These days we are told we should say, 'No,' when we are asked to do more than we can handle. If we just don't want to do something we are advised it is okay to refuse. Some of us are in the ‘sandwich generation', caught between the needs and requests of children or grandchildren and our parents or other older family members. Sometimes there is no one else to do what is required of us. It is all well and good for outsiders to instruct us to say, ‘No,’ but sometimes it is impossible.
Our society is more protective of children in many ways these days. When I was a child, youngsters would stay at home alone from a young age or be sent on errands. Young children were able to walk to school and to visit friends without an adult. A friend of mine was responsible for watching her grandmother who suffered dementia. These days parents are considered irresponsible if they allow these things. Parents are expected to do more for their children so youngsters are not as independent.
Children do not help out with cooking and other household tasks as much, or from as young an age, as when I was a girl. There is more fear they will hurt themselves, perhaps burn their fingers on a hot stove or cut themselves when chopping vegetables. Parents are criticised if their children injure themselves while doing tasks now considered beyond their capabilities.
In addition, parents are expected to take children to more sports, clubs and out of school hours activities than when I was a child. Parents organise ‘play dates’ for their children rather than kids playing in the street or finding another child in the same area to have fun with.
Grandparents are often called upon to provide care and transport for youngsters. They may also be providing care for their own parents, in-laws or another relative with a disability.
With the increased number of older people and those with disabilities living in the community, someone has to provide support. There is some paid support available but often the middle aged generation needs to provide care. In some cases this can be shared between family members but not always. Some people, especially women, do not have the option to refuse to help out.
I haven’t even made any reference to the demands of being in the paid work force. There is the expectation that women will have employment and fit other responsibilities around it. Those who are not in the paid workforce tend to have less status and their contribution to society is often not acknowledged. It is no wonder many middle aged women are stressed physically and emotionally.
How can you get help so you can cope with the various responsibilities on your shoulders?
• Ask about practical support available to help the elderly and those with disabilities. Help from a paid worker may lessen your load and provide extra company for the person requiring care.
• Join a support group. You may have to search the internet, check information at your local council, library, doctor surgery, hospital, school and ask friends for information. Sometimes it is hard to find the help that is available so keep looking.
• Talk to friends, neighbours and family about ways to unite to provide support to those who need it.
• Try to share the responsibility of taking children/young adults to clubs, sports and part time work. Don’t overload your children with extracurricular activities.
• Where possible encourage others to be as independent as practical.
• Talk to a doctor, social worker or counsellor about your responsibilities if you feel overwhelmed.
Don’t feel guilty about cutting some corners and not having the tidiest house in town. Where possible, do say, ‘No,’ and spend a few minutes doing something you enjoy.