We have so much on our plates to keep our immediate household going, and for those of us who have aging parents, we experience fierce competition for our energetic resources. Some of us are caught in the middle of trying to raise our children and manage care for our aging parents, all of which can put an enormous strain on our daily lives.
It makes sense, given that people are having children later in life and our collective life expectancy is longer. But for those in this situation, it can become overwhelming and start to affect our health and our relationships over time.
Some of these coping strategies may seem like common sense, but revisiting some of these basic tricks and exploring some new options can make all the difference in balancing the whole act.
- Develop a healthy self-care routine that is non-negotiable. If everyone wants the lunches to get made, the forms signed and the shopping done, they must also understand that Mom and Dad get 15 minutes of uninterrupted time to meditate, practice yoga, go for a walk, lie down for a nap, or whatever else serves them at the moment. Studies have shown that daily meditation or mindfulness practice contributes to quality of life, reduces stress and improves health.1 We are not talking about hours, either. 10-15 minutes a day is all it takes.
- Let go of the guilt. There is always more to be done and hindsight is 20/20. Guilt wastes valuable energy better served somewhere else and none of us are perfect. It is easier said than done, but making the decision to let the guilt go is a healthy choice, and one that gets easier with practice.
- You do not have to do all this alone, nor should you. Identify some people in your community including friends, or community members that might be able to lighten the load. Outsource as much of the household stuff as you can and make sure your children have a list of tasks that are within their capabilities. It can help to write out a list of things that need to happen each week or month and designate these things. This act alone has a clearing effect.
- This is a huge one, and it is often the first thing that gets brushed aside. It is crucial that everyone, even the little ones understand that nana needs extra help. By giving our kids age appropriate information, and allowing them to be part of the solution, we provide a chance to learn, to contribute, to watch us navigate the difficulties. Children are resilient and we often underestimate them. When we allow them into the conversation and the plan, they get the opportunity to grow.
- Seek professionals. If your parent is in a facility, there maybe be resources like social workers or counselors that can help manage your particular set of circumstances. Do this as a strategic measure, rather than waiting until your situation is unmanageable.
- Laugh Often. Get everyone together and watch a comedy. Tell stories, or play a game, no matter where you are.
- Express Love. All the stresses can distract us from the big goal of loving our families. Play the long game and remember to tell the people around you that you love them. Be the bonding agent, even when you are frustrated, tired, resentful or just sad. Remember that love is the other side of all that.
There are ways to approach and organize things, even amid the chaos, that can really help maintain our quality of life in the “sandwich” generation. A good place to start is just reexamining some of the basic assumptions about how you are addressing your family’s big picture and where the opportunities to improve lie. With the right combination of elements, you and your family can help each other, bond together and overcome all of those obstacles. And there is a ton of joy in that.