Being an Older Parent Part II- The Sandwich Generation

In Part I of Being an Older Parent, I wrote about the issues that many older parents navigate and here I wanted to take some time to focus more on what it can be like to be part of the Sandwich Generation. Being part of the Sandwich Generation means that you may have aging parents moving through their 70’s and 80’s who need more care from you even while your own growing children need a lot of attention as well. These competing needs can leave you feeling tired and overwhelmed as you try to imagine how to come up with the time and emotional or physical capacity to provide that care, not to mention the monetary costs that can arise. Think extra childcare and elder care costs.

We may feel the need to be the perfect child to our parents while being the perfect parents to our children. We want to make sure our parents are safe, healthy and happy. We may worry that they are lonely or bored and that somehow we are letting them down. We also want our children to thrive, to do well in school and make friends and feel loved. We may drive ourselves to prepare healthy lunches and dinners, volunteer at their schools, arrange play dates, etc. This can lead to exhaustion and shame as we wonder why we can’t live up perfectly to what we believe are everyones’ expectations.

It helps to take a step back and rearrange those expectations. A good first step can be identifying what kind of support you can realistically provide and then seek out additional support as needed. You may not be able to visit your parents as much as you wish, but you can call them regularly. You can also try calling your local senior center as they offer wonderful classes and opportunities for seniors and can also connect you to other community resources for seniors. You may not be able to cook every single meal for your child from scratch, but healthy food choices can be simplified and school lunches and the occasional take – out meal can be a help, too! And while you may not be able to take your child to every soccer practice or swim meet, it may be possible to carpool with a neighbor or trade childcare tasks. A healthy you is the most valuable resource to your family, so invest in yourself and give yourself a well-deserved pat on the back!