If you are raising kids while caring for aging parents, you are part of the sandwich generation. If there is anyone who feels time pressures, it is you! Balancing your commitments to both of these generations and your paid work life can be super hard. It’s not unusual to feel that you aren’t doing enough for your kids, aren’t doing enough for your parents, and not giving 100% at work. What’s the way out of this ‘no-win’ feeling?
Striking a balance
There isn’t any magic pill that is going to give you what you probably want – more hours in a day. It has always struck me as unrealistic when I read about ‘striking balance’ when there is competing demands. I am not sure balance is possible . At best, there are some practical tips that can help to make it more manageable.
Examine your expectations of yourself and get realistic.
Are your expectations attainable and therefore realistic? Keeping your expectations realistic will allow you to celebrate the accomplished tasks and feel good about what got done instead of stressing about the tasks that were not completed.
Is it possible you are expecting too much of yourself? How much is enough in terms of what you do in a day? Is it ever enough? Having unrealistic expectations means it will never be enough and you will literally never feel good about yourself and the day. Your expectations and standards need to be based on the reality of your life.
Practice self-compassion as an antidote to sky-high expectations.
Involve your kids with your parent/s
Your kids may be the missing ingredient Think about age-appropriate ways they can be (further) involved. Everyone, including kids, feel good when they help someone else, Chances are they are tech-savvy. Is there a way they can connect with their grandparents, whether this is via Facebook or videochats, playing and online game or actually teaching or setting your parents up with the latest technology. This intergenerational connection is good for everyone!
Ask for and accept help
Adult children often believe it is their sole responsibility to handle all their aging parents’ needs on their own. However, there is no need, and there is no virtue in making this a one-person show. While it has been said that it takes a village to raise a child, it is equally true that it takes a village to take care of older adults.
Ask yourself, “What can I get help with?” Services are constantly popping up these days to save us time and foster convenience. Need a dog walking service? Meal/grocery delivery? Medications organized and delivered? House cleaning? Online ordering and delivery (for virtually anything!).
Are there family and friends who are willing to accept responsibility for any of the tasks your parents need help with? Is it possible to work out a schedule for providing assistance to parents? For example, would it be possible to tell your parents that, unless there is an emergency, you are available from 9:00-11:00 on Saturday mornings for whatever they need but that you need to be available to your children on weeknights?
You have been sandwiched between two generations that depend on your care. However, in order to continue to care for others, you will need to first advocate for yourself
Plan “me time”
One of the biggest risks for those in the sandwich generation is that self care is ignored, dropped, bypassed or ‘forgotten’. The needs of kids and older parents seem to trump self care needs.
I know of many daughters who go literally all day and take no down time for themselves. When the kids are (finally) in bed, attention is turned to cleaning, organizing, paying bills, laundry, etc. “Me time” is essential for overall health and wellbeing. Just because there is time for another task or chore in the evening, does not mean that you should tackle it.
Self care of “me” time will never just happen. It needs to be scheduled. Remember that you must be the one to plan your own “me time.” Others are not responsible for setting aside this time and believe me, they won’t.
What won’t change is that there is only one of you and there are only 24 hours in a day. What is one thing you can do today to help you manage life in the sandwich generation? Do any of your expectations and standards need to be adjusted? Dropped? Postponed?