Are you in the ‘sandwich generation’? And by this we don’t mean that you were brought up on vegemite and bread.
So What IS the ‘sandwich generation’?
The sandwich generation is a term which has been applied to an estimated 1.5 million Australians who are dealing with the daily challenges of caring for their children, grandchildren, partner and their ageing parents. And doing all this while holding down a job and juggling the practicalities of running a household.
Many of this generation are in their 40’s and 50’s and are finding that they are ‘sandwiched’ between the responsibilities of being a parent, grandparent, partner and supportive son or daughter.
Whilst trying to be ‘all things to all people’ members of the sandwich generation often find themselves running out of time to do everything, and their own self care is often at the bottom of their very long ‘to do’ list. Their desire and drive to be the best parent, grandparent, partner and son or daughter often results them neglecting their own needs and feelings of being overwhelmed and stressed. Left unaddressed, eventually this stress can lead to burn-out.
So what has changed from previous generations?
There are a multitude of factors that have influenced the rise of the sandwich generation, the first one being we are all living longer with life expectance rising each generation it is no longer unusual for children to have their great, and sometimes great-great grandparents in their lives. This coupled with the trend in the first world for women to have children into their 30’s and 40’s has resulted in individuals in their 40’s and 50’s having responsibility for children at home whilst having their parents and grandparents age and require some assistance.
For those in their 60’s they often find that their adult children depend on them for longer, and when the grandkids come around, there is often the added duties of child-minding.
There may also be a financial worry of supporting young and grown up children to get ‘set-up’ for adulthood in a world which is becoming increasingly harder for young adults to get on the property ladder and generally make ends meet.
All of these pressures are normally accompanied by full-time employment and the need for this generation to plan for their own retirement. The growing need to provide emotional and often physical support to the older generation leaves sandwich generation adults feeling compromised by their caregiving roles. Some may find that it becomes too difficult to balance their caregiving responsibilities, with their jobs, and consider giving up working to concentrate on providing care to their loved ones, however this tends to contribute negatively to their financial burden and plans for their own retirement. A lack of personal time may also affect the caregiver’s health. And while many middle-aged adults look forward to when their children move out of the house so that they can enjoy more free time and time together, members of the sandwich generation may find that they don’t get to enjoy this freedom.
But it is not all doom and gloom for this generation, if you are part of this generation, or see it looming ahead of you, here are some tips to help you through the challenges and gain a balance in your life:
- Make a List
Make a list of the things you need to do to support all your family members. When you are being pulled in different directions and are ‘busy’ it is often difficult to see what needs done and where you can get help with some of the tasks. Making a list helps you quantify and prioritise what you need to do to feel that you are providing appropriate levels of support to all your loved ones.
- Outsource what you can
Outsourcing personal responsibilities may sound impersonal, but there may be many things on your list that you can make easier for you without impacting the relationships and your feeling of responsibility. Here are some ideas:
- Delegate to family and friends to assist with some tasks;
- Order groceries online and have them delivered;
- Organise transport by taxi or Uber to save you running around trying to meet all your demands yourself;
- Review your financial situation and plan for the future, then stick to it;
- Engage help with the practical tasks which need done but do not necessarily need you to do this such as housework; ironing; shopping for yourself or your loved one;
- Courageous Conversation
Have an open and honest conversation with your loved ones about what you can realistically achieve to support them. Often people do not appreciate or realise the pressure the principle caregiver is under and unwittingly keep adding to their burden.
- Encourage Independence
Encouraging independence is not just for the young people in your life but also your senior loved ones. Encouraging them to seek new avenues to achieve the things they want you to do such as taking them to hospital appointments during your work time; taking them shopping every Saturday or even arranging all their social events. There are heaps of companies who provide practical and social support for seniors which will reduce reliance on loved ones and add purpose and value to their enjoyment of life.
- Look after Numero Uno
The pressure we put ourselves under to be the best parent, partner, adult child and grandparent is huge, this pressure comes from the need to care for those we love and is an admirable quality found in most who find themselves the main carer in their family. But, and it’s a big but, no one can care for others if they burn themselves out. Taking time out to give back to yourself is not selfish and you should not feel guilty about doing this. Self-care is the ONE thing that will help you to go on caring for those you love.
If you or a loved one feels that they are ‘sandwiched’ between the many competing priorities in their life and would like to talk to someone about options for assistance, call Perth Care + Companion Company on 08 9276 1520, or drop us an email at 2 am when you get a chance, our email address is firstname.lastname@example.org, we may not answer at 2 am but we will respond to your inquiry at a time that suits you.