No one is perfect ... that's why pencils have erasers. ~Author Unknown
Do you feel that whenever you accomplish something for your kids and/or senior parents that it isn’t quite good enough? Are you so overscheduled with your kids’ and parents’ responsibilities that you end up putting off the important things for yourself?
If so, you may be trying to be totally perfect. If you want everything perfect in your perfectly planned sandwich generation life, you’re on the wrong planet. There’s a difference between healthy aspirations and unhealthy ones. As you care for yourself, your kids and your aging parents, are you able to distinguish the difference?
Healthy goals for caregiving standards include setting the bar high for your self but reasonably. This healthy type of goal setting is based on your own wants and desires. The lousy version of this occurs when you set your the bar way too high and reach for perfection, knowing you’re not going to achieve your lofty standards. You’ll always fail because your goals are impossible to reach in the first place; you accomplish absolutely zippo.
I have a perfectionist friend to whom I can relate. Her aging mother was unexpectedly admitted to the hospital recently because she needed to get her gallbladder removed. Unfortunately this happened on the same day as my friend’s daughter’s birthday. My friend’s perfect plan was to work in the morning, head over to the hospital in the afternoon, and then catch her daughter’s birthday party in the evening.
The whole day, my stressed-out friend felt that she was unproductive. She criticized herself so much and over-analyzed the entire day because she ended up being late to her daughter’s party. She was frustrated that she didn’t accomplish her goals and felt like a failure because she basically missed her daughter’s birthday. It didn’t matter what I said, my exhausted friend continued to analyze the “not so perfect” day.
How do you distinguish between what’s important to do very well versus okay?
3 ways to do control your urge to achieve perfection:
- Stop the all-or-nothing thinking. A perfectionist feels worthless if their accomplishments are not perfect. Professor of psychology at the University of Houston Lynn P. Rehm, Ph.D. says, “If you tried to do everything that you have to do in a day perfectly, you’d never get through the day.”
- Avoid overemphasis on the “shoulds”. A perfectionist structures her life with a laundry list of “shoulds,” which creates a rigid belief of how things must be. If you are constantly thinking about how things “should” be with your kids and your senior parents, chances are you are not taking into account your own wants and needs.
- Confront your fears. Perfectionists are afraid of failure. They may equate making mistakes with catastrophe. Trying to avoid every single mistake in your sandwich generation world, you’ll miss all kinds of opportunities to learn and grow.
Before: You often feel that you’ve had an unproductive day because you view your efforts as inadequate and never ending. After: Take a good look at yourself and applaud all your efforts of trying your best.
Before: You must give more than 100 percent on everything you do to help your senior parent. After: Distinguish between what’s important to do very well and what’s not. Good is good enough.
Before: You are constantly caring for your children and your senior parents in a way to avoid making mistakes. You’re always playing it safe. After: Recognize that many positive things can only be learned from making a mistake.
Walk me through your perfectly healthy sandwich generation life. How do you distinguish between what’s important to do very well versus okay?
A Registered Dietitian and Senior Resource Diva, April Fan, RD, CD, Founder of SeniorResourceCentral.com, is on a mission to educate baffled adult children who are currently caring for their own children as well as their aging parents. Her goal is to help these juggling caregivers discover how to take the confusion out of this daunting role. Tap into April’s personal and clinical experiences, proven resources, handy tips and sane ideas at http://www.SeniorResourceCentral.com.