Health & Family

5 tips for those who help too much

Are you juggling the responsibilities of parenting teenagers, helping adult children and grandchildren, plus looking after your aging parents? If so, you’ve got a full plate.

Those of us who fall into this lifestyle are “sandwiched” between our kids and parents. It’s a heavy load for many, and the stress can be overwhelming.

Thinking ahead and planning creatively will help individuals manage this situation. Otherwise, it’s easy to fall into a very depressing trap.

“I wouldn’t know how to obtain work-life balance,” says a nurse we’ll call Patricia. “Between managing issues with my mother, who lives with me, and pleading calls from my adult kids, I’m killed!”

Escaping the pressure cooker of life can call for desperate measures. But instead, try these suggestions:

1. Replenish your emotional bank account ahead of time. For example, if you find 20 minutes to take a walk in your neighborhood before dinner, grab the opportunity. If you’re torn between housecleaning and going to a movie on a Saturday afternoon, go to the movie.

2. Know your needs. Decide what you need to feel happy. For example, if you like lots of chatty conversation, schedule a chat with a couple of friends during the course of a week. Don’t overload either one of them, however. If you do, they may avoid your calls.

3. Set boundaries with adult children. Tell them what you are willing to do – or not do. For example, you might say, “I can baby-sit one weekend per month, but that’s my limit.”

4. Find some help for your aging parents. Look for small help in more than one area. For example, pay someone to clean a couple of rooms each week for your parents, or hire someone to deliver a home-cooked meal or groceries occasionally.

“My problem is that my kids, who are both in their 30s, spring activities on me at the last minute,” says a grandmother we’ll call Molly. “I’ll be heading to the groceries store on Friday night, and one of my kids will call with a request for help. When I skip shopping for groceries, my weekend is a mess.”

Molly goes on to say, “I feel like I’m disappearing down the drain. I’m so tired that I worry someone will find me passed out by the side of the road. I’ve got two aging aunts I’m worried about, and my mother was just diagnosed with breast cancer. I also run a real estate agency, while dealing with all of this.”

5. We advise our friends like Molly to start thinking ahead. She has to make some decisions to ask for help, hire a small amount of help, and seek some support in every way possible. It’s also critical to look at what truly will work – and not rely on wishful thinking.

Ask yourself, “What decisions do I need to make to take the load off of me?”