick parents at home. While this topic is broad and complex, we sought to share some insight into how other instructors balance this work-life dynamic.
The Global Leadership League spoke with four international educators from around the world about how they balance work and family obligations. Our first educator in the series is Lakshmi Iyer of New Delhi, India.
Executive Director & Head of Education
New Delhi, India
How old are your parents and what are their medical issues?
My parents are in their late 70s. My mother suffers from Meniere’s disease for which there is no cure. We have to manage the condition while dealing with uncertainty and the loss of quality of life. Meniere’s destroys the nerves in the inner ear and causes tinnitus (ringing in the ear) and vertigo. My father acts as the primary caregiver during my mother’s vertigo episodes, which debilitate her for a couple of days.
Where do you live and where do they live? Where do you travel for work and how often?
I live in New Delhi, India. My parents live about 4 hours away by plane, in Kerala in the South of India. I travel all around the world for work and typical travel over 16 weeks a year.
When managing a career in international education and dealing with an aging parent, you need a team of helpers. Whether it’s a traditional team, like family, or a non-traditional team like friends and co-workers, who is your team and how do they help you?
Recently, my brother and I leased an apartment next door to my flat in Delhi so that my parents can live as independently as possible. My parents now divide their time between India and the United States, where my brother lives, so we take turns in accompanying them on the long journey one way and help share the load of the travel.
Do you have a contingency plan if something happens to your parent?
The contingency plan is ‘me’ and being able to be there on short notice in order to support them if the need arises.
Do you have any tips or advice for others dealing with similar situations?
Financial resources are paramount. I am fortunate that I share that with my brother. My parents have their pensions as well and are not financially reliant on anyone. I check in on them daily when I am on the road and the fact that my mother is tech savvy is helpful. My father is on Whatsapp, which enables us to see each other and chat.
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