Life for the working woman with a couple kids, a husband, a full time job, and an aging parent is way too busy for words.
After spending an average of 37 to 40 hours per week working full time, and another 28 to 30 hours doing childcare and household tasks, women with aging parents will add another 3-4 hours per week caring for that parent. That may not seem like a whole lot of extra hours, but it’s enough to cut out those few hours that have been reserved for exercise and leisure, and clearly enough to put time management “over the top”.
Research indicates that men/husbands are picking up a bit more of the household and childcare tasks, but they still lag far behind (less than half) their sisters in caring for aging parents. So where does this leave the time -juggling, exhaustion -fighting women?
One place to begin is a reassessment of the aging parents’ needs and wants. Karen Fingerman, from the U of Texas, found in her study of aging adults, that when middle aged children show concern for their aging parents, the parents feel both annoyed and loved. Having a conversation with parents about both your concerns and their needs, can clarify what actually needs to be done- and what they want to be done. It is possible that out of your love and misunderstanding, you are being overprotective. The conversation may lead to the opportunity for you to let go of both tasks and worry, freeing up both physical and psychological space in your life.
A second solution might involve the inclusion of others in the caretaking. While sons do contribute less time to aging parents’ care, very frequently, when asked, they will step up to help. Others, too, can help – including other family members, volunteers from a variety of non-profits, and paid help. Once you start exploring and asking, you will be surprised how much help is available.
The important messages here are two fold: it’s understandable that you are feeling exhausted and overwhelmed; and it’s OK for you to ask for help. You must take care of yourself because if there is nothing left of you to give, then everyone—your family, friends and your parents- will miss out on you and all you have to offer.
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