“My boss had a closed door meeting with me for missing the staff meeting three weeks in a row. I didn’t have a choice; I wasn’t skipping out for fun. My mom forgets to take her medication if I’m not there, which only exacerbates her dementia. And if I don’t drop off dinner for her on my way home, she simply won’t eat. And my daughter? She’s failing two classes, which means I’m at the school several days a week trying to work through this crisis. My husband found a job after being unemployed for a year. But it requires him to travel two weeks a month, which means little help from him. I get it, but sometimes all I want to do is scream ‘what about me?’ I can’t remember the last time I had fun, just for me. Something’s gotta give, and soon.”
Welcome to the sandwich generation. There’s almost nothing more stressful and emotionally draining as being pulled in so many different directions throughout your day, especially when there isn’t an end in sight.
Caregiving is difficult even in the best of times. And if your parents are declining and your kids are rebelling, how are you ever supposed to gain peace and balance in your life?
They tell you things like “this won’t last forever” or “things change,” but that doesn’t do you much good right here in the now. You may be frightened. You may feel unsure. You may feel sad. You may feel angry. You may feel cheated out of the life you truly want, as well.
This is supposed to be a good time in your life. How did it ever get to this?
The important thing to remember is you’re not alone. Approximately 20 million women in the US between 45 and 56 are in this same situation. Everything in your life begins to weigh down on you – your parents, your kids, your job, even your marriage. And you’re right; something will eventually give. And in many cases, it’s often your health. Which is why it’s important to take a step back and deal with the situation before it escalates.
Stop the stress
Is someone in a major crisis? If the answer is no, the situations you are dealing with are often self-perpetuating. Everyone requires a bit of your time, and you’re giving in to the worst of every situation. Kids act up because they may be just plain angry over life and the new stresses in their lives. Your parent may need additional help far and above what you have to give. And when you relieve some of the immediate stresses in your life, it opens up the ability to see through and do what needs to be done.
Don’t ask for help. Get it. Hire people to help manage your mother’s health issues. An in home caregiver can make sure she takes her medicine each morning, and make sure she receives nutritious, well-balanced meals each night. You can hire maid service to clean your home each week, giving you time to spend with your family. It doesn’t take a lot of help, just pinpoint the dire areas that can make the most difference.
Include your entire family
This isn’t just about you. You may be shouldering the weight, but keeping it in is causing you harm. A 14 year old can understand that life will change with growing health concerns with her grandparents. She can also help you make decisions about how to help. Would she be willing to pitch in and do a few chores around grandma’s house? Talking about it can give your child empathy, and help them feel like they are an important part of the process, rather than receiving the brunt of the pain. In many cases you’ll find your family supports you, they just don’t know how to help.
You hear it all the time, yet you might not believe it’s possible. It is. Ask a friend or relative to pitch in once in awhile. Sign up for a yoga class and go, no matter what. A date night with your spouse can help you unwind and connect with him all over again. It’s not just important; it’s mandatory to give you the chance you need to be you.