Managing a life lived in overdrive
You know you’re a member of the “Sandwich Generation” if:
•You collapse into bed every night feeling mentally and physically exhausted
•Your day has been about everyone else – taking care of your aging parents, taking care of your children and your grandchildren – while holding down a full-time job
•You’ve spent the whole day in overdrive, but still have left so much undone
I know this; I am a member of the Sandwich Generation. I care for my elderly mother’s affairs and have a family – with children and grandchildren. I also run two businesses – New England AccountAbility and Davis and Towle Insurance Agency. My days fly by, and rarely is everything on my to-do list accomplished.
One of every eight Americans aged 40 to 60 years is included in this generation.
A study by the National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP found that 61 percent of caregivers are women and 41 percent of female caregivers also work full-time jobs. It is astonishing to realize that up to 10 million adults are caring for aging parents from a distance.
We are a generation that is quickly realizing that we need help, but we aren’t sure where to get it. We’re used to getting things done on our terms and not waiting for the answers to present themselves.
But because we’re also part of the Baby Boom, we demand things on our agendas and with our ability to make choices. For us, it comes down to whether we would rather be enjoying time with the family, or struggling to find the time to pay our bills.
As a professional who helps members of the Sandwich Generation keep up, I’ve compiled a few tips and advice that I give my clients:
1. Accept the fact that you are not superhuman. You cannot carry everyone else’s burdens and to even think you can is unrealistic. You can’t be there to pick up the slack and fill the void in everyone else’s day. You are not being fair to yourself.
2. Admit publicly that you’re not superhuman, since the next hardest thing to accepting the fact is saying it out loud to someone else. It’s difficult to tell your children that you can’t do something that they are asking you to do. But, if you’re going to gain control of your life, you need to define limits and then let others know what they are.
3. Identify the areas in your life where you want to focus your attention. Where do you want to spend your time? With family? Growing your business or advancing your career? All of the above?
4. Don’t make someone else’s lack of planning or forgetfulness your problem. You have had to become a problem-solver for yourself. Your day is full and planned out to the minute. A last-minute request for help will get you totally out of sorts. And, you didn’t even get that way by yourself!
5. Identify within those areas things that you can pass on to someone else to handle. Delegation will allow you to manage your time more efficiently.
6. Surround yourself with reliable people in whom you have confidence – this way you know the work will get done to your standards.
7. When you need help, admit it. Turn to professionals who can provide support through services or advice.
8. Seek out companies that offer time-saving support and services, where you can offload some of your routine chores. For example, you might want to choose the dry cleaner that provides free pick up and delivery to your home or office, rather than having to make that stop on your own. Or, how about a food preparation service, where you can pick up a month’s worth of meals that go from your freezer to your oven?
9. Engage your family members in being part of the solution. As you’re making decisions for your aging parents or your children, bring them into the discussion and allow them to help you make decisions that help them.
10. Breathe. You are doing the very best you can and that is all anyone can ask of you.
These are all common-sense tips, but when you’re in the middle of the Sandwich Generation, consumed with managing everything, it’s difficult to remember that there are ways to accomplish a lot without having to do it all yourself.
Adria Cilley is principal of New England AccountAbility, Penacook, a service that manages personal finances, such as organizing and paying bills and helping to manage personal records. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.