The Sandwich Generation

I learned this from a friend who is studying to be a nurse. The sandwich generation is composed of people that are bringing up their own kids and taking care of aging parents. These people are in their 40s and 50s but can be as young as 30. They are “sandwiched” between generations of their family.

Nearly half (47%) of adults in their 40s and 50s have a parent age 65 or older and are either raising a young child or financially supporting a grown child (age 18 or older).

-Pew Research Center, The Sandwich Generation

I am no longer GenX. I am a sandwicher. In truth, I didn’t really like being called a GenXer, but it’s a sexier label. I now sound like I should be on Potbelly’s menu. According to the demographics gods, the year I was born in is the start of GenX. I’m not a boomer. I never felt like a GenXer either. I was lost, not The Lost Generation. That was F. Scott Fitzgerald. Lost as in forgotten. All the commercials and products and services and, golly gee, everything, was targeted at the boomers. Then the GenXers made noise and got a label and were targeted. I was still forgotten, which had its advantages. I’m not forgotten anymore.

I don’t mind being sandwiched. I love my family. It’s also great to see my moms interacting with my kids. Cross-generational pollination! But this has been going on for eons and the pundits have just now decided to give it a name. Silly sociologists! Okay, that’s the cynical part of me leaking out. I really don’t think the amount of sandwichers has changed over the centuries.

While the share of middle-aged adults living in the so-called sandwich generation has increased only marginally in recent years, the financial burdens associated with caring for multiple generations of family members are mounting.

-Pew Research Center, The Sandwich Generation

I am fortunate that both my mother and my husband’s mother (I call them both my moms), are taking care of themselves. My 85 year old mom was very conscientious and tucked herself safely away in a retirement home at age 74. I argued with her that she should be living with us. She refused to capitulate and has had a lovely 11 years line dancing, drawing, singing, swimming and anything else you can think of to add to the list. My other mom is now 70 something and still living in her own home riding her bike and doing pilates. We are fortunate because neither one is a financial burden on us. However. Both are older and do have health issues. They are safe and have support networks, but that doesn’t keep one from worrying. The most significant thing is that they are dependent on us for emotional support. That is a good thing. It means we’re close and love each other. Just like worrying about your children is stressful, worrying about your parents is equally stressful. It’s really hard to watch your parents grow old. They are my super heroes. They are my role models. I love them with all my heart. To watch someone you love be in pain is painful. The worst part about it, this all means their bodies are slowly stopping. Someday those bodies will stop completely and all of us that love them can’t think about that. This stress is what I would call the bane of the sandwich generation. It has always been there, but now people are actually talking about it.

This has all been happening for millenia.  Once again that snarky voice in my head says, “Why is everyone making such a big deal out of it? It’s how the world works.” The Pew Research Center has done an extensive study and collected a great deal of data. I am a scientist, so I love data. That same scientist in my head says, “Great data! Now how are we going to use it to change the world?”


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