If you’re in your 40s or 50s you might be part of an ever growing sandwich generation. The term “sandwich generation” was coined in 1981 and refered to women in their 30s and 40s who were taking care of children while also caring for aging parents. Since then we’ve pushed back the age at which we have children and seniors are living longer than ever so the age at which you might experience being the meat in the sandwich has also shifted. More men are part of the sandwich too.
No matter what age you experience the pull of two generations, you don’t have to go it alone and you may find it is actually very fulfilling if you set appropriate boundaries.
Surviving the Sandwich Generation
If you haven’t reached the time in your life where you’re caring for your children and your parents emotionally and financially, then now is the time to start planning for it. If you have siblings talk to them about caring for your parents in their senior years. That could mean aging in place or assisted living when the time comes. Having a plan in place makes the decisions much easier when the time comes to make them. Get your parents on board and find out what their wishes are during this time of transition. Talk to an estate planner soon than later and get as organized as possible for the inevitable.
If you’re part of the sandwich generation you’re thinking about the cost of college and the cost of a nursing home on your mind. Start saving now and don’t forget about your own retirement. If you have to choose between picking up the tab for college or your own retirement choose your retirement so your children are not saddled with your financial considerations when you become a senior.
Caregiving tends to fall to one sibling in the family and often it’s the daughter. This may happen due to geography, skillset or birthorder. However it shakes out be sure to get respite if you are the main caregiver. You can’t help anyone if you are exhausted so be sure to enlist the help of family members – this can include your children – so you can take much needed breaks.
When caring for children and parents it’s easy to feel overwhelmed, anger and resentful. Those are powerful emotions that many people have a difficult time sitting with. These are normal and even expected emotions for a caregiver but that doesn’t alleviate the guilt many feel for having them. Talking to a professional allows you to vent about the people and situation you are in without causing hurt feelings to the ones you love. A therapist will also give you some much needed methods of coping in a secure and safe environment.
It’s Not Forever
Remember that caring for children and elderly parents at the same time is a temporary transition. The children will grow and move out and have their own lives and aging parents will eventually pass away. Enjoy your time with your loved ones, it is fleeting.