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How to Deal With the Dual Demands of Children and Elderly Parents

How to Deal With the Dual Demands of Children and Elderly Parents
Image credit: Julie Winokur and Ed Kashi

Increasingly, sandwich-generation entrepreneurs (those in their 40s and 50s), are dealing with competing demands of caring for both children and elderly parents. Kathy Steck, owner of the an apparel company in Novi, Mich., admits she's had difficulty managing her business while caring for two teenage daughters and elderly parents. "I try to please everyone, but often feel like I’m pleasing no one," she says. Steck is not alone in her struggles, according to Pew Research, nearly half (47%) of American adults in their 40s and 50s are part of the "sandwich generation."

Dwayne Clark, Founder of Aegis Living, an assisted living facility in Redmond, Wash. meets many overwhelmed parents and children like Steck. "There's a tremendous amount of guilt about where you spend your time and what your daily life looks like," he says. Sandwich-generation entrepreneurs grapple with a myriad of demands on a daily basis.

Follow these four tips to ensure you don't lose your grip on your business while juggling competing priorities.

1. Take advantage of community resources.
Clark advises sandwich-generation entrepreneurs to find relief through community resources such as centers offering activities for seniors and children and organizations that offer respite care, giving entrepreneurs the breathing room they need to devote time to the business.

2. Delegate home responsibilities.
Pamela Beaudet, a Boston-based small-business coach, says applying the same principles of delegation that are used in business to family life can help relieve the pressure at home. "If you have a 12-year old who is capable of heating up dinner for your parents, that's something you can tick off your to-do-list," she says. Make a list of the people in your life and a list of the things that need to be taken care of and delegate tasks based on each individual's strengths.

3. Set boundaries to protect your business.
Prioritizing business tasks over family demands places an emotional burden on sandwich generation entrepreneurs who may feel guilty about devoting time to business efforts. Steck admits she has let marketing efforts slide in favor of filling existing orders and attending to family matters. To avoid losing your grip on your business, Beaudet advises entrepreneurs to set boundaries to protect it. "Decide how much time you're willing to spend away from the business [and] how much time you realistically need to dedicate to it," she says. Keep track of how you spend your time for one week to see if there are any drains you can eliminate and allow yourself to be realistic in your estimate of how much time your business requires of you.

Related: Richard Branson on Parenting and Work-Life Balance

4. Schedule "me" time.
"We become so invested in [helping] our parents and doing good for our children that often we forget to do stuff for ourselves," says Wright, who sees the health of many individuals in the sandwich-generation deteriorate as they struggle to keep up their personal care. Beaudet says setting aside "me time" is important to avoid feeling resentful and advises busy entrepreneurs to schedule personal time into their calendars.

"If we don't schedule things, it's easy to let them go," she says. "Me time" can be as little as a half hour a day to take a relaxing bath, an hour a day to exercise, or a couple of hours on a weekend to visit a friend.
 

Lisa Evans is a health and lifestyle freelance journalist from Toronto.

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