Juggling kids, their ever ballooning schedules of after school activities, work and running the household (usually as captain / sole contributor to the team) is tough enough. Chuck in sick and aging parents and you can sink the ship altogether.
We call these busy women, wedged between obligations to their children, their work and their parents – the sandwich generation. Book ended by all sorts of needs – never their own. Sound like you?
Ironically, at about the exact time that your health needs to become a higher priority- when poor diet, lack of exercise, sleep deprivation, excess sitting and wines will actually take a real toll on your health, your attention to yourself takes an EVEN bigger dip. I not only see this all day every day in my surgery but I have taken a membership of the sandwich generation club myself recently. I have a blended family with 6 kids between 23 and 10 and I work full time. Last year my dad got really sick, dying in December. I won’t go into the grief of losing him, but I will tell you that as the only child in Sydney, I found myself taking days off work to take dad to various specialists and then to hospital. And now my independent, healthy mum is a widow. So if I’m not calling or visiting her I’m thinking and worrying about her, or calling my brother to chat about her. Like most of my patients, I feel my parents are a blessing not a burden, but now I’m truly sandwiched!
So what do we do? I can’t give you any advice that can remove responsibility from your shoulders. Hey that’s being a mum right? But I can give you some tips to survive your sandwich phase with your sanity and health intact:
1. Look after yourself. Seriously. With all that responsibility, if you fall over or are too tired to function, a lot of people and plans go down with you. A check up with your GP to get the ball rolling is a must. Nbn recently released a report showing 90% of the sandwich generation had put off visiting a GP out of fear of avoiding wasting time, losing money and having to take days off work. If you are one, then check out some of the many health apps or Telehealth services that can quickly and easily help you monitor and improve your health or have an online consultation with your GP
2. Make exercise a part of your day. No time? No drama! A 10 minute yoga or other exercise workout at home delivered via YouTube of a morning will be transformative for your wellbeing. Build up from there.
3. Ditch the junk food. No will power? Detox your fridge and pantry. That’s right! The rubbish goes into the bin! Nobody needs that rubbing in your home, including, if not especially your kids. To have good food at home requires organisation. Start online shopping to make sure healthy options are available to snack on at home and to take to work and avoid junk food impulse buys.
4. Nurture your relationships. You won’t feel alone in your burdens if you have your support networks sured up. Give the best you to your partner and connect with girlfriends even if it’s just via phone or email if you’re strapped for time.
5. Get support. Siblings overseas or interstate? Get them hooked up on Skype or FaceTime to mum and dad so they can check in as often as you do. And galvanise all the far flung grandkids in on the action. Performing a dance and song for granny via FaceTime can be the highlight of both of their days!
6. Get support for your mental health. Believe me anxiety and depression mushroom at this time. The majority don’t need medication but most do need some counselling even when your time is at a premium. Online therapy options of super high quality are easily accessible after hours from home with good supportive evidence- often for free!
Ever improving internet thanks to the nbn network together with a recognition that this time is tough are making this period easier to handle. Best of luck on your journey!