How to Juggle Parenting and Caregiving
It is estimated that 47% of adults in their 40s and 50s have a parent age 65 or older and are raising children. With people having children later and our parents living longer, it is highly likely that you or someone you know is both parenting and caregiving.
I have four friends in my immediate friend circle who are caring for their aging parent on some level, while parenting kids 8 years old and younger. Since all of us had our kids in our late 30s/early 40s, our kids will likely also be part of the sandwich generation.
If you are one of the 9.3 Americans who are part of the Sandwich Generation, you know how overwhelming it is to juggle parenting and caregiving. I worked with many family caregivers who were about my age and had young children. Juggling the two tasks is hard. The only way to survive is to be organized and make use of all of the resources available to you.
Best Strategies for Balancing Parenting and Caregiving
If you’re struggling with juggling parenting and caregiving, here are strategies to balance the two, without losing your mind. I spent eight years helping families manage caregiving so I learned a lot of tips from some of the best family caregivers I met.
- Divide and Conquer:
Even if you are the only local family member, there are ways for siblings or other family members to get involved with caregiving. Perhaps a long-distance sibling takes on managing your parent’s finances or ordering grocery delivery.
Maybe long-distance siblings chip in to pay for a cleaning service for your parent or a paid caregiver. Living nearby shouldn’t make the burden of caregiving fall on one person. You and your family just need to get creative about how tasks are managed.
- Make it a Family Affair:
My mom used to care for my grandmother when I was a kid. I distinctly remember making lunch for my grandmother, as well as staying with her when my mom was out. You know what? I loved getting to spend extra time with my grandmother.
I had a few clients with teenaged children who used to stay with their grandparent during spring break. During that time, they’d cook for their grandparent and accompany them on walks and outings. Involve your kids in the caregiving process. Even a three or four year old can help with putting away laundry (I know because my three year old does!) or keep grandma company.
- Maximize Your Time:
Here’s where organization plays a major role in parenting and caregiving – particularly if you are a working parent. If you are juggling parenting and caregiving, the only way to succeed is to get organized. If you haven’t tried my Sunday prep, you need to establish some form of a weekend preparation routine so that you’re not scrambling last minute.
If you have to make appointments for your parents during the week, put them on your schedule for your lunch break (with the phone numbers) so that you’re not doing a bunch of little things here and there. You’ll be more productive if you knock everything out all at once. Keep a binder or file for your caregiving activities so that everything is accessible when you need it.
The same organization strategy is important for parenting. Set up a command center or keep all of your contact information and back up information in one place so that you can take care of things when you need to, rather than hunting for this paper or that form.
You should also maximize your visits with your parents. If you’re going for a visit, stock up on supplies they may need before your visit so that you don’t have to make two trips. If you cook for your parents, cook everything in large batches and freeze one for either you or your parents. There’s no need to cook more frequently than you need to!
- Let Go:
I have a tough time with this, but sometimes, you just have to let the little things slide – particularly when you’re busy! You can’t juggle parenting, caregiving and general life without some things slipping through the cracks. You’re only human! Even if you and your spouse split everything 50/50 and your kids share the load, things will slip through the cracks. Hopefully, they’re little, insignificant things.
If you haven’t read my post on Overwhelm, you should definitely check it out. Remember that you are in a busy season in life and give yourself the grace that you would give a friend. If you have the ability to outsource things, whether it is the cleaning, cooking or errands, don’t be embarrassed to do so.
- Practice Self-Care:
Before you roll your eyes at me, understand that most caregivers spend 5 – 10 years in their caregiving role. If you are parenting and caregiving, you are giving so much of yourself to others. You need to find a way to take a little bit back for you.
You don’t have to spend hours on self-care. Consider downloading a mindfulness app to listen to before bed. You can also keep a gratitude journal or commit to taking a walk or sitting in the sun during your lunch break. You may not be able to practice self-care daily – I mean, what parent does – but try to squeeze it in whenever you can to maintain your own well-being. You can’t care for others if you don’t care for yourself.
It can be hard to sit back and appreciate the position you’re in, particularly on the difficult days. Just remember, life won’t always be this chaotic. Your parents won’t always be here and your kids won’t always need you. Even though it can be hard to appreciate the season you are in, try. One day, you will look back on this time and be thankful that you had the opportunity to care for your aging parents, even if it did coincide with parenting your children.
If you are interested in more caregiving resources and tips, I run a separate caregiving blog, http://www.caregivingmadeeasy.com where I share my knowledge of caregiving from my years of working in the field.