Baby Boomers, Generation X, Millennials, and so forth are generational names that refer to the era during which you were born. The Sandwich Generation refers to your current situation within the generations. It is the age where you are “sandwiched” between caring for your parents and children. Many individuals in the Sandwich Generation are also working full-time. With so many responsibilities and demands, it can often feel like you have no time for yourself, your friends, or your romantic relationships.
While the sandwich generation doesn’t refer to a specific age bracket, it tends to happen most often in the forties and fifties, with a few people encountering it as early as their thirties.
Balancing Care Taking of Others and Self
Almost half of America’s 40 and 50-year-olds feel the need to be available to care for their children and aging parents simultaneously. The care of either one does not necessarily need to be full-time to feel overwhelming. Your parents or adult children might be living independently. You may even enjoy and look forward to opportunities to assist. And yet, the time and energy you spend providing transportation, financial help, technological assistance, companionship, or anything else is still time you are not devoting to other parts of your life. You can only do so much before you start to feel burned out. Here are a few ways to maximize your resources to have personal time.
Pair Your Children and Your Parents
Your children and parents may be able to fulfill each other’s needs. Your children will benefit from spending time with Grandma or Grandpa. They will see how you value and care for aging family members. While they are together, you will get some time to make a call, get some exercise, make dinner, or even catch a quick nap!
Younger children can help their grandparents overcome feelings of loneliness and isolation. If your parent lives with or near you, they can spend time together in person. If your parents live far away, your child can FaceTime while watching the same show. Older teens and adult children can do even more to help. The grandparents can offer their wisdom and support, and the child can help them with technology, manual labor, and bringing food.
Ask About Options at Work
Check with your employer’s human resources department about resources that might be available to you. You might reduce commute time by working remotely, at least part-time. You might be able to take a different shift so you and another person can coordinate care. The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) calls for eligible employees to receive 12 weeks of unpaid job-protected leave. (Private employers with less than 50 employees are exempt.)
Community resources can help with the many needs of aging adults. For example, they can get exercise and make friends at a recreation center, like the YMCA. There are many food delivery services and ride services available that can help manage daily living. Consider assisted living or home health care if their daily living needs exceed your ability to help. Many services cost money, but there may be help for that too.
There are many complex legal and financial details related to aging. An elder care attorney can prepare the necessary legal documents and help maximize your parent’s income, long-term care insurance, and retirement savings. Lawyers are great at determining if parents qualify for VA or Medicaid benefits.
Find Your “Me” Time
Finding ways to reduce stress and find time to meet your own needs is not selfish. You don’t have to be a superhero and run yourself ragged. Your children and parents love you and will understand that healthy boundaries will help you be available to them for longer. You might find joining a caregiver group, in person or online, helpful. These spaces are perfect for asking questions, venting, and learning.