What a Sandwich Generation Is, and How to Cope With the Pressure If You Belong to It
Here it goes again. You wake up in the morning and thoughts are running through your head: visiting your elderly parents and bringing them some medication, picking up kids from school, cleaning the house, and yes, working in the office on top of that. You are “sandwiched” between your parents and kids, and your responsibilities are piling up day by day. It may feel like you got stuck in Groundhog Day, but there are ways to lower your stress.
Here at Bright Side we’ve collected a few tips that can help you cope with the squeeze when you have to care for 2 generations of your family, and here they are.
What is a Sandwich Generation?
The term Sandwich generation refers to adult people who are taking care of their parents, aged 65 or older, and at the same time are raising their children under 18 or supporting their grown children. These people are “squeezed” between their family responsibilities, as if they were placed in the middle of a sandwich. While taking care of your family members is totally normal, life can get extremely stressful when you need to take care of and provide financial and emotional support for people from 2 generations.
So what are some ways you can cope with all these pressures and save your nerves?
Talk to your employer and use all the benefits the company can offer.
Many companies now have benefits for employees that are main caregivers in big families. These include an opportunity to work from home once in a while, switching to a more flexible schedule, a reimbursement or discount for senior care, and many other things. Don’t hide your struggles from your boss, and tell them about the pressures you experience. After all, your employer doesn’t want you to be stressed out, tired, and distracted, right?
Share the burden.
A burden shared is a burden halved, as the proverb says. Even if you can successfully cope with all the duties that keep piling up on your shoulders, you don’t have to cope with them all alone. Use your family network and start delegating. When your children come home from school, ask them to contribute to cleaning the house or cooking dinner. Getting your kids involved will not only ease the stress for you, but it will teach your kids responsibility and prepare them for adult life. You can also ask your siblings to be more involved in caring for your elderly parents and you can take turns visiting them.
It’s a good idea to discuss all the important things with your family in advance. Talk to your parents about their estate plans and discuss what college your kids want to go to before they get their high school diploma. Some experts also suggest planning your finances well ahead of time and choosing retirement over college savings if you’re not sure that you can cope with both. If you don’t like the idea of asking your kids to cover your housing or medical bills when you retire, you may have to choose to not pay so much toward their college now.
Put yourself first.
We’re not robots and we all need rest. Add time for yourself into your schedule, no matter how busy it is, and do at least one thing a day just for yourself. It can be reading your favorite book, watching a new episode of your favorite show, or meditating. Don’t forget to eat a healthy diet, get enough sleep, and go out with your friends to get the emotional support you need. It’s really hard to care for anyone else if you don’t take care of yourself first, isn’t it? Be “selfish” once in a while and you’ll be able to perform your caregiving duties with a fresh mind.
Set your priorities.
It’s harder to cope with responsibilities when they are piling up and you have no idea what to start with. Make a list and think of the most important, urgent things and place them at the top before crossing out everything you can delegate. This will reduce your own stress. Use calendars for weekly and daily tasks with color codes for family members to make it work better.
Get some help from the community.
Apart from seeking support inside your own family, you can also try to look around and get help from the outside. For example, you can join a local support group that unites people who are coping with the same situations or find a similar group on the internet. Local senior care and medical centers can also be a source of backup help.
Keep an emergency fund.
Experts suggest saving at least 3 months of living expenses in your account. This is the emergency money you can use when something goes wrong. If you maintain this kind of a fund, you won’t have to use your credit cards or borrow it, in case of an unexpected situation.
Update all family members at once.
Life gets even tougher when you have to update everyone on how your elderly parents are doing or what grades your kids have recently gotten at school. Why not update everyone at once? A group e-mail or group chat on social media will make things easier and free up some space in your busy schedule. Besides, it’s an easy way to ask for help when you need it from your family.
Do you belong to a Sandwich generation? If yes, how do you cope with the pressure?
Illustrated by Kseniia Volkova for BrightSide.me