The Sandwich Generation; you’ve heard about it. It refers to people, usually middle aged females, who provide support to their own children under 18 years old, as well as to their aging parents. Carol Abaya, of SandwichGeneration.com, coined the term Club Sandwich to describe an even more complicated phenomena. Abaya is referring to a group, usually in their 50’s or 60’s, who provide support to their aging parents, their adult children as well as to their grandchildren. The Club Sandwich could also refer to those in their 30’s or 40’s with young children who also support their parents and grandparents.
Many women just step up and just do what needs to be done in the family, not even realizing that the Sandwich Generation refers to them. But not identifying with this group could be detrimental because you could be so stressed out, overwhelmed, financially burdened and depressed and not even realize why. You may think, “why does it seem like everyone else can get through life with such ease, but I feel so overwhelmed all the time”. It’s because you are not like them! You belong to a growing group of women who take responsibility for the changing status of your family, and changing status of society, for that matter.
Several changes make being a member of the Sandwich Generation a reality for more and more woman. The average life span is getting longer, therefore, our parents need support and care longer. Women are having children later in life, and our newly graduated children are having difficulty finding employment that would allow them to move out and become independent, so they are staying at home longer.
According to an American Psychological Association study, Sandwich Generation moms feel more stress than any other age group due to the demanding balance act of raising their children and providing needed support to their aging parents.
Please don’t ignore your situation if it seems like you never get a minutes rest to yourself, if you easily become angry or overwhelmed of if you feel resentful about your situation. You will be more likely to be able to continue to be a positive support to your kids as well as continue to provide assistance to your parents if you follow the following recommendations. Don’t forget that your children are watching how you deal with stress and how you take care of yourself.
I know that we moms want to be superwomen; doing everything for everyone all the time. It’s just not realistic. If you let yourself crash and burnout not only will that be hard on you, but also on your kids and parents who are counting on you. Don’t see getting help as a weakness. It’s like a CEO of a company who hires the Directors, Managers and employees to run a smooth running company in order to ensure that everything gets done. There is no way that a CEO could do all the job functions that a company needs to be successful. And neither can you. It’s time to call in the troops! By bringing in the assistance of others you will be seen as a strong leader of the family who knows how to coordinate the support that your family needs.
Go ahead and ask a family member to take mom to that doctor’s appointment. Get a tutor for your child. Hire a high school or college student to pick up your child from school. Get a caregiver to come in to care for your father a few days a week. Hire a housekeeper.
Take Care of Yourself
I can just hear you screaming “I don’t have time to take care of myself!” Of course you don’t, not yet anyway. Unless you take time out for yourself, you will not, I repeat WILL NOT be able to continue to burn the candle at both ends. You must make the effort to make the time for yourself. Now, it doesn’t have to be days at a time, or even hours at at time. Why don’t you start off with just minutes at a time by stopping all the work and chaos and sitting down with a nice cup of coffee or tea and listen to your favorite song. That’s just a five minute commitment. I think you can do that. Or take 10 minutes so you can enjoy a quick call with a friend. Maybe 30 minutes of yoga or meditation. How about a one hour massage. I like to lay down for 15 minutes and practice deep breathing and trying to release all the stress out of my body with each breath. Who knows, you just may be able to work yourself up to a few hours once a week. You can do it, and you (and your family) deserve it.
Make sure to get enough sleep, eat healthy and try to get in a bit of exercise regularly. These efforts will all go far in your being able to deal with what your busy life deals you.
You have one million things on your “to-do” list, and are being pulled in every which direction just about every day. Hopefully, you have come to the conclusion that you cannot do it all. So what do you do with your long list of things to do?
- Determine what tasks are urgent vs important
- Assess the value of each task and ask yourself what would happen if you did not do them yourself
- Order them by effort. I like to have a few of the easier tasks right at the top of my list because I like to be able to check things off at the beginning of the day. This sets me up to feel accomplished then I move on to the heavier, more time consuming tasks of the day.
- Know what can be cut out of the list. There will be plenty of tasks that you might like to do, or promised someone that you could do, but the earth would not crumble if you did not do them. These need to be cut off the list. Even better, learn to say “no” to requests so they don’t even get on the list in the first place.
By acknowledging your life circumstances, that you are a sandwich generation mom, you can help yourself to maximize your ability to continue to support all the generations of your family.
What do you think about this article? I’d love to hear your comments.