Focus on what you both enjoy
Again, when you have a block of time to actually focus on your loved ones — kids or parents — for a bit, you feel the pressure to make the most of it. So you choose their favorite activity, even if you’re not much of a fan of it yourself. This feels generous. But everyone will be happier if you’re happy. If you hate crafts but love reading out loud, give yourself permission to skip the crafts and simply read to your children. They’ll pick up on your happy mood. Similarly, if you and your parents have a television show you both enjoy, watching it with them counts as quality time even if it doesn’t stand out as something special.
Think of wasting time as a micro-vacation
We all know that “taking time for yourself” is a virtuous thing to do. Find time for a walk, take a spa day, make time to read a novel. But for a mother with too many responsibilities, these activities don’t just feel often out of reach — they often are. Life begins to feel like a fitted sheet that’s just a bit too small for the mattress: you can always get three corners on, but when you try to put on the fourth, something’s going to pop off.
Understand that a person who simply doesn’t have large blocks of time to spend on self-care will find tiny bits of time wherever she can. This means (are you sitting down?) that browsing social media — if that’s what you enjoy — counts as self-care. If spending hours in the spa is a virtue because it refreshes you, then so is ten minutes on Facebook.
Making it work at work
It’s taken some effort, but many professional mothers are becoming more comfortable talking to their bosses and colleagues about the need to balance work with childcare. In the same vein, it’s important to seek work-life balance around caring for aging parents as well. Many businesses, especially now, are working to make flexible schedules so that employees can care for family members, no matter what age.
Understand the connection between guilt and love
Mothers with competing responsibilities can feel guilty even when they know they’re doing their best. Understand that the distress you are feeling comes from your love for your children and your parents. It’s a bad feeling, but it comes from a good place. It’s part of the burden you are carrying for the sake of the ones you care about so deeply.
You are not alone!
Most importantly, reach out to others who understand your experiences from the inside so that you don’t feel isolated. Today more than ever there are great resources to help you find support, including The Women’s Alzheimer’s Movement and Hilarity for Charity. The AARP has a list to help you find local resources, too. Find a local support group if you can, or connect with others through social media groups.