How to Survive the ‘Sandwich Generation’ without burnout
Delayed parenting and increased life spans have resulted in a “sandwich generation” effect of people in their 40s-60s caught between supporting ageing parents, grown children (over 18) and their grandchildren, or raising young children while looking after ageing parents and grandparents.
A multitude of responsibilities brings competing demands on time, energy and finances. Each has their challenges without throwing complex health issues, friends in need, volunteering in the community, and full-time jobs into the mix.
I want to help my friend as I’ve been there and I know what she’s going through, but I’m so busy with my own son and his health issues that it’s impossible right now to give her practical support. – Marg, caregiver
Sandwich Generation Challenges
Whether it’s helping your parents with personal care and household chores, minding the grandchildren or ferrying your kids to and from after-school activities, it all requires times when there is already little to spare, and you can find yourself stretched very thin.
With elderly parents living longer and smaller family sizes resulting in fewer siblings to share the load, it can be quite a juggle especially when parents live separately and a considerable distance away. Caregiving decisions are further complicated when there are complex health needs where emergencies could come at any time.
Multigenerational carers experience high levels of stress at being pulled in many directions. The constant multitasking can be exhausting and the guilt of trying to do too many things and none of them well, soon takes an emotional toll often leading to depression and anxiety, putting a further strain on relationships and physical health.
Sandwich generation members can experience a negative impact on their careers and finances, particularly women who are the majority caregivers, as a result of time off work required to care for both children and parents. The constant juggle also makes it challenging to separate work and home life.
Not only are many women working, but they are also parenting their children at a much higher level. We’re working, we’re over-parenting, we’re taking care of our elderly parents who are living longer, and we’re trying to keep our marriages sexy and fun. We’re trying to do it all ourselves. It would be mad to think we could take on all of this stuff and not break down eventually. – Sandra Tsing Loh
In addition, adult children are remaining at home for longer, often into their mid 20’s while attending university or saving for their own home. And elderly parents may need financial assistance with bills, medical expenses and equipment. Both of which make a dent in saving for your retirement and your future needs.
So how do you cope with being the meat in the sandwich when you are already running at full capacity? And at what point do you put ‘me first’?
Everyone’s situation is different, and there is no one-size-fits-all. You can only make it up as you go along and do the best you can. Being aware of the issues can help you be better prepared.
1. Acknowledge it’s going to be hard work
Accept there is going to be financial, mental, and physical stress, whether you are caring for your family long-distance, nearby, or within the home. And if hospitalisation is involved, your hectic schedule will become a logistical nightmare.
2. Make peace with imperfection
If you can get through a third of the items on your to-do list each morning, you’re doing well. Beating yourself up at not having done enough makes a tough job more difficult. Cut yourself some slack. Perfection is not required, good enough will do. You don’t have to do it all.
3. Prioritise your responsibilities
Your priority is to your children and preserving family time. You are not going to please everyone all the time, and your commitment to your parents is to love them and ensure their safety. It’s not necessary to include them at every family outings or special school events.
4. Enlist help
Put sibling rivalries aside and divvy up responsibilities amongst each other. It doesn’t have to be evenly split, but everyone can help with something whether financially from afar, showing up whenever possible to assist in person or help with specifics such as communicating with health professionals.
Asking for help is hard sometimes because you can feel like a failure at not being able to cope. Direct support platforms like Swathe.me, make it easier to get the help you need from people who care so that you have a support team to lean on through the difficult times.
5. Make Self Care a Priority
You need to take care of yourself. Define what you can commit to and what you are not willing to commit to and let everyone know the score. You are no good to your children or parents once you burn out. Pace yourself and replenish yourself along the way. Everyone needs a break. Do what makes you feel good and get plenty of rest. Whether that ’s seeing a counsellor, meditation, yoga or just time-out reading a book.
There is no getting around it, caring for an elderly parent while raising children can be stressful, challenging and exhausting. But it can also be rewarding. Closer family bonds between generations, children getting to know their grandparents and learning empathy and sacrifice, and a greater sense of self-worth and purpose that comes with caring for another.
Are you going through a challenging time?
Chances are you could really do with a helping help but find it hard to ask for that help.
Swathe.me makes it easy to get the practical support you need, from people who care, even when they can’t be there in person.
It’s really simple – you just make a list of tasks you need help with and share it with the people who have offered to help. And it’s FREE!
CLICK HERE to start making every day better for you during these difficult times.