Family Relationships

Join other women in the sandwich generation - share ideas and solutions as you learn to nourish family relationships without starving yourself.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Sandwiched Boomers have a lot on their plates - caring for growing children and aging parents - and stress builds up rapidly, especially during these times of doubt and insecurity.

Although you cannot necessarily change what happens to you, you can change how you handle it. Start by freeing yourself from negative feelings. Face uncertainty with a positive attitude or reframe a pessimistic reaction into a more neutral or optimistic one. By learning more about constructive responses to difficult situations, you will have access to a wider variety of resources and strategies.

Stay in the moment. Don't beat yourself up and feel bad about the mistakes you've made. Keep in mind that you are human and no one is perfect. Being worried about the past or fearful about the future can keep you stuck. Rather than ruminating, feeling frustrated or discouraged and giving up, why not try something different? You deserve a second chance.

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Monday, September 29, 2008

Has all the talk about how to accomplish the bailout of the financial markets added to your stress? Are you anxious about the big collisions on Wall Street and Main Street? Would you like to spend less time racking up emotional debt and more time receiving dividends from your 'feeling better' bank account?

Research findings show that the complex demands of family and work can really get Sandwiched Boomers down, particularly during times like these. When inundated with a myriad of responsibilities, daydreaming about what you would rather be doing is a typical and common pastime.

It is well known that tension is the body's response to any stimulus - external or internal - that is perceived as taxing personal resources. Stress can appear suddenly, unexpected and unannounced: physiologically as headaches, stomach upset; emotionally by feeling irritated, overwhelmed; cognitively with memory loss, trouble concentrating; behaviorally by changes in eating or sleep patterns. If you're ready to learn how to keep your stress in check, stay with us this week as we give you tips to help restore balance to your life.

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Friday, September 26, 2008

It can be difficult for Sandwiched Boomers to maintain a sense of optimism when emotional circumstances are complicated and perhaps even painful. But you owe it to yourself to begin to better understand and cope with your changing moods. Talking about your negative feelings can increase your awareness and mitigate symptoms. In addition, you need to flip the coin and look on the bright side – for example, recognize the insight, strengths and skills that are already an integral part of you.

Some experts say that you have to feel better before you can change your behavior. Others advise you to behave positively and the feelings will follow. Try something as simple as being friendly when you're feeling shy, or act happy when you feel sad. You know what happens when someone smiles at you. You can't help but smile back - and that feels good. Make a commitment to look at life through a more positive lens, starting right now.

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Thursday, September 25, 2008

Look outward as well as inward to find the strength you need as a Sandwiched Boomer to carry on through these difficult times.

Support is a valuable tool - connect often. Find a class or workshop through your local university extension program or mental health center. Join an ongoing group or attend a weekend retreat to share concerns and gain new perspective. Spend some time with others who will support your ideas, validate your perceptions and help you follow through with your plans.

Forgive others who are important to you for some past wrongdoing. Watch their reaction and see how that makes you feel. That doesn’t mean you have to totally forget about it. But learn a lesson from the situation and move on, especially for your own good.

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Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Just as you take care of your family-in-flux, as a Sandwiched Boomer, you also need to nurture yourself. Pay attention to your own needs and work to fulfill them.

Practice what you know about being resilient. Recognize how your character strengths support what you do. Integrate your core values and personal ideals into how you view the world. Release tension through laughter and soon you'll be able to watch yourself begin to bounce back.

Honor your body by taking notice of what makes you feel better, both physically and emotionally – pay attention to your exercise routine, what you eat, your sleeping habits and what gives you pleasure. Reduce the situations that cause stress and increase the ones that make you feel more relaxed or alive.

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Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Even in the best of times, Sandwiched Boomers face a myriad of challenges caring for growing children and aging parents. Here are two ways to begin the process of dealing with your complex emotions in these difficult times.

Focus your thoughts on what you can accomplish rather than on what you cannot. Look on the bright side of difficult situations as you create a balance between caring for others and nurturing your personal needs. You may even want to make a schedule until this becomes a routine that is factored into your daily life. Although you often cannot control external circumstances, you can control how you handle them.

Knowledge is power. Use it to your advantage. Gather information about ways to deal with how you are feeling - explore Internet search engines or the self-help section of bookstores. Talk about how you are feeling with friends and family whose opinions you respect. Schedule a few sessions with a therapist or a life coach.

And check back tomorrow for more suggestions.

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Monday, September 22, 2008

In these shaky stock market days, many Sandwiched Boomers are facing additional difficulties as 401K's decline and retirement benefits melt away. The pundits tell us to keep our emotions out of the decision-making process, but that is not easy.

Your thoughts are mental products although they don't necessarily reflect an absolute reality. However, for you, they do represent how you feel. Some people can't help but operate emotionally. Others are more able to manage their emotions and function as if everything is fine.

Born to a single mother with serious financial problems, Debra often struggled with her feelings growing up. Now a married Sandwiched Boomer, with a lot of life experience under her belt, a family of her own, and more responsibility for her mom, she's dealing better with her emotions:

"I have to work at being more optimistic and worrying less. I no longer dwell so much on the negatives, and looking at things from a more positive perspective is not as hard as I thought it would be." Just like Debra, you can learn how to reframe your thoughts and take better care of your emotional self. Tune in tomorrow to learn some tips to beat the blues.

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Friday, September 19, 2008

Even as a Sandwiched Boomer, the last lesson you can take from Beijing thrusts you back into the world around you.

Explore other cultures. With its symbol of five interlinking rings, the Olympics celebrate the unity of the games while honoring individual nationalities. Athletes pay tribute to each other by trading pins with those from other countries. China has a population of one and a third billion and is composed of over 50 distinct ethnic groups - all represented in the show of diversity and solidarity at the opening and closing ceremonies.

Learn more about people who are different from you. This doesn't necessarily mean travel to exotic places - it could just be a bus ride to another part of town. You will be enriched by your openness to those who do not share your history and experiences.

As you think back over the spectacle of the Beijing Olympics, don't be seduced into remaining a spectator. Use these seven tips and jump into the game of life to become a winner yourself.

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Thursday, September 18, 2008

Whatever you are doing as a Sandwiched Boomer, remember that you are not doing it alone. You have people who care about you and are on your team. Let them into your life and enjoy the company.

Relish the support that comes from those who care about you. Individual athletes depend on an entourage of people assisting them - coaches, trainers, family, friends, sponsors and teammates. As you work toward your own goals, the cheering section may be more limited - family, friends, teachers, support groups. But, whatever the size, accept the encouragement. Function as a team and be available to help sustain others when they need it. Athletes talk about the Olympic village and see themselves as part of that community. Who makes up your community?

Enjoy your successes. Did you observe the Olympic athletes when they stood on the winners' platforms with their medals, listening to their national anthems? Their pride and emotionality were palpable. Reward yourself when you reach a significant target and savor the feelings of power that come from your achievement. You deserve a pat on the back - even if you have to give it to yourself.

Check back tomorrow for a final take-home message to incorporate from the Olympics.

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Wednesday, September 17, 2008

As you work toward achieving your dreams, it will not always be a direct line to success - often you will stumble along the path. When you do, follow the lead of the Olympic athletes. Vie to gain the prize you seek, even as a Sandwiched Boomer, dealing with your family-in-flux..

Expect to fail sometimes. And when you do, pick yourself up and start over again. Every athlete who has made it into Olympic competition has suffered injury and disappointment along the way - but that has not been the end of the quest. They know that they can learn more from failure than success. You, too, can treat your setbacks as a teaching tool. And as you do, you will become more resilient and adaptable.

Be a good sport. As we have told our children, good sportsmanship is an integral part of athletic competition. Be a generous winner and a gracious looser - acknowledge the efforts of others who are in the contest with you. Think about teamwork and how you can operate together to accomplish your goals. Cooperation can be an important adjunct to competition even with the goal of outperforming others.

Tomorrow we will look at two more skills for you to integrate from the world of coaching.

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Tuesday, September 16, 2008

You may not be at the level of Olympic competition in your life as a Sandwiched Boomer, but here are some tips to apply from the athletes as you struggle through the challenge of nurturing yourself as you care for growing children and aging parents.

Find your unique passion and cultivate it. There were hundreds of events at the Olympics, each representing a specific activity that athletes had chosen to pursue. They ranged from rhythmic gymnastics to javelin throwing, from fencing to sailing, from synchronized swimming to boxing. What brings you joy and the ability to be fully engaged? Recognize the creativity and excitement that emerge as you follow your dreams.

Excellence comes with hard work and practice. Learning about the training schedules of Olympic athletes reminds us that accomplishments don't come easy. Repetition is the handmaiden of success. Set long-term goals as well as realistic and incremental steps to reach them. Give yourself credit when you achieve an objective and, as you set the next one, aim to move ever closer toward your ultimate goal. Strive for your personal best - and remember the most important competitor you have is actually you.

Check back tomorrow as we look at some more training techniques you can in incorporate into your life.

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Monday, September 15, 2008

Now that summer is actually over, school has started and the political season is in full swing, we thought it would be refreshing to pause and look back over the Olympic Games to see what insights it can bring into your life as a Sandwiched Boomer.

This August, billions of fans watched athletes from around the world compete in the Beijing Olympics. Even with political controversy and global tensions running rampant, these diverse games reflected the delicate balance between reality and entertainment. For many Sandwiched Boomers, the Olympics satisfied the yearning for distraction from immediate concerns about economic instability and caring for a family-in-flux.

The Games provided color, drama and a broad demonstration of excellence. In addition to news about the winners and venues, information from Beijing went well beyond who was winning and losing gold medals. This week we will discuss lessons the Olympics can teach Baby Boomers and give you some tips about how to incorporate the deeper meaning of the Olympics into your life. So stay tuned.

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Friday, September 12, 2008

All four women in the political spotlight this fall fit into the category of Baby Boomers, albeit at different ends. Sarah Palin and Michelle Obama just make it at 44 years old, while Cindy McCain, at 54, and Jill Biden, at 57, are near the leading edge. Though of different ages and backgrounds - and, often, dissimilar attitudes and beliefs - they share with other boomers the cultural history of that generation. Undoubtedly, they have the same kinds of challenges that you as Sandwiched Boomers experience.

We have focused this week on the delicate balance of career and children that the candidate and candidates' wives' have achieved. Both of those currently with growing children - Michelle Obama and Sarah Palin - have acknowledged that they depend upon the help of their families in caring for their children. In Michelle Obama's case, her 71-year old mother Marian Robinson plays the role of nanny to her children. Sarah Palin draws heavily on her husband, Todd, for parenting duties; her mother, Sally (age 67) and father, Chuck (age 69) Heath, and her sister step in when he is unavailable. These women know that they cannot do everything alone and must reach out for support from their families.

As if with children, career, marriage and politics, they didn't have enough to deal with, all of these women also are faced with the potential needs of aging parents, parents-in-law, and even grandparents, putting them in the position of Sandwiched Boomers. Michelle Obama's grandmother-in-law, Madelyn Dunham, is 86 and reported to be in ill health in Hawaii. Cindy McCain's mother-in-law, Roberta McCain, is still independent and feisty at age 96, but at a certain point, she could require assistance. Jill Biden's mother, Bonnie Jacobs, in her late 70's, lives in Pennsylvania and her mother-in-law, Jean Biden, is 91. Sarah Palin's mother-in-law, Blanche Palin, in her late 60's and part Yu'pik Eskimo, lives in Alaska as does her stepmother-in-law, Faye Palin.

So: Michelle, Cindy, Sarah and Jill - we are counting on you. You know from first-hand experience the difficulties faced by Sandwiched Boomers. We hope that whoever occupies the White House and Vice-President's house this coming January, you will be in tune with the needs of other women facing these tough challenges and do what you can to help your fellow Sandwiched Boomers.

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Thursday, September 11, 2008

On the 7th anniversary of terrorists' attack on our country, Democrats, Republicans and Independents join together to mourn the loss of fellow Americans that terrible day. Both nominees for President will suspend their political campaigning and appear together to honor their countrymen who were killed by terrorists seven years ago today. We too remember their loss on that dreadful day and pay homage to the courageous and heroic actions of rescue personnel who worked tirelessly to save others from dying and later to recover bodies of the dead. We are grateful and thankful for their service to our country.

Just as the other women in the limelight this election season, 54-year old Cindy McCain has combined work and volunteer activities with mothering. Receiving a Masters degree in Special Education, she taught high school students with special needs before beginning her family. The stepmother of 3 children and mother of another 4, one adopted from Mother Teresa's orphanage in Bangladesh, Cindy was an active philanthropist for charities throughout the world, most directed to children, as her own were growing. A wealthy woman, she founded the American Voluntary Medical Team to provide medical assistance and food to disaster-struck or war-torn third world countries. Traveling abroad over 50 times to oversee these humanitarian activities personally, she is now actively involved in Operation Smile and other non-profit organizations.

While her level of wealth puts her in a different category than most of us, her balancing act is familiar. Cindy McCain has jumped into her volunteer work with passion and dedication that often take her away from home. As you uncover your own passions, find a way to give yourself the freedom to carry them out. When you are satisfied that you are pursuing your own personal goals as well as those of your family, you will take more pleasure in the rites and responsibilities of motherhood. So follow your dreams - it can be a win-win situation for you and your family in this election year.

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Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Like Governor Sarah Palin and Dr. Jill Biden, 44-year old Michelle Obama has pursued a fulltime career while raising her two young daughters. After completing her Ivy League education - undergraduate at Princeton University and a law degree from Harvard University - she was working at a prestigious Chicago law firm when she met Barack Obama, who came to work for the firm as a summer associate. After marrying, she continued working, using her legal background, in Chicago political and community activities.

Once her husband began running in the primaries, Michelle combined mothering with appearing on the campaign trail. In her appearances, Michelle has been outspoken in her opinions and beliefs, sometimes making controversial statements, such as "For the first time in my adult life, I am proud of my country because it feels like hope is finally making a comeback." As the campaign has progressed, she has softened her image from the initial, angry positions she took, portraying herself as the embodiment of the American dream.

Do you feel that, as a woman, you are asked to curb the expression of your own opinions when others perceive them as too harsh? Are you forced, in a sense, to air brush your personality, making it gentler? Is it more important to fulfill the expectations of others or to be your authentic self? All of these questions come to the surface as more and more women move up the career ladder or take on more responsibilities in the family and the world.

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Tuesday, September 09, 2008

This Presidential and Vice-Presidential election highlights the important contributions made by women in our society - be they single or married, mothers or not, young or old, rich or poor, from big cities or small towns, in high-powered careers or down-to-earth jobs. The women in this election season are as exciting and controversial as any men candidates have been in the past or are today. Yesterday we focused on 44-year old Governor Sarah Palin, the VP candidate herself, who has been balancing a political career with motherhood for the past 16 years. The mother of five, her candidacy brings to the forefront the continuing struggles of women balancing career and family.

Jill Biden, the 57-year old wife of Vice-Presidential nominee Senator Joe Biden has pursued a career as an educator while mothering their three children. Marrying Senator Biden when his sons were only 6 and 7, she traded her job as a teacher for full-time mothering, adding a daughter together. Later she was back in the classroom as a teacher and reading specialist while studying herself to earn two master's degrees, one in English, the other in Reading. Later Jill added her Ph.D. degree in Education and, for the past 15 years, has been teaching at a technical college. With the current focus of all the candidates on education, her experiences in the classroom are a unique asset.

What do you think you can learn from these successful women to guide you as you face your own endless lists and tough choices every day? Like them, you too may be torn between the needs of children and a demanding career. While not in the spotlight, your efforts are just as complicated as you forge ahead.

Each of you may choose to handle your dilemma in different ways, but undoubtedly support from friends and family can play a significant role in the success of your balancing act. It's nice to have someone to lean on when you feel like you are stretched beyond your limit, about to topple off your perch. So reach out and ask for what you need - it may not be a vote in the booth on election day but instead a vote of confidence!

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Monday, September 08, 2008

The 4 women campaigning for the November election represent divergent political positions but they each are dealing with the same challenges as Sandwiched Boomers - struggling to balance work, personal needs, marital relationship, children and aging parents or in-laws. Of course, the one who has initiated the most discussion about balance between career and family is Republican Vice-Presidential nominee, Governor Sarah Palin.

Sarah Palin symbolizes different things to different women. To some she is the ultimate ceiling breaker, the first woman on a Republican Vice Presidential ticket. To others, she embodies the ultimate contradiction between family values and personal ambition. Certain women are asking, can she adequately mother her five children while carrying on the national responsibilities required of a Vice-President. Those questions have not been raised when a father of five takes on enormous challenges in his work life, even today when fathers are more involved in the day to day lives of their children. Is this a double standard or justified by the reality of family needs? Do women face unique pulls when they become wives and mothers? Where are women to look now for their role models as they juggle career and family? What direction will the fight for women's rights take now and in the future? Let us know your thoughts as move through this political season.

Tomorrow we will look at the issues raised by the wife of the Democratic Vice-Presidential nominee, Jill Biden.

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Friday, September 05, 2008

Ending his speech to the American people with thundering applause as he promised, "I fight for you!" John McCain accepted his party's nomination to become President of the United States. Positioning himself as a fighter, a reformer and a patriot, he told his personal story of dedication to country and his political story of pragmatic reaching across party lines to accomplish national goals. And he challenged the American people to "fight for what's right for our country…the ideals and character of a free people."

Portraying himself as an agent for change in Washington and a maverick not an insider in the beltway, McCain demonstrated his responsiveness to the people. "I don't work for a party. I don't work for a special interest. I don't work for myself. I work for you." He talked about creating energy independence, improving schools, lowering taxes and reducing big government. To achieve these, McCain said, "I will reach out my hand to anyone to help me get this country moving again. My friends, I have that record and the scars to prove it... I’m not in the habit of breaking promises to my country. And when we tell you we’re going to change Washington, and stop leaving our country’s problems for some unluckier generation to fix, you can count on it.”

Earlier in the evening his wife, Cindy McCain, came onstage with their seven children and spoke about their family and her charitable and philanthropic efforts here and overseas. Reaffirming the theme of trust and straight talk, Cindy said "It's going to take someone of unusual strength and character - someone exactly like my husband - to lead us through the reefs and currents that lie ahead. I know John. You can trust his hand at the wheel."

Now that both parties have concluded their conventions, it's off to the races. Let's hope that the Presidential and Vice-Presidential debates give us all facts to digest and plans to consider as we move toward making the important decision about whom to vote for in the historic election in November.

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Thursday, September 04, 2008

Supporters and critics alike agreed that Vice-Presidential candidate Sarah Palin's speech last night at the Republican convention was a big WOW. She introduced herself to the American people, embodying the contribution women make to their families and communities. She was poised and comfortable - a natural - as she stepped into the spotlight of history, a woman showing her toughness, yet with a smile.

Reaching out to women in the electorate, Palin said of her place on the Republican ticket, it proved that, "Every woman can walk through every door of opportunity." But, just as a double standard is often applied to women, not everyone agrees that she is the right choice. Is the argument that Sarah Palin, mother of five, shouldn't try to take on the enormous responsibilities of the Vice-Presidency anti-feminist? The positions of liberals and conservatives on women's rights and opportunities seem to have flipped as far as this issue is concerned. Some of the most liberal of feminists contend that Sarah Palin should not be on the ticket whereas conservatives state that she can balance her family responsibilities along with one of the most important jobs in the federal executive branch. What are your thoughts?

In her speech, Palin praised small-town America and appealed to the core, saying "Small town people love their country in good times and bad." She positioned herself as everywoman, while acknowledging, "Our family has the same ups and downs as others." Proving that she's willing to get into the trenches and join the fight, Palin took a dig at the Democrats while supporting her candidate for President, saying "Some politicians use change to promote their careers and others, like John McCain, use their careers to promote change."

This election process continues to be exciting and history-making. Get involved and enjoy the ride!

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Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Who would have thought eight years ago when he was running for Vice-President on the Democratic ticket that Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman would be giving an impassioned prime-time speech in support of presumptive Presidential nominee John McCain at the Republican convention? Lieberman, transpartisan himself, praised maverick McCain for reaching across the aisle time and again to forge bipartisan accords between Independents, Democrats and Republicans in an effort to improve government for all Americans. Speaking directly to the undecided voters at home, he urged them to support McCain, casting him as a seasoned and principled candidate. Calling McCain his own man, Lieberman reminded voters that they knew him and could trust him.

With the theme of the Republican convention being "Country First," prime-time speaker former Tennessee Senator Fred Thompson eloquently highlighted John McCain's record of service to his country as a Naval flier, prisoner of war and Senator. After relating the grueling story of McCain's torture and imprisonment, Thompson said, "John McCain’s bones may have been broken but his spirit never was. Now, being a POW certainly doesn’t qualify anyone to be president. But it does reveal character." Thompson described McCain's character as embodying the traits the country needs in a President: strength, wisdom, courage, determination, honor, service to country.

Both speakers agreed that reformer John McCain was the experienced candidate who could actually bring about change in Washington as he had in the past. As you deal with your own personal and family challenges, what helps you make the changes you need? Do you find that cooperation and compromise are essential as a Sandwiched Boomer tackling the difficult problems confronting you as you care for your growing children and aging parents? Serving as chief executive of your family in flux, you may find that your experience gives you greater insight into the election process this fall.

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Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Presumptive Presidential nominee John McCain has again demonstrated his commitment to put country before party. Concerned about Americans of the Gulf Coast in the path of Hurricane Gustav, he suspended most of the activities of the Republican Convention on Monday. Touring the emergency management center in Mississippi for closed-door briefings before the storm hit, McCain said, "We must redirect our efforts from the really celebratory event of the nomination of president and vice president of our party to acting as all Americans."

Calling on his party to "act as Americans…not as Republicans" McCain has asked corporations sponsoring the convention to focus at this time on fundraising not partying, support not celebration, the Red Cross, not the red states. Cindy McCain mirrored her husband's focus, reminding us, as Hanna and Ike form behind Gustav, “The challenges will continue in the days ahead. I would ask that each one of us commit to join together to aid those in need as quickly as possible. This is a time when we take off our Republican hats and put on our American hats.” In response, Republicans at the convention in St. Paul have been using some of their downtime to raise money for relief efforts along the Gulf Coast. One telethon raised more than $1 million in the course of an hour Monday afternoon.

As Sandwiched Boomers facing challenges in your own lives, you may find yourselves in the same dilemma McCain struggled with - making difficult decisions about when to direct your efforts to meeting your own needs and when to put others first.

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