You're at work and your phone rings. It's your mum. She needs collecting from her GP's surgery as her lift has fallen through. But you've got a meeting in 10 minutes and your boss won't be impressed with you leaving, especially since this is the fourth time this week work has been interrupted with a call from your mum. You tell her to catch a cab and that you'll pay.
You get off the phone and feel guilty. You promised your dad before he died that you'd take care of your mum but lately the combination of work and supporting her is getting harder. It's also taking a toll on you and your relationship with each other.
This is just one scenario of life as an adult child who provides support for an older parent. In the UK around one in four people in their 40s and 50s are caring for their parents.
We all want to do our best, to balance it all. We want to help our parents, keep our bosses happy, spend quality time with partners and kids, and have time to ourselves.
But sometimes you just can't do it all. No matter how hard you try. It can leave you feeling stressed, anxious and over stretched. It's important to find time to care for yourself while caring for others.
So how do you balance work with looking after your mum / dad or both?
Here's our five top tips on how to balance work with caring responsibilities.
1. Have an honest conversation with your parents
Now's the time for you both to be adults and to have an open conversation about what each person expects. Be honest about your availability and what you can or can't do given work commitments. This can help prevent you from over promising and under delivering but also sets some boundaries.
As part of this, prioritise and organize. Perhaps invest in a planner and go through appointments with your parents and key activities, like the weekly shopping and social past times.
2. Investigate flexible working
Research flexible working options and whether you can either take time away from work to provide added support or work from home.
Before speaking with your employer, make sure you know your rights. Skills for Care offers a good resource on balancing work and care here.
3. Organise back-up
No matter how much you plan, the unexpected happens and can catch you unawares. For those times, prepare a back-up. Can other family members or a friendly neighbour help? Alternatively, investigate services like Evermore@Home that can provide an added safety net.
4. Book in 'you time'
This you time could be as simple as a walk round a park, or lunch with a friend. It could even be going to a support group. It's important to look after your health and wellbeing so you have reserves in the tank.
5. Don't be afraid to ask for help
There are organisations that can provide the support your parents need while you're at work, as well as outside working hours. They could become your back-up, do the little trips like GP visits, or spend time with your parents while you have your own downtime.
The focus is on helping your parents to maintain their lifestyle and to make sure you don't burn out.
Life is precious and we need to enjoy every moment available. Maintain your work/life balance, sanity and your relationship with your parents by investing in yourself and them.
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