What Does it Really Mean to be in the “Sandwich Generation”
Are we the generation which had it all?
The bra-burning brigade of the 1960s led us to believe we could have everything we wanted – a fabulous job, a happy family, a beautiful home, leisure time by the bucket-load because of all the labour-saving gadgets, good health, cars, holidays – you name it, it was ours for the taking.
To be fair, many of us did, and I count myself as one of the fortunate ones. But inevitably, the bubble burst. Those of us, now in our 60s, are often left paying the price for our carefree younger days.
The Next Generation
Sadly, our children cannot always get fabulous jobs, since businesses are not recruiting as they were, and certainly not paying the salaries they used to pay.
We saved and put our kids through university as a rite of passage. Often, that was what we had aspired to, but couldn’t necessarily afford it. And besides, you didn’t need a degree to start working in our days – you could work your way up from the bottom.
Because our children cannot get fabulous jobs – even with a degree – they are stuck in lower-paid positions. House prices (in the UK) have exploded, and mortgages are now out of reach for many young people, while rent prices take up most of their salaries.
The upshot of this is that many of our offspring are still living at home well into their early 30s while they try and save up to get on the property ladder. And this situation makes it hard-going for the 60-something women who are either still working full time or wanting to wind down.
The Previous Generation
And there is more to add to the family mix since our parents are living longer. Thus, we need to care for our elderly relatives at the other end of the age spectrum, many of whom have some medical or mobility problems.
After all, it’s only fair since they nurtured and nourished us growing up. Now we want to ensure that they get the very best care, since they deserve it.
That leaves you slap in the middle – still caring and having both generations depending on you. How do you cope? And who cares for you?
My own parents passed away while I was still in my teens, but my mother-in-law became ill with dementia while my daughter was in her mid-teens. At the time I had a very stressful corporate job, and a bullying manager who didn’t have any family so never understood the stresses of family life. The result was, I came very close to a breakdown.
Looking back on those years, I don’t know how I coped, but I did. Yet looking around at my female friends of the same age, I see the same issues again and again. We are pulled both ways – by the needs of our aging wonderful parents, and also helping our children along the way.
I have friends my age whose parents are still alive in their 90s and I envy them. I can’t understand why they moan about doing chores for their parents when I would have given anything to have still had mine around.
I watched another of my friends who, together with her sister (both of them in their 60s) visited their mother in a care home. One went every lunchtime while the other went every evening so that they were able to spend meal times with her. Both were still working full time and also had other family issues to deal with.
Unfortunately, though, I know there are some old folks who become bitter and entitled if their children don’t visit every day. For some of these ‘children,’ a visit there and back takes almost a full day, particularly when it involves taking the parent out of the care home for a couple of hours.
I also know someone who, when she visits home, says she reverts to being a teenager again – and she’s 45! – and lets her Mum run around after her. Seriously, that can’t be right!
I strongly believe we need to get tougher about getting our kids to help with their grandparents. Children – even grown-up ones – can learn a lot from their grandparents, and the older generation gets pleasure from spending time with their loved ones.
Western society seems keen to put the older generation into a care home, while many European and Eastern societies care for their elderly at home, and with respect. It is a win-win situation.
The elders see their children and grandchildren growing up close by, and the family becomes one unit instead of two or three separate entities.
Of course, it isn’t always that easy. Some of our very senior citizens need special care or equipment and have complex medical needs.
However, specialists I spoke to at the time told me that they tried to keep their elderly patients in their own familiar surroundings for as long as possible. This helped them to remember their old routines and made them feel more comfortable with their own things around them.
Don’t they say a problem shared is a problem halved? We all need to work together as a family to share the caring – and yes, the burden, since no-one pretends it’s easy.
You probably have grandchildren of your own. Maybe your own children are still working hard to keep roofs over their heads. I understand it may be hard for them to help out, but we should all try.
Do you still have adult children living at home? Does it cause friction? Do they take some responsibility with the chores? Are your parents still living? I say, “Lucky You!” but does it put extra stress on your family? Please share your cares or experiences below.