With children growing and parents aging, those who fall within the age range of 40-59 are feeling the stress that comes with being in the sandwich generation. Balancing school schedules, work, doctors’ appointments, extracurriculars, and somehow fitting me-time into a day can feel impossible. So, it’s no surprise that this sandwich generation is stressed beyond belief. Add in financial stressors and a 26.2 percent divorce rate, and your forties and fifties can feel catastrophic.
How can you manage this stress? What are the best ways to take care of yourself? We have the answers.
First: The Financial Stress For The Sandwich Generation
In 2013, the Pew Research Center released more statistics on the sandwich generation in 2012, compared to 2005. Unsurprisingly, the numbers regarding a variety of stressors had risen. Forty-seven percent of adults had a parent who was 65+, as well as a minor child or adult child to support; fifteen percent provided financial support to these family members at the same time.
off to drive both parents to several medical appointments today-this sandwich generation is served as an early bird special.
— kellylight (@kellylight) April 22, 2010
The median income in 2012 was about $55,000; while some can live comfortably within this range, those in the sandwich generation are often using their income to provide resources of all types. Think: college, health insurance, uncovered medical expenses, nursing homes, and so on.
Taking care of aging parents is daunting – there’s the personal fear of losing them, and the objective fear of not being able to properly care for them. One in five adults provided financial support to their 65+ parents. And when supporting these parents, only 28 percent said they lived comfortably, compared to 41 percent of adults not supporting parents. It could be because 75 percent of adults reported that taking care of their elderly parents was a “responsibility.”
However, financial stressors more often come from supporting an adult child – 48 percent had provided some form of financial support to an adult child, while 27 percent were the primary providers for their adult children.
I’m part of the “sandwich” generation. I pay for Netflix, HBO, Apple+, Hulu and the cell phone plan so my parents and adult children can use them.
— DebraS (@DebbieStaplet15) May 31, 2021
Relationships In The Sandwich Generation
Financially, it can be difficult. But what about happiness within marriage?
When it comes to relationships – specifically marriage – a report in 2006 by Utah State University found that 26.2 percent of those in the sandwich generation would divorce during this time.
Why doesn’t anybody prepare us for the shit storm that is our 40’s, like oh hello divorce, hello disease and hello sandwich generation and perimenopause; have a seat while i deal with everything else on my plate at the moment.
— Kerry Brown (@kbmc73) September 19, 2019
In the report, they explain that “in unhealthy marriages, divorce or separation may remove the stress and anguish associated with marital conflict, abuse, or infidelity,” and, especially for women, they “may feel less responsible, or not responsible at all, for the care of former in-laws.” The relief that comes from one less responsibility is substantial.
Thirty-nine percent of those born between 1945 and 1949 had been divorced by the age of 50, and 28.5 percent had remarried at least once by 50, too. This is not necessarily a bad thing – leaving marriages can relieve unhappiness and caretaking responsibilities. But this does not negate the amount of stress that comes with dividing assets, organizing custody arrangements, and balancing financial support (for children and parents), among other stressors.
How The Sandwich Generation Can Deal With Stress
Find a support system.
Whether this is a spouse, a close friend, or a therapist (or all three!), it’s crucial to have somebody to lean on during times of overwhelming stress. Express whether you’re looking for advice or simply for them to listen, so they know the space you’re in, then talk. You don’t have to go through all of this alone, and, chances are, the listener will be able to relate in some form.
Find extra help.
If you just don’t have time to take your kids to school and then extracurriculars in the middle of the day, it’s okay to ask others to help out. Should you not have a parent, spouse, or friend who can help, vet babysitters and find someone who can ease your load. (You can find these babysitters through websites such as Care.com and SitterCity, which give ratings to sitters, as well as through local groups, such as Facebook groups.) While it may take time to find that perfect caretaker, it will be worth it when your child needs to go to their piano lessons while you’re in the middle of a deadline.
Help your older children prepare in advance for independence.
While chores are great learning tools to help set them up for the future, it’s important to educate your children on more “adult” things. This is especially important for children who are soon to be adults. For example, how can they call to make their own dentist appointment? What is the doctor’s number? Do they carry a notebook with numbers and schedules? Preparing them will help them to be more independent, therefore lessening your need to helicopter.
Remember that this isn’t forever.
It can seem like there’s no light at the end of the tunnel, but I promise: you will not be in this tunnel for the rest of your life. This is especially true as your children grow – while you may provide them with financial support now, they’ll soon have their own incomes. While your parents may need support for a while, they won’t need it forever, especially if they can enter government assistance programs (like Supplementary Security Income and Medicaid).
Take time to yourself.
You may feel like that’s not an option, and that may be true most of the time. But if you’re not taking care of yourself, you’re more likely to spin out. Once a week, take at least a few hours to yourself. Have your kids taken care of, leave your phone out of the room, and decompress. Take a hot bath, eat your favorite food, paint your nails — whatever it takes to calm your mind and give you a second to breathe. Just because people rely on you doesn’t mean you’re not allowed to take care of yourself.
Overall, the sandwich generation is hit hard with necessary responsibilities. If you know someone who is a part of the sandwich generation, reach out to them and see if you can help. Offer to take the kids or pick up groceries or simply be a void they can vent to. They’ll be extremely grateful.
Chatting with a friend stretched between career, kids, & ill parent. We should be called the rubber band generation, not sandwich generation
— Sarah Knowlden (@SarahKnowlden) February 20, 2015
Are you a part of the sandwich generation? How do you manage your stress? Let us know below.
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