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Understanding the Sandwich Generation

Ember Conley describes how to understand the Sandwich Generation.

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The so-called sandwich generation is getting squeezed on both sides by the competing responsibilities of growing children and aging parents. Because of these dual pressures from the outside, sometimes members of the sandwich generation feel stuck. They may struggle to make time for themselves and their pursuits. They sometimes feel like they’re caught between a rock and a hard place. The good news is that there are ways to manage these complicated feelings.

Most members of the sandwich generation are firmly middle-aged, in their 40s and 50s. Many of them describe daily routines where they always put others before themselves. For example, a sandwiched mom or dad may call to check on their parents during their lunch break. Next, they may call to check in on their kids. Finally, if there’s time, they might eat lunch or text a friend. It’s easy to see how members of the sandwich generation can start to feel overwhelmed.

According to the Pew Research Center, over 45% of Americans in their 40s and 50s fit this sandwich generation profile. There are both demographic and economic reasons for the phenomenon of the sandwich generation. The first is that the huge Baby Boomer cohort is entering their golden years. This is placing a lot of pressure on healthcare organizations and children.

A second pressure is economical. Millennials have weathered several recessions since graduating high school in the early 2000s. There’s also less housing stock available for them to buy, due to overseas investment from Eastern Europe and China. It’s been difficult for them to establish nest eggs and move out into stable situations. Between COVID-19 and the 2008 crisis, it’s easy to see why so many people in their late 20s and 30s keep ending up back at home.  

When it comes to dealing with these pressures, communication is key. Elderly parents need to feel involved in decision-making, particularly when it’s their money being spent. The same is true of adult kids returning home. Work with them to understand their income and what rent they can pay while still saving to leave. Also, understand that children paying rent have rights under state law as either tenants or boarders. They’re not children who can be ordered around anymore. Empathy and understanding are important elements of understanding the two generations the sandwich generation supports. However, members of the sandwich generation must also balance taking care of kids and parents with setting aside time for themselves. 

This article was originally published at EmberConley.net.

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