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Managing Subway (4 Tips For Surviving In The Sandwich Generation)

A trip to your favorite sub/sandwich shop, with so many options, can result in a wide array of tasty creations depending on your mood and taste at the moment. The one element that is consistent in the process, however, is that the ingredients you choose are all compressed, combined and enclosed (sandwiched) between your choice of bread. Do you ever feel as if your life is sandwiched between two equally demanding, yet highly valuable pieces?

Almost half of all adults from the age of 40-60 have the responsibility of caring for an aging parent while still raising, or aiding in, the care of their children. With the advances in medical treatment, we are living longer, but not always able to live independently. Couple that with the either having children later in life, or having adult children experiencing growing pains, and it is an all too familiar storyline playing out across America. In fact, there is even the phenomenon called Club Sandwich, where some are dealing with parents, children andgrandchildren. Mid-Life has become a see-saw or tug-of-war between these two precious elements of our lives, and many of us are losing ourselves and possibly our minds in the process.

There are only 24 hours in a day. How do you decide who needs your time (or money) more urgently? Your parents raised you, supported you, provided a safe place for you to land – of course you want to be there for them as they struggle with end of life issues. But you also want to be that same kind of parent to YOUR kids. You are pulled in so many directions it is almost impossible to feel like you are doing the right thing for everyone, even yourself. So how can I help? Maybe by just providing a few tips for how not to become overwhelmed in this process.

Be Honest – With everyone and yourself. You can’t do it all, no matter how much you want to. You can’t make every school event, doctor visit, feeding time, bedtime, pharmacy run… (the list is endless). You are going to have to be honest with your family and work out a schedule. It can either be a weekly or monthly schedule. Write down all the known appointments during that time period and make sure everyone has a copy. Of course, if you are dealing with smaller children, or a parent with mental health issues, this may not be quite as helpful, but it will still be useful to you in keeping track with all the obligations. If there are conflicting errands, prioritize by either importance or need to make the best use of your time. For the appointments you can’t make, you will need to share this information and provide another resource. You might be met with resistance at first, but once everyone knows you will make time for all of them, they will begin to understand.

Lose The Guilt – The first time (and probably every time) you have to tell either your child or your parent that you can’t be, go or do something they need, you will feel an enormous amount of guilt. While I understand this is natural, you do need to find a way to release it. You are doing the very best you can. Guilt will just weigh you down and take the pleasure out of the time you do spend with your loved ones. Being a part of our children’s lives should be a great source of joy and spending time with a parent as their life slows down and they begin to reflect, can be precious and even healing. Do not mar either of these events with thoughts of guilt. As much as possible, live in the moment and refuse to live with regret.

Accept (And Ask For) Help – I understand that no one loves your kids, or your parents, quite the way you do. That’s why it is so important to you that they have all of their needs met. But it is unrealistic to expect that you can do it all. There is help out there. Enlist other family members. Older children can help with younger ones. Adult children can help with the care of their grandparents, as can your siblings. Friends can be a good resource as well. Maybe one of your mom’s friends can go have dinner with her one night, or take her to the store. Maybe another parent could give your child a ride to school or pick them up from that field trip. Be creative in the avenues that are available. There are also professional organizations designed to help with the care of aging adults. Most of these do add an expense, but they are reliable, and peace of mind is definitely a worthy commodity. There is no disgrace in asking for help. It does not mean you care less or somehow not as strong as everyone thinks you are. It is healthy and a necessary decision to ensure everyone has the best level of care.

Don’t Forget Yourself – If you are doing all of the above three things, this one will be much easier. Please take care of yourself. When flying on an airplane, they always say in an emergency to use your oxygen mask first, before helping others. You are no good to anyone if you are sick, depleted of energy and exhausted. Find time to renew your mind and spirit. Take a pamper day. Relax a bit and collect your thoughts. A balanced body and mind will give you strength to pick back up the role that you are called to fulfill at this time of your life.

Just like there are many ingredients to a sandwich, there are many ingredients involved in being successful as part of the sandwich generation. If you are honest, prioritize, lose the guilt, accept help and remember to take care of yourself, this can be a beautiful time of bringing the family together for moments that live forever. Enjoy the glorious buffet of family and treasure every day.

And always…

Hope With Abandon

Hope Out

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