The “Sandwich Generation” is made up of people who are simultaneously taking care of their children and helping their ageing parents. -As working Mum’s, we are busy, we have a house to manage and business to run, we a take care of children, partners and then slowly it creeps up on you until one day you wake up and realise you are caring for your parents and their affairs and household!
Predictably, this causes a lot of stress. At times, it can feel impossible to manage everything. You’re only one person, after all!
There is a great article on the BBC website if you want to do some more reading around the subject of Stress in the “Sandwich Generation” Why the ‘sandwich generation’ is so stressed out – BBC Worklife
We are caught in the middle, and it takes time. And the only way to keep on top of all of this is to be organised. The two main areas you need to care for are the humans around you. Now assuming your partner can take care of themselves, this leaves the children & your elderly parents.
There is the day-to-day running of children to and from school, making sure they are ready for the day, lunches; PE kits; extracurricular activities, and organising them to be prepared and ready not to mention the daily taxi service and logistics. Depending on the age of the children will depend on how much input they need and support, but also on their personality. Some children seem to be born more independent than others with an ability to organise themselves, whereas others are in a permanent daydream, losing stuff, forgetting even the basics like eating breakfast before school, and need that regular input and supervision to get them through the day. But ask yourself “Are you raising them to be self-reliant ?”
Getting the Children Organised
There are all sorts of methods and resources to get things organised including daily planners, lunch boxes, and meal planners, but what is a game-changer to organising children?
I think there are 2 main areas
Night prior prep & a place for everything for them,
Creating a space in the home where the children know they can place and find everything is so effective. Preferably not too far from the front door so instead of a trail of detritus as they discard items on their way to the kitchen in search of food after the school day, a front door hub can have an area for coats, shoes, school bags, PE kits if it is possible to have a planner here even better with lists of activities and required kits or additional school items – even better so when they come home from school there is a routine and place for them to put everything so it’s there in the morning. Encourage them to do this themselves and start that journey of learning how to be organised, these are skills and tools they will need for the rest of their lives. Instill the habits from an early age, repetition is the master of success.
Anything to make the following morning less stressful, which is the pinch point in most homes, has got to be a win-win.
Now to your parents,
You may only need to plan in companionship and well-being visits to plan into your schedule or it may be they need financial support and paperwork – anything to keep them independent – if you have the power of attorney you will be far more involved in their affairs, it becomes more like trying to juggle running 2 households, at this point you may have family members who can help and support you and regular allocation of time for visits and support can be shared, however, if you are the sole carer the responsibility will fall herder on your shoulders.
Shift in Dynamics
Often there is a shift of power as the situation develops. Often it sees a change of roles from you being the child to doing the parenting. The help often starts small but grows over time as they need more support. Difficult conversations can occur as you need to direct them if independent living becomes a challenge, and this will be a seismic shift in the dynamics of the relationship.
I noticed it grow slowly as my mum became frailer and dad started to struggle with her day-to-day care. I increased the visits and started to notice the hygiene around the kitchen was slipping, the cooker looked in a state or there would be gone off food in the fridge, then it was an increasing need to explain technology and paperwork, where my dad’s understanding had previously been fine. Sometimes the shift is so imperceptible, but then one day you turn around and realise, your parents have got old and now they rely upon you for even some of the most basic tasks.
This is the point at which life becomes tricky for the sandwich carer. Time, which has never been plentiful, is now in even more short supply as you spread yourself thinner and thinner.
Organisation is the only way to manage your situation now and this is where having taught your children to be organised can be a game-changer.
And then let’s not forget you are still juggling your own working life or business too.
Lots of people will be invested in this relationship and bring their own beliefs on how to manage elderly parents as well as respect their wishes. But let’s not forget not everyone has good family relationships and that can make conversations even harder. Finally taking the step to move an elderly parent into a home will also involve a lot of work to reduce years of memories. In the meantime, you can expect resistance and emotions from your parents. Decluttering your parent’s homes and memories is a huge burden as you make decisions about someone else’s belongings.
The good news is if you can get your routines in place with your children, they will pick up the cues and start to live a more independent life and how rewarding is that to see. This in turn will help free you from your responsibilities with your parents. Children and Elderly parents can also be great together. Even young children can help you with some of the little things, like entertaining your parents by encouraging them to tell them stories of the old days, will give you time to clean that cooker or make that call.
If this relates to you, be brave & keep the conversations open & check out my services to see if I can help you. Services – The Declutter Lady
Rachel, The Declutter Lady.