No, we won't talk about lunch options in this post or the best items to place between two pieces of bread. Instead, we'll address an issue that has become much more common and has affected women more than anyone. As adults wait until later in life to become parents, they find themselves in an odd dilemma as those children grow. Caught between caring for aging parents and growing children, they are part of the sandwich generation.
What is the Sandwich Generation?
Women have babies later in life than they did a generation ago. In 2020, the average age of first-time mothers in developed countries increased to 31. A generation before, in 1970, the average age at first birth was 21.4. In other words, that age has risen by ten over the last 50 years. Women today find themselves "sandwiched" between caring for growing children in the home while also caring for aging parents. Since women account for the majority of caregivers for both children and seniors (66% of senior caregivers are women), this situation affects them the most. In America today, 44% of people aged 44-55 have at least one child under 21 and at least one living parent. We found a great infographic that illustrates this in greater detail.
Dealing with Stress
On a given day, a parent in the sandwich generation has many responsibilities. On the parenting side, they must feed and clothe their children, deal with transportation to and from school or day care, oversee schoolwork, taxi kids to extra-curricular activities, do laundry, clean, and more. For their aging parents, they may need to visit/check in, manage medication, transport to appointments, communicate with doctors, and make sure their loved one is safe. Having so many responsibilities quickly leads to burnout. So how do you manage stress?
First, you get help. You can't expect to do all those things listed above (and more) on your own. If overwhelm sets in, perhaps you can find someone nearby who can check on your parent from time to time. Is there someone who can give your parent a ride to activities or appointments? Getting help does not mean you are weak or abdicating your responsibility. It means you are human. In fact, it will help you to have more energy for when you can spend quality time with your parent.
Here at Seniors Helping Seniors® Greater Richmond, we get it. In fact, that's why we exist. Whether you need someone to check on your loved one, provide companionship or a ride, or give yourself a needed respite, we have your back. We also do light cleaning and help with meal preparation.
You must also make sure you take care of yourself. Get the exercise and rest you need, take breaks, and allow yourself to breathe. Whatever gives you peace, seek out that activity.
Available Sandwich Generation Support
Your mental health is so important, and you must remember that you are not alone. If you feel at odds or desperate, please contact a mental health professional. You can also find support groups, both in person and on Facebook or other sites, to connect with others in similar situations. Talk with friends in the sandwich generation (maybe over dinner or wine) and form community. Yes, this is stressful, but you are not alone.