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Ask Alina – How to Wisely Outsource as the “Sandwich Generation”

Dear Ask Alina,

I am part of what they call the “sandwich generation.” I am married with two children in elementary school, and both my husband and I are watching our parents age and needing more of our help. We both work demanding jobs, our kids are entering summer break, and our parents are spending more time in the hospital. 

I feel like life is out of control. Dinners are on the run, kids are in extended care and often the last ones to be picked up, and we have heavily leaned on local friends to drive kids to weekday practices. My husband and I are arguing a lot these days, and I know it is because we are both stressed and at our limit with life’s responsibilities. 

For our entire marriage we have been frugal, valuing saving for the later years in life, but we now agree that this may be the time to pull “the emergency fund” and outsource something. Our dilemma is what do we outsource and how can we be more present for our kids and our parents?

Thanks for your input.

BZ mom

Alameda Post - a busy mom, part of the Sandwich Generation, has a baby on her lap, a child next to her, and is working on a laptop.

Hello BZ mom,

It sounds like you and your husband are aligned on your values but anxious about making the right decision. If you are both in agreement to spend money on outsourcing, do you both find connection and joy from the same responsibilities? Maybe the first step is to allow yourselves to make mistakes.

For example, I enjoy driving my child to extracurricular activities but do not find value in school pickup. We have interesting conversations on the drive to extracurricular activities, but there is zero desire to converse with me on the way home from school. These days we rely on my husband for school pickups and prioritize my time to be the evening-activities chauffeur.

This decision did not come naturally. I used to stress about finishing my afternoon meetings on time, so that I wouldn’t be late for after-school pickup. That 30-minute window was very stressful to me, and yet I held a strong belief that after-school pickup was important to connect with my child.

I know plenty of people who find joy in cooking. Some of these couples have ongoing conflict about family dinners and others love spending time together working as a team chopping, cooking and setting up the table. I would not recommend the second couple to outsource dinner, but I would recommend it for the first couple.

My suggestion for you and your husband is to document what your responsibilities are and then do the following:

  1. Review your current tasks and individually place value on each task.
  2. Based on the value placed on each task, reorganize your division of responsibilities, when possible.
  3. Review the leftover tasks that neither of you have chosen and prioritize necessary responsibilities based on importance to both of you.
  4. Add dollar value to each of these responsibilities and discuss what or how it would make life easier if it were outsourced.
  5. Give yourselves a time frame to evaluate how the outsourced task has supported your family and then decide to continue with the service or try something else.

Remember, no decision is a wrong decision. We learn from our experience. Be gentle and forgiving. Enjoy your moments with each other, with your kids and with your parents.

Alina Baugh is a Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist. Ask Alina is for informational purposes only. This article does not constitute medical advice, and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician, mental-health professional, or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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