You may be part of the sandwich generation and not even know it. This group includes people over 40 who are both raising children and caring for an aging loved one, and includes nearly half of all women aged 45-64.
These two roles can bring unique challenges as you’re pulled in many directions, balancing daily schedules for an entire family and providing financial, emotional and physical support for both children and parents.
Sandwich generation caregivers are more likely than other adults to say they always feel rushed, even when doing the things they have to do. It can be a stressful period in life.
This stress can be heightened right before children go back to school as schedules change but needs remain. So what can you do? Try the five tips below to help you ease back to school stress brought on by supplies lists, new childcare routines and making sure everyone is happy and healthy.
Ask for help. Doing everything by yourself can be overwhelming. In fact, this approach is a quick way to experience caregiver burnout. It is fully acceptable to ask for help from family, friends, neighbors, and colleagues. Start the conversation by clearly communicating your needs and outlining how assistance will help you and your family.
Partner with parents. If you know you’ll need to stop by mom or dad’s house to check on them after work, set up an agreement with parents in your child’s class or on their sports team to alternate days driving home or to practice. On the days when it’s your turn to drive the kids, ask a family member to check on mom or dad.
Open up to your employer. Many companies already have policies that support caregiving employees, and it is never too late to find out what those are. Then, the best approach is to have continued open communication with your supervisor about your role and accommodations that could help you continue to perform at your current level, especially during the busy back to school time.
Share responsibilities around the house. For women especially, there is a feeling of needing to “do it all,” but it’s important to have others pitch in. You can keep everyone on track by staying organized. It can be as simple as taking a few minutes to jot down tasks that must be regularly done on a chalkboard and then adding in specific tasks for each week on Sunday. Write the family member’s name responsible for each task, set expectations about performance and provide rewards when they do a great job.
Integrate the generations. Did you know that spending time with children can help improve feelings of loneliness and boredom that many seniors often feel, increase their activity level and eat healthier? Depending on your parent’s condition and activity level, having your children do activities such as reading or homework with mom or dad while you manage other tasks can be beneficial in managing the amount of time each group needs you every day.
While both raising children and caring for a parent can bring challenges, there is evidence that adults in the sandwich generation are just as happy with their lives overall as are other adults. Nearly 31% say they are “very happy” with their lives while 52% say they are “pretty happy,” which mirror the responses from the same among adults who are not part of the sandwich generation: 28% are “very happy,” and 51% are “pretty happy.”
Caregiving is a difficult job, but you can keep a healthy balance. If you have healthcare questions, call 208.238.0088.