The Sandwich Generation is a term that is used to describe a generation of adults who are caring for both an aging parent and growing children.
This situation may sound familiar to you:
Mom and dad are in their 90’s and live in Arlington Heights. You and your three teenage children live in Naperville. Work is downtown and your weekly routine includes a daily commute to the city, driving the kids around to soccer practice, cheerleading, rides to friends’ houses all over the western suburbs, and helping the kids survive high school! You love your mom and dad to pieces, but can’t make the commute out to the Northwest suburbs to take them to the grocery store and check in on them every day. You worry and worry…about everyone! Your lack of presence with your parents is NOT out of lack of care, but your life is set up in such a way that you can’t physically BE there every day.
You know what it’s like to be SANDWICHED in between caring for both an aging parent and growing children.
While the description of these scenarios sounds like we are laying the groundwork for a primetime family sitcom, the financial and emotional stress that those bearing the brunt of caretaking are serious.
Depression and anxiety are huge risk factors for the sandwich generation, more common among women than men. Men tend to suffer financially in the workplace, losing opportunities for promotion or career advancement.
What to do? Well, doing it all is not an option. Take a look at some tips for scaling back when you’re feeling sandwiched in:
Practice Self-Care: The first goal is to make self-care a priority. Remember how on the airplanes they always ask you to put on your oxygen mask first? Make your self-care tasks such as a 30-minute break or a trip the gym or salon a part of your daily routine just in the same way that a ride to soccer practice is a must-do for the kids.
Ask for a compromise: Nowadays parents feel like their kids have to do every single after school activity. Simply giving up one sport or after school activity for the year can help the entire family deal with an aging parent. Trust me on this one-your kids will be ok! Visiting grandma or grandpa once a week will be just as valuable (if not more) than that activity they were asked to give up. Plus, you’re teaching your children the importance of caring for another person when they need you most.
Learn to delegate. Who can help with the kids? Can a cousin stop my mom’s on her way home from work once a week? Try to get other family members to pitch in. Families who face the stress of caregiver burnout also may notice that their marriage suffers. Think of the greater good for your family when asking everyone to do their part.
Ask for outside help: People WANT to help you! Your parents might have neighbors who can chip in and give a ride once a week or pop in to check on mom and dad. Consider hiring a professional caregiver to help with activities around the house when you can’t make it. By having a non-family member deal with the self-care tasks, you have time to just be the son or daughter and take mom out for a nice lunch and conversation, rather than dealing with the necessities on every visit.
*Bowen, C., & Riley, L. (2005). The sandwich generation: challenges and coping strategies of multigenerational families. The Family Journal, 13 (1), 52–58. Retrieved from DOI: 10.1177/1066480704270099