When viewed from the outside, taking care of someone seems like a purposeful, meaningful, and rewarding task.
From the point of view of someone doing the caring, it might, on the other hand, be demanding, difficult, draining, and a bunch of other exhausting terms beginning with “d’.
When you are at the same time a parent and a child, and you find yourself at the age when your kids still need your attention, and your parents depend on you more and more, you may soon start to feel the burnout.
Here is how you can cope with it, stay sane, and thrive in the process.
Involve everyone as much as you can
Making sure everyone participates as much as they can is crucial when you’re juggling tasks for several members of the family at the same time.
With the kids, this will mean getting them to help with the chores they can do and letting them choose their own activities, but making them aware of how they will impact the rest of your day as well. Try to get them to help out with grandma and grandpa too – take them shopping, do visits, and anywhere else you feel might be appropriate.
With your parents, this might be a bit difficult. You are, after all, dealing with adults. Try to get them to make their own decisions, but also make sure they are aware when you are available, and for how long.
Have a support system in place
When I say support system, I mean a nanny on speed dial, a neighbor who can drop by your parents when you’re away if they need something, a friend whom you can grab a cup of coffee with and vent. In other words, you are the one who needs support, not only your kids and parents.
This might also mean you hire someone to do the cleaning, or go talk to a therapist once in a while – anything that will help you, as the caregiver, to cope and manage your time better.
Ensure your parent’s safety
As our parents get a bit older, we all feel the same dread: what if something happens to them while they’re alone, and you can’t help them?
This is where the neighbors come in nicely, but you shouldn’t just leave it at that. To take a significant load off your mind, it would also help to find a medical alert smartwatch that your parents can wear. After all, when an emergency does arise, the most important thing is to react on time.
Talk to everyone about everything
The first thing to break down in times of high stress and exhaustion is communication, and that’s the one thing you should try to maintain.
Ask everyone how they are feeling, what their day has been like, and make sure you talk about things other than personal schedules and if they’ve taken their medicine and vitamins.
On the other hand, don’t forget to talk about these things as well – or even have a board set up in the house that details everyone’s obligations, so you can stay on top of things.
Set clear boundaries
By boundaries, we mean times and places where you cannot be reached, and when you’re simply rebooting for the next day or week. Finding this alone time is very important, as you can easily forget about your needs, lost in a sea of responsibilities.
Tell your kids you’re taking a bath in the evening and that they need to leave you some space for half an hour. Tell your parents you will be away for an evening and ask them not to call. Even if it’s just staying in bed with a book on a Sunday morning – make sure everyone knows you’re taking this time “off”. If you don’t, they’ll just assume it’s business as usual, and you’ll just get annoyed at the interruptions.
Don’t let the bad days haunt you
Remember, there will also be bad days during this time. You’ll need to learn to not let them get you down, keep you awake, and haunt your waking hours.
Yes, you will snap at one of the kids for no reason. You will snap at your parents. You will forget something. You are only human, and you have a lot on your plate.
Learn to forgive yourself for the bad days, and keep moving on into the good ones. They will always come again – you just have to be patient enough.