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The Sandwich Generation
Posted: 2/16/2016 8:48 AM by
The term Sandwich Generation refers to a generation that is simultaneously caring for family members from two generations and thus being pressed from two sides. Usually the term is used for those who are caring for aging parents and caring for their own children, but it can also apply to those caring for parents and grandchildren, especially if the grandparents are raising grandchildren. The term was coined by Dorothy Miller in 1981.
Carol Abaya, who writes and lectures on the subject of the Sandwich Generation, has identified another type of "sandwich": the Club Sandwich, referring to those caring for three generations. Members of the Club Sandwich generation are usually in their 50s or 60s and are assisting with aging parents, adult children and grandchildren. Abaya also uses the term to refer to another group, usually women in their 30s and 40s, who deal with young children, aging parents and grandparents.
Most members of the sandwich generation are Baby Boomers or members of Generation X.
Time and Money Pressures
Those living in any type of "sandwich" situation are likely to have difficulty allocating time and financial resources. According to a 2013 Pew Research report, Baby Boomers are increasingly being called upon to support grown children. The needs of aging parents have remained fairly stable, but these days young adults need more years of education, have more difficulty finding employment after graduating, and often earn wages that are too low to meet their needs.
Consequently, young adults often move back home and turn to their parents for financial support. While many parents supply this assistance readily, others feel conflicted, wanting their children to be more self-sufficient. When the young adults become parents and still aren't financially independent, the pressure increases. Very few grandparents are willing to see their grandchildren in want without helping out.
The allotment of time also puts pressure on those being "sandwiched." There are many ways that grandparents can help time-poor parents, but caring for aged parents can leave grandparents time-poor, too, lacking the energy to enjoy grandchildren. And sometimes there are unresolvable scheduling conflicts. Having to choose between taking an aged parent to the doctor and attending a grandchild's recital is a hard choice! Sometimes there is no good solution.
Many Baby Boomers are just beginning to feel their own aches and pains, and have nascent health issues that need to be regularly evaluated and addressed. They may have had plans to retire or travel that are put on hold so they can take care of their family members. Being a member of the Sandwich Generation can bring very stressful situations at a time when many people thought life would get easier!
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