Ah, the Sandwich Generation. It’s a term popularized after being introduced to the social work community in 1981, and it was officially added to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary in 2006. If you are reading this post, you are 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? Back when it was first coined, it referred to women in their 30s and 40s who were charged with caring for their children while meeting the needs of their aging parents — and all while very often working full time. Now that women are living longer and more of their children are at home beyond their 20s — sometimes along with their grandchildren — the Sandwich Generation has come to encompass those in their 50s and 60s as ell.
As the Sandwich Generation has broadened, experts like Carol Abaya (who is 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 (though it could also refer to those in their 30s and 40s who have 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 it. Every little bit of help counts.
Plan ahead. If you have an older child or a spouse who is free on a weekend, 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: You could get a housekeeper once a week, freeing you up from home chores.
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. Then, make time to actually do these things.
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 raising a child and caring for a parent. Know you are not alone, and remember that if you don’t care for yourself, you won’t be available to those who truly need you most.