We’re closing in on the final weeks of 2023 and I’m starting to read and hear about New Year’s resolutions. If you’re a church-goer, as I occasionally am, you may be soon reminded that it’s not about giving up something, it’s about living your faith. IE – Serving others. So maybe being a part of the Sandwich Generation absolves you from even having to go through this process!

But if you’re like me… my cup does not feel full from doing “god’s work.” Which makes me think there is room for improvement. Leading me right back to deciding on my upcoming resolution.

As much as I like the idea of serving others in place of giving up chocolate, coffee, pizza – you name it, how do I accomplish this in a way that doesn’t distract from my existing Sandwich Generation responsibilities and compromise my sanity? Because adding another thing to my never-ending list – no thanks!

In reflecting on this year, I saw a few repeated themes, particularly in research. My hope is to incorporate these themes into my life that support and maximize my Sandwich Generation efforts vs feeling encumbered with yet another thing to concern myself with. I already started in 2023, but can certainly stand for some fine-tuning which I’ll discuss at the end. 

Theme #1 – The key to happiness is all about positive relationships.

In the end, we care very little about how much money or stuff we have, the quality of our life is largely based on our positive connections with others. At least that’s what an 85-yr long study by Harvard University concluded. So the assignment would be – how can we, the Sandwich Generation, create a stronger bond with our children, siblings, parents, friends, co-workers, or community at large? The answer will look different for everyone based on time, funds, and proximity, but it’s something reasonable to strive for or improve upon. And I hope the next discussed themes will be an avenue on how to ultimately strengthen your relationships. For more on the study, read here.

Theme #2 – Your health is your wealth.

This is not a new concept, but the latest trends have us all using technology and tracking devices to help guide us to create better habits to support health. Am I going to say lose 20lbs for your New Year’s Resolution? That’s SO much easier said than done, so no. But I would suggest you prioritize your health in 2024 to some attainable degree. Like getting an extra hour of sleep every night. It not only goes toward improving your health but helps you be the best version of yourself as you serve others (kids and aging parents). Maybe making you less grouchy when confronted with repetitive questions or more capable in the morning school rush – with the outcome of further improving upon your relationships.

Or maybe it’s your mental health that could use a little support. Are you long overdue for a vacation? When was the last time you had your annual physical? Are you avoiding asking your doctor about anxiety or depression medications? Your health matters just as much, if not more, than your kid’s ear infection or your parent’s weekly doctor’s appointment! If you’re running on empty, it’s very difficult to be an effective hub of the wheel and as a result has an immediate impact on your relationships (aka happiness). Read more about the Top 8 Health Trends.

Theme #3 – Less is best when it comes to parenting.

A slew of articles came across my path this year related to successful parenting. The theme was – do less for your children so they become resilient and capable. Expect them to do for themselves and make choices, even when they’re difficult. Your role is that of a guide, and yes, mistakes will be made. Homework, project, and household chores won’t be perfect. But they learn from the hands-on experience, and I don’t know about you, but if I make a mistake I never forget it! And bonus – there is a bit less on your plate. The alternative of being overly involved to achieve perfection can lead to a disastrous first year of college where your absence for assistance on decision-making and tasks becomes overwhelmingly obvious.

“So much of our lives as parents consist of getting our kids to do things they don’t want to do, teaching them lessons, setting them up for future success. But something gets lost when our relationships don’t include enough time just enjoying each other, delighting in what is inherently lovable about our kids.”

The No. 1 thing successful parents who raise the strongest and most resilient kids do differently: Harvard study

I love this quote because it ties back to themes #1 and #2 so perfectly – our relationships (whether it be parents or children) shouldn’t be purely transactional. Going through the motions of homework, lessons, appointments, being an unwilling tech-support specialist, bedtime, bill pay, and cleanup routines….it’s a grind, not bonding. It’s ripe for resentment and burnout. Give space to kids to do more (yes – that may mean a lack of perfection). Set parents up in a way that allows them to remain independent to the best of their abilities (yes – that may mean a retirement community.) Having trouble with that conversation – there’s a blog for that! This allows you to retain both time and sanity to meet your Sandwich Generation duties and hopefully meet your 2024 resolutions.

Great thoughts – but what does this look like in practice?

As I said, how you incorporate these themes to create your 2024 resolution will vary, but I’m happy to give you my own very honest examples.

  1. Paying attention to my own needs. Botox isn’t as cheap as a mud mask, but it does wonders for my self-confidence. Because yes, every once in a while I feel like a dish rag. I actively avoid seeing my square in the video calls. I start ridiculously debating a facelift before 40. I found that if I get a preventative dose of Botox, my negative feelings dissolve as fast as the 11 lines on my face. Given the alternatives, it becomes a very nominal cost given its positive outcomes to my mental health alone.  On top of that, I finally got my blood work done, and explored seeing a chiropractor and functional health practitioner. I continue to make it to Orange Theory once a week, knowing full well my desire to sign up for an unlimited class package will only be wasted money. Recognizing and prioritizing my feelings, time, and health is something I want to fine-tune in 2024 but will be a lifelong endeavor. 
  2. Making more memories. As a single person, I didn’t put much stock in spending much on “experiences.” I was someone who wanted tangibles – like a house, a car, and decent furniture. I wanted my everyday surroundings to be nourishing versus overspending on a hotel that met my needs for a weekend. Yes, I did some fun trips here and there, but the details would become fuzzy pretty quickly, whereas my car was still getting me point a to b every day. Now that I have a good foundation under me, the experiences are becoming more important. Particularly because I’m no longer on my own. I’m able to enjoy these moments with those closest to me. My kids, my husband, my parents, and my very best friends. The memories seem to stick. So yes, I do love to entertain and invite an absurd amount of people over for a kid’s party. And I do make a point to take an annual vacation and invite the grandparents along. I just booked a row for 10 family members to see The Christmas Carol together. These are the bonding moments that help build relationships vs just grinding out another day. These things all cost money. I’m choosey, collaborate, and get as creative as possible to make it all work. While spending money this way isn’t something I’ve always embraced, I’m being proactive to scout out cost-effective experiences and prioritizing it within the budget from here on out.
  3. I’m getting better at redirection and not taking on everything myself. For instance, when my kids are bouncing off the walls which is about to unleash the worst of me, I’m sending them outside to do some weeding. It’s one less thing I have to do. One less thing I have to pay for. And they expend their energy and always seem to turn it into some kind of game/competition. A win-win as far as I’m concerned. How to redirect isn’t always obvious, so this is something I want to expand on in 2024. I believe the resolution supports the idea of good habits, raising resilient/capable kids, and maximizes my chances of surviving the Sandwich Generation.