If you have ever been on the way to visit your son at college when you get a call that your parent has fallen—You know about the Sandwich Generation.
If you and your wife have just arranged for your Mom to move in when your daughter asks if she, her husband and their dog can return home for just a month—You know about the Sandwich Generation.
According to the Pew Research Center, just over 1 of every 8 Americans aged 40 to 60 is both raising a child and caring for a parent. Dubbed the “ sandwich generation” this ever-increasing group of baby boomers is caring for the needs of family members on both sides.
While dealing with the demands of time, finances, medical appointments, school schedules, transportation, food choices and insurances forms is no small feat, it is often dealing with the emotions inherent in this dual caring that presents the greatest challenges.
Understanding some of these emotional challenges offers some Sandwich Generation Survival Techniques.
The Emotional Challenges
Being in The Middle of the Sandwich
Adding to the strain, the sandwich generation is “ in the middle” in literal and emotional ways. Often they actually are subject to judgment from both sides. It is no coincidence that these folks are often very similar – They do say traits can skip a generation!
Not infrequently, the two sides get along well and the blending of generations allows for acceptance, discloser, and care. This is often a gift to all and a great help to the sandwiched caregiver.
It becomes less wonderful when it is a source of critique:
While many caregivers in the middle will acknowledge that they may well be too impatient or too controlling and that the critique may have some merit, they report that what is most stressful is caregiving on either side–with an audience. Not only does the anticipated scrutiny add to the need to do it right; it ups the resentment, which disqualifies the efforts. There is no winning performance.
Old Relationships–New Rules
Try asking a twenty year old who is driving back to Buffalo in the winter, if he has gloves!
Tactfully rehiring help fired by an aging parent is an invaluable skill!
Sandwich Generation Emotional Survival Skills
The Need to Say “No”
The ability to say “ no” is crucial for the physical and emotional well being of everyone. It is easy to forget your own needs as you are dealing with the expectations of parents and children. If there is never a “ no” – there is no real “yes”– just demands, compliance, resentment and burnout.
Buffer Stress with Balance
Connect for Love and Comfort
Keep in mind that although you may have loved your parents, you most likely left home to connect or marry with someone you loved.
Keep in mind that although you love your children, they cannot be your only focus or source of connection.
Caring for parents and children cannot equate to overlooking or losing your marriage or primary relationship. Partners who feel loved want to help in both directions—if you let them.
Overlooking your primary adult love relationship overlooks a primary source of joy, energy and fulfillment needed by you and others you love.
Self-Care to Survive
Statistics reveal considerable physical and emotional risks for caregivers. It really isn’t true that “ Mothers Can’t Be Sick.”
The more entitled you feel to watch and regulate your own stress, fatigue, and health needs, the more you give to those who need your care.
(Listen to more about the Challenges of the Sandwich Generation on ” Psych UP” with Dr. Suzanne Phillips on CoSozo Radio)
Three generations photo available from Shutterstock
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Last reviewed: 7 Feb 2013