< 1 min read
Many families are now having to be a different type of blended – they’re now multi-generational, and not just two different families coming together. Middle-aged parents are taking care of their aging parents, while still raising their own children.
When a middle-aged, already worn-out parent is being pulled in so many directions, with so many people depending on them, how do they practically take care of themselves?
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One of the hardest parts of this issue can be the guilt about 'not doing enough' or not spending enough time with the elderly parents while trying to balance one's own life. A self-care focus is always top priority to reduce stress with the competing demands, but also to give yourself permission to not give all of your time and energy to just the parent/s or to not see/visit them religiously if they are living outside of your home. We have also found it very important to find value in our interactions as a family so that it doesn't feel like a chore to 'care for' them but an enjoyable time to be together.
In our part of the world many people still live in joint families. Children grow up in an environment where they are living with their parents and grandparents so it is something accepted and normal for them.
I have observed and personally experienced that living in a multigenerational family is actually more of a support system than a challenge. When kids are younger, their grandparents become a great support. Kids are always under a kind and loving care even if the parents are not at home. Grandparents of my kids have played a remarkable role in their personality development and character building. They had all the time to sit with the kids, listen to their stories and also share with them their own time tested tips & experiences.
My grandmother passed away few years ago. She was in her 90s and was living with her kids, grand kids and great grandkids. Having people of all ages around you and feeling the warmth of love keeps you healthier and happier, that’s what I believe. If joint family comes with more responsibilities then you also have more hands to work and more shoulders to give you emotional support.
We all have different personalities and it is quite understandable that people can have differences. Respecting individual differences and having empathy have helped me in enjoying a balanced family life. I have cherished memories of my grandparents and my kids are living their loved moments with their ammi (grandmother) and abu (grandfather).
I am in the sandwich generation situation at present. We have a very blended family with numerous mixtures of parents, grandparents, and kids, all helping to take care of each other. Our large family unit (who live close by) is helpful for us because we all pitch in when and where needed.
My elderly mother still wants to keep her big house but needs help with the upkeep, bills, cleaning, and yard work. While we assist her with these duties, she sometimes pitches in (when she feels well) and takes care of the youngsters. Nieces and nephews mow her lawn or stop by for companionship as needed.
By spreading out the duties among ALL of the family members, the burden is not overwhelming for the most part.
We all schedule time for ourselves, including vacations. We then are "off duty" and make sure that "the family" is aware and picks up any necessary care.
It takes coordination, and I am the main person that oversees the family's needs. I think that one central person who can see the whole picture and is good at communication and coordination is helpful in this type of scenario.
I was just chatting to a friend about this the other day. Her family are originally from India and they have always had a multi-generational household. To me it looks chaotic, but she says she wouldn't have it any other way. There have always been grandparents on hand to help with child rearing duties, and cooking and cleaning tasks get shared among more adults so it' snot just one exhausted mom and dad trying to keep everything running smoothly. As her parents have aged, her kids who have formed wonderful bonds with their grandparents also step in to help with caregiving tasks.
For those of us who have more nuclear rather than extended family living arrangements, it can be an exhausting adjustment when the time comes that our kids still need our attention but our parents also need support of various kinds. What has worked to varying degrees of success for friends and family in this position has been to do an honest assessment of everyone's needs (from the youngest to the oldest family member), and from there to assess what each person is able to do for themselves and what they need help with. As both a parent and a child of ageing parents, you cannot be expected to take on everything that is required of everyone and so you need to identify those things that YOU have to do, and those things that can be delegated to other family members or helpers outside of the family. As you have a large family, I am sure that you are a scheduling pro - but you need to remember to schedule in time for yourself. Even if it is only an hour a week, or a few minutes each day, make sure that you put some time aside to refill your own cup. Self-care might seem selfish at a time when you are needed by so many, but it is in fact a vital part of ensuring that you have the emotional and physical capacity to meet the needs of your kids and your parents.