According to estimates of the Pew Research Center, one in every seven Americans is trapped in the sandwich generation.
Do you feel squeezed in your own family between the seemingly rising demands of your children, on one hand, and the escalating needs of your parents on the other? Do you feel pressurized by the increasing expectations from both sides? If your answer is yes, then welcome to the sandwich generation.
About 20 million Americans are caught in this difficult situation, wherein they have to look after both, their growing children as well as their aging parents. The term 'sandwich generation' was coined in 1981 by Dorothy A. Miller, and refers to any person, around the age of 50, who has to help both, his/her aging parents and at least one adult child. These days, however, the term encompasses even younger children and infants.
In one of the most common situations found in America and most other countries of the world, it is observed that aging parents often run short on money right when they need special care. At the same time, the adult children either take time or completely fail to launch, and hence, the generation that is caught in between has to take care of all the family issues on both levels―emotional and financial. This may be a pretty frustrating situation at times, especially when people in the sandwich generation fail to keep their cool.
Things which add to the burden of the sandwich generation are often not apparent from the surface level. That is to say that there are more issues that the sandwich generation needs to handle, than just caring for their parents and children. Owing to this, it has been observed that, more often than not, people caught amidst this situation are not able to take time out for themselves, which, in fact, is very important, especially to relieve stress to some extent.
Giving priority to oneself also provides him/her with a sort of psychological padding, such that his/her mind can be refreshed. Psychologists propose that it is a good idea for people, who are sandwiched between their parents and children to meet their friends frequently, cultivate a hobby, or to engage in something that they like. Indulging in such things may keep them away from stress and depression, and may also manage other health issues, like hypertension.
Managing the Finances
It often becomes difficult these days for people caught in the sandwich generation to effectively manage their finances. With rising rates of inflation and high costs of specialized health care facilities and education, the earnings often seem to be less than the expenses. Saving and investing in various genuine financial schemes is one of the best ways to ensure a financial cover for the future. For instance, getting a family health insurance can aid you to a great extent to pay for expensive medical emergencies.
Prior planning is the key to efficient managing of finances. It is extremely vital that proper monthly budgets, with respect to the day-to-day needs, are chalked out to avoid monetary shortages by the end of the month. Moreover, even children should be taught to save money, right from their childhood so that even they can be well prepared for their future needs. Financial liabilities, such as loans, should be discussed with the family so that everyone can, in his/her own way, contribute to the savings.
Finally, those who have siblings need not shoulder the entire financial responsibility of their parents by themselves. You can always seek financial aid from your brothers and sisters, with regard to your parents' care so that a single person does not come under financial pressure. Plus, even your brothers and sisters would be satisfied about doing something for their aged parents.
Prioritizing the Demands
Ultimately, it is the sandwich generation who has to fulfill all the demands and expectations of the family members as well as himself/herself. While dealing with the demands and needs of people you are responsible for, it is very important to draw a line between the "important" and "not so important." You have to decide what needs to be addressed immediately, and what can wait for some time.
In lieu of this, it is quite obvious that a person may have to take some seemingly tough decisions. It should be noted that making everyone happy at all times is not always possible, and setting priorities will enable you to do the most important work first. This way, you can avoid future emergencies and great financial losses.
The point to be noted is that in spite of the fact that it is the sandwich generation that is "supposed" to care for the other generations, one cannot deny that it is ultimately a matter of one's own family. Discussing problems and tensions―psychological, physical, financial, and/or professional―with one's family is an excellent idea. It helps to a large extent to increase the level of mutual understanding and trust among family members. Talking it out might also lead to an adult child offering a genuine helping hand, say by limiting his/her expenses or taking care of the grandparents while his/her parents are away. Being a member of the sandwich generation can, thus, also be a blessing in disguise.