I left my job when I had to care for my mom and my kids at once. It’s not what I wanted to do, but I had no other option.

Jessica Kim and her family
Jessica Kim and her family. Courtesy of Jessica Kim
  • When my mom was battling cancer, my parents moved in with my family so I could help with care.
  • I was working full-time while taking care of my three children and managing all my mom’s issues.
  • I quit my job to be more present with my family.

When my mom was first diagnosed with cancer, I had no idea how long the journey would last. I did know that I would do everything I could to help her feel well and to help my dad manage her care. After years of chemo and surgeries, the disease came back for the third time, and my parents moved in with me. I became her primary caregiver.

At that time I was still learning the best ways to balance working full-time at a large corporation while raising my three young kids.

The new responsibilities of caring for my mom added another layer I wasn’t trained or prepared to take on. When she moved in with us, it became my job to manage not only her care but also all of the tasks that came along with it.

Taking care of her pulled me away from my job

I was the one who had to pump her stomach several times a day and make sure she weighed enough to continue chemotherapy. Even something as simple as finding a hospital bed became a daylong affair that pulled me away from work and from my kids. Finding the best model, the most reasonable price, a delivery window that coincided with my 9-to-5 schedule, would consume an entire day.

I was floored by the complete lack of resources and support to get through these moments. There was no “take-home packet” from the hospital on how to care for your terminally ill mother between budget meetings and making kids’ lunches.

I looked for professional caretakers to help manage the daily care, but the costs were astronomical, and no one was willing to work with the flexible hours we needed.

I had worked so hard to get to this point in my career. I had an MBA from a top business school; I had founded two companies; and I was working at a large company in a role I loved. But I was half present.

I was spending my day on hold with doctor’s offices, staying up late trying to keep up with work, and asking my kids to choose between after-school activities because we couldn’t manage it all.

Leaving my job was hard, but I had no other choice

Eventually, I made the difficult decision to leave work. As a woman in the workplace, and as a working mom, this was hard to cope with. Having to leave my career behind for an undefined period of time felt like erasing the years of work I had already put in.

Later I learned this isn’t uncommon. Thirty-two percent of caregivers end up leaving a job to care for their loved ones.

After battling for more than seven years, my mom died.

In my deep grief, I felt frustrated. I had made excruciating decisions and sacrifices at the expense of my kids’ happiness and my career, and I was left feeling completely unseen by the healthcare system, by my employer, my colleagues, and even my own family and friends.

I was determined to build the system of support I desperately needed throughout my time as a caregiver, so I created Ianacare – a platform where caregivers can mobilize friends and family to help with everyday tasks, connect to local resources and services, unlock employee and health-plan benefits, and access a personal coach.

I have recently become a caregiver for the second time, now to my 82-year-old dad. It’s a reminder that caregiving never really ends, and our healthcare systems, employers, and society need to catch up to this reality.

Jessica Kim is the cofounder and CEO of Ianacare on a mission to encourage, empower, and equip family caregivers with practical tools and communities, so no one does it alone.