I'm a divorced Dad. I have custody of my two children every other week, which is the highlight of my life. My challenge, is that my mother, now a widow, needs me every week. She's also a pillar of my life and deserves all the devotion and care can give her.
I used to think they were competing priorities, until I decided to combine a little old school with new school. It changed everyone's life - kids, mother, mine - for the better.
Where I could, I would involve my mother in my kids activities. This included picking her up in the mornings and having her in the car when dropping the kids off at school. Picking her up and having her when picking up the boys from school. Bringing her to all the boys sporting events on the weekends, including soccer and hockey. And of course having her over for dinner very Friday evening.
These simple inclusions made a huge difference in my mother's life. It gave her purpose, made her feel like she was a part of the family, the daily discussion and gave her a bunch of laughs. It also gave her a reason to get up, showered, and dressed every morning. Just being a part of the action and feeling the love of her grandchildren has made her a happier person.
Just as importantly, my kids LOVE spending time with their nana! I believe, although I can't be certain, it makes them more empathetic and conscientious of the ability they have to put a smile on someone else's face.
From my perspective, I couldn't be happier. Whereas in the past, I used to try to divide the time I spent with my children and my mother, combining the two has relieved me of a ton of time management stress.
In the past, I would wouldn't see my mother during the week I had the kids, except for Friday night dinner, because I had work during the day and would spend evening doing homework or watching over the kids. My mother would be pretty much alone all week.
However, now we not only involve her in our daily routine, but I also ensure her well being even when we're not around. That's the new age part of the deal. We've found technology to be liberating. I've scheduled Uber to pick her up 2 afternoons a week to take her to the community center, where she plays bridge regularly.
After a lot of research, I got her one of the best medical alert systems with fall detection, so that she can feel safe when she's home alone with no one around. If she falls, she can either press the emergency button, or if she's unconscious the system will reach out to the monitoring center automatically - she loves the sense of security it gives her.
I also got her a large buttoned cell phone, so she can always call me no matter where she is - my phone number is in her contacts, but is also taped to the outside of the phone.
While my mother's memory is pretty darn good, she can get pretty disoriented. I inserted a GPS location tracking app on her phone so that I can always know where she is at all times. I asked her permission first and she's fine with it.
All this to say, while I am the quintessential sandwich generation father/son, instead of treating my kids and mother as competing priorities, viewing us as a family, where we all benefit from more, rather than less, shared time, has been a huge relief for all of us!