Countless articles talk about the challenges of the sandwich generation, and there’s a reason for that. A growing segment of the population is caring for children and parents at the same time and being pulled in too many directions at once. The back to school days can be especially challenging, with all the organizing of book bags, school clothes and school supplies. It’s not unheard of to visit three or four stores till you find everything you need. And when you have a loved one at home who needs your attention and care, it can seem like an insurmountable task.
Here’s how you can make this process a little smoother:
- Kids want to shop for their own school supplies and clothes, but they don’t necessarily need the same adult to take them to all the shops. Consult with your significant other, your kids’ aunts and uncles and your friends to see who’s available to take on some of the shopping trips. If you’re the one delegating, you can choose the shopping trips you want to go on and let someone else take them on your less favorite excursions.
- There will be moments you won’t want to miss, like dropping off your daughter for first grade or taking your son to his first basketball game in high school. If you know in advance when these events are, arrange alternative caregiving for mom or dad (paid or volunteer) so you can attend. And for those moments that crop up at the last minute, have someone on standby. A trustworthy agency who can send someone on short notice is worth its weight in gold.
- Lists are your friend (or at least they should be). Instead of running around like a chicken without a head, make a list of all the tasks which need to be done before school starts and in the first week. Be sure to include extra trips to the stores when it turns out you bought the wrong kind of eraser or some such. Schedule each task and check it off once it’s done. A little bit or organization goes a long way toward reducing stress.
- Get mom and dad involved in the excitement. If you’re suddenly and inexplicably less available, your parents might get nervous and more demanding. But if you include them in the plans for back to school, they will accept the breaks in routine with equanimity. Kids can show them their new purchases, you can tell them about the preparations and they can even join on one trip if their health allows it.
- Let go of the expectation of perfection. Most of the time, 90% percent is enough. Maybe your kids won’t have the latest brand name sneakers on the first day of school. Maybe your mom won’t have her hair curled on the day after Labor Day. You might have to serve fast food for a night or two while you take care of immediate tasks. Caregiving is a constant tightrope and something has to give. Your sanity is more important than getting everything “exactly right.”