ILR Press

Family Caregivers and Taking Care of Our Own

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The ASA Virtual Engagement Event is happening and ahead of the event, we asked author Sherry Mong some questions about her book, Taking Care of Our Own: When Family Caregivers Do Medical Work, and her research on the types of skilled work that family caregivers do.

What’s your favorite anecdote from your research for this book?

I find the story of Paul, who cared for his wife, to be moving. When I asked him how he felt the first time he realized what he would have to do, he stated, “I gotta do it. . . she’s the light of my life.” Without stopping, he described the hole in his wife’s chest, and how to pull out packing, cut fresh gauze, and push it into her chest with a swab. I think this example demonstrates the emotions, work, and sense of responsibility shared among the caregivers I interviewed.

What do you wish you had known when you started writing your book, that you know now?

At first the literature and data felt like a mountain that I couldn’t scale. At times I would just walk around it. I understood pieces of the story so well, but wasn’t sure how they fit together. I continually turned ideas over in my mind and diagrammed new thoughts. It took a long time to reach moments of real insight.

I could say that in the future I’ll be more efficient but that seems antithetical to the process. Perhaps accepting that there may have been no better way to do it will allow me to be more patient with myself.

How do you wish you could change the field of Sociology?

I love Sociology and I want everyone to understand more about it. My students who are new to the field often remark that it is “eye-opening” and that it helps them to understand their connections to each other and to society. Academic disciplines like sociology provide the rigor that we need to be accountable in our research and to relay information that is credible. We also need to make sure that our work informs people, helps people, and helps society. I think it’s important to reach out—to engage in public sociology.

Sherry N. Mong is Associate Professor of Sociology and Criminology at Capital University in Columbus. Her current work stems from her personal experiences and her desire to understand how skilled home health labor is experienced by others.

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