Ah, the Sandwich Generation. It’s a term popularized after being introduced to the social work community in 1981 and officially added to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary in 2006. If you are reading this post, you are highly likely to be a woman who falls within the definition, faces the challenges that come with the title, and in need of strategies to take care of yourself.
Sandwich Generation: Are You in It?
So what is the definition of the Sandwich Generation? In the beginning, it referred to women in their 30s and 40s who are charged with caring for their children, meeting the needs of their aging parents, and very often working full time. Now that people are living and working longer and more of their children are at home and in need of financial and other support into their 20s and beyond — sometimes along with their grandchildren — the Sandwich Generation involves people in their 50s and 60s.
As the Sandwich Generation has broadened, experts like Carol Abaya, nationally renowned for her reports on the topic, have broken down the definition into three distinct groups: Traditional, meaning those sandwiched between aging parents who need care and their own children; the Club Sandwich generation, meaning those in their 50s or 60s sandwiched between aging parents, adult children and grandchildren, or those in their 30s and 40s, with young children, aging parents and grandparents; and the Open Faced group, which is anyone else involved in elder care.
If you recognize yourself in these groups, here are strategies for taking care of yourself that Judi Light Hopson, executive director of the stress management website USA Wellness, shared with Tribune News Service:
Use small bits of help. If someone offers to run an errand or check on someone, accept.
Plan ahead. If you have an older child or a spouse who is free on a weekend, for instance, ask him or her to take care of your parent for a few hours and use that time to do something good for yourself — a mani-pedi, a visit with a friend, a nice walk, or whatever else you find relaxing.
If you can afford it, hire help. This doesn’t even have to be for your parent or grandchild. Maybe you get a housekeeper once a week, freeing you up from that work.
Have small things to look forward to. Keep a list of books and movies you want to enjoy and some places you want to visit and dine. Make time to visit them.
Don't isolate yourself. This is a big one: Keep a connection to supportive people who understand your situation. This may be friends or even a support group.
Just over one of every eight Americans aged 40 to 60 is both raising a child and caring for a parent. So know you are not alone and remember that if you don’t care for yourself, you won’t truly be able to be available to the others who need you most.