Working as the Sandwich Generation by Tara Colon

Americans are living longer these days, and we are finding ourselves in a new phenomenon of having to be caregivers to our children and our aging parents.  The demands of business are increasing, as the demands in our personal lives are increasing. Over the past 2 years, I have found myself at the heart of this struggle with small children as well as an ailing father.  While it is certainly not easy, here are some tips I’ve learned along the way:

  1. To take the next level in my career, or not?  Twice, I’ve made the decision to take a promotion while in this situation.  What I’ve found is that there is never the “perfect” time to take on more workload or responsibility.   As a working mother, I’ve found that I’m in the business of being extremely efficient – at work and at home.  More responsibility means its time to be more efficient.
  2. Set boundaries:  There are 2 parts to this: Wherever you are, be 100% engaged and if you don’t set boundaries someone else will.
    1. Wherever you are, be all there: This one took some time to learn…but it helps with the feeling of always being at work or always dealing with home.  While I’m at work, our family has a rule that they only text me if it’s urgent.  They understand that the sooner I get my work done, the sooner I can get home. 
    2. Set boundaries: I learned this one when my son was only 5 months old and I had taken a promotion.  The first night after being promoted my boss called at 6:30 pm and talked for an hour.  The next morning, I went to his office and discussed my situation with him. I simply said, “I rock my son to sleep from 6-7 and if at all possible I’d like to give him that one hour every day”.  For years after, IF my boss called (which he rarely did) during those hours, he would first ask if I could talk.  Having a direct conversation and setting expectations with him allowed us to have a very successful working relationship.
  3. Guilt: While on maternity leave, I devoured “Year of Yes” by Shonda Rhimes; her thoughts on work-life balance and taking the time to play with your kids inspired me. I don’t recall the exact words, but the idea of telling the kids that Mommy works so they can have the things they love is a talk track I still use today with them and myself.
  4.  If possible, work the schedule that works for you: I’ve always been a morning person, so I use that time to catch up on work; it also happens to be when I’m my most productive self. My kids are usually still asleep when I leave the house, so I feel less guilty leaving.  I’ve been known to start my days at 6:30 am, but I’m also known to make it home for an early dinner.

In this season of being sandwiched, my final words of encouragement would be this “Don’t blink: Life goes faster than you think”. 

Tara’s recommended book:

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