Have you heard of the sandwich generation?
It’s us, lady.
We are the sandwich generation.
Well, a lot of us anyway.
Forty To Sixty-Year-Olds
The ‘sandwich generation’ refers to those of us who are caring for children and parents at the same time. It’s increasingly common among 40 to 60-year-olds. This also means that as we’re dealing with peri/menopause we could also be dealing with this difficult situation.
The Definition Of A Sandwich Generation-er
Due to society’s propensity for having children later in life, and the fact that we’re living for longer a good percentage of us fall under the banner of The Sandwich Generation:
People who are bringing up children or still have older ones at home while they manage a career and look after ageing parents.
Add navigating the meno years to this life cocktail, and it can be at best challenging and at worst overwhelming.
A New Generation
Wikipedia defines it as a generation of people who care for their ageing parents while supporting their own children.
It was interesting to read the American statistics which show – according to the Pew Research Center – that just over one of every eight Americans aged 40 to 60 is both raising a child and caring for a parent.
Statistics Down Under
That’s a pretty big statistic and very relevant to those of us down under. In fact, Wikipedia state that the term ‘sandwich carer’ is relevant to 2.6 million unpaid caregivers in Australia. (Not sure about New Zealand sorry.)
They also report that Carol Abaya, a nationally recognised expert on the sandwich generation, ageing and elder/parent care issues in the US, categorised three different scenarios involved in being a part of the sandwich generation.
- Traditional: those sandwiched between ageing parents who need care and/or help and their own children.
- Club Sandwich: those in their 40s, 50s or 60s sandwiched between ageing parents, adult children and grandchildren, or those in their 20s, 30s and 40s, with young children, ageing parents and grandparents.
- Open Faced: anyone else involved in elder care.[3}
Officially A Dictionary Term
Merriam-Webster officially added the term to its dictionary in July 2006.
Unfortunately, my pregnancies were unsuccessful but if things had turned out differently I would have had a 20-year-old and an 8, 10 or 12-year-old.
Bearing that in mind, I was recently my mother’s caregiver through end-stage pancreatic cancer and I was with her 24/7 much of the time. If I’d had to look after children of that age as well it would have been very difficult without an extraordinarily good support crew. However, it’s probably a reality for many.
A few years ago I was in my early forties, going through fertility treatment, had two teen stepchildren, an extremely demanding job involving international travel and an elderly and dying father. I also now know I had probably just entered perimenopause. That’s another classic situation for many sandwich generation-ers.
In another scenario, a friend of mine who has a son aged around 10 had to fly back and forth to the UK to look after her elderly dad as he was dying. She was fortunate her son’s father was able to take up the slack otherwise the demands would have been even more taxing.
The stress, emotional and energy toll of being in a sandwich generation situation is huge. The financial hit can be tough too especially if we’re single. Add to that the signs of peri/menopause and you’ve got one of the most challenging situations in life.
If you’re in this situation please take good care of yourself because you need all the self-love and self-care you can muster.
Six Self-Care Suggestions:
- Look out for our Self Care Saturday’s on Facebook.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
- There are some great community helpers out there who will provide caring and aid. Try Vision West, Salvation Army or the Baptist Church.
- Walk the beach to flood yourself with negative ions from the ocean (if you don’t know these are incredibly positive for your wellbeing).
- Take advantage of flexitime if you work.
- If someone offers to give you a hand say yes.
If you would like a self-care worksheet let us know here.