If you are in your 30s, 40s, or 50s, odds are you already know all too well the true meaning of the term, “sandwich generation.” It refers to that generation that finds itself “caught” between caring for young children and caring for aging parents.
You’re also doing all this at a stage in your life when work demands are at their height. You’re in your prime money-making years, but this is the moment when both your parents and children need you most.
Striking that balance has never been easy, even in the best of times. But then COVID-19 struck, throwing a huge curveball at all those plates you’ve been so precariously spinning.
The Disproportionate Impact on Women
For all the attention given to the issue of gender equity today, the simple fact remains that women continue to bear the brunt of the caregiving responsibilities. And, nearly 50% of people in their 40s and 50s find themselves fitting the profile of the sandwich generation.
The disproportionate burden of caregiving that women have traditionally carried has significant and enduring impacts across all domains of women’s lives. These obligations compromise women’s physical and mental health, while simultaneously reducing their earning and saving capacity.
Now that the world has changed due to the coronavirus pandemic, those harms are only amplified for women. Experts fear, for example, that the additional burden of caregiving during COVID times poses a serious threat to women in the workplace.
Even for women whose employers offer flexible schedules and telecommuting opportunities, working from home while also caregiving at home creates formidable challenges. As millions of children engage in remote learning and multiple generations of the same family shelter in the same home, it can quickly become impossible for women to also create a productive home workspace. That’s leading to fears of a mass exodus of women from the workplace.
What We Must Do
As the pandemic lingers on, it can feel as if there’s no escape from the push and pull of responsibility. But the situation is far from hopeless. It is possible to build a more balanced life while ensuring your loved ones receive all the love and care they need and deserve.
- Reach Out
The first and most important thing you can do if you find yourself bearing the weight of the caregiving is to stop. Avoid the temptation to play either the martyr or the hero. Don’t just ask for help, demand it.
If you have siblings, ensure they’re playing their part in helping to care for your parents, such as driving them to medical appointments or making pharmacy runs. And remember that when your spouse or partner takes care of the kids, it’s not “babysitting” — it’s parenting.
- Explore In-Home Services
In the age of coronavirus, it might seem scary to invite service providers into your home. But don’t let those justified anxieties keep you and your loved ones from the enormous help an in-home care provider can provide.
These caregivers can provide a range of services, depending on your loved one’s needs. Depending on the service provider’s training and licensure, their services can include anything from cooking and light housekeeping to helping with daily needs, such as bathing, dressing, or help with exercise and medication. Best of all, you can be assured that certified service providers will be well trained in COVID protocols to keep your loved ones safe.
- Innovate, Don’t Procrastinate
To think of this time as a time of tremendous potential might seem laughable, especially given all we’ve discussed before. However, once you’ve taken steps to balance the caregiving load more fairly, opportunity is exactly what this time can provide.
First, if you have moved your parents into your home to ride out the pandemic, you now have perhaps the greatest chance you will ever have to truly monitor your parents’ status.
For example, this kind of close, consistent contact can help you to detect early warning signs of dementia that might otherwise have gone unnoticed. And prompt intervention, whether with supplements or the new medications that are entering the market, can significantly slow the progression of devastating diseases, such as Alzheimer’s.
In addition to helping you become a more effective, efficient, and balanced caregiver, these COVID times may well be the perfect opportunity to reinvent yourself. Time at home, for instance, likely has given you time to reflect on what you want and don’t want in your life.
Perhaps you’ve long been nursing a business idea, but overthinking and lack of time have prevented you from pursuing it. Now could be an ideal time to trust your gut and move forward in building the life and career that will truly make you happy. After all, if not now, when?
Striking a balance between work, parents, and children has never been easy, but in the pandemic era, it can feel downright impossible. If you are willing to delegate, reach out, and innovate, however, that balance can be achieved. And, in the process, you can begin to build a healthier, happier, and even more successful life for yourself and those you love.