I’m new to the sandwich generation…I think…maybe not…no, I’ve been here a while. I can’t quite place my finger on the moment I realized I was a part of this category. Was it when my Dad had a stroke four years ago and we had to make the decision to place him a care facility and I lived 600 miles away? Because frankly, that decision sucked and still haunts me. But, no, I certainly could not be a “sandwicher” at 32. No, that wasn’t me for pete’s sake. I had a year old baby! Did I become a part of the sandwich generation when my mother moved 500 miles to live in the same town as me? She lived on her own, but my sense of responsibility for her certainly increased–at least in my mind. But, naw—at 33–no way. That’s for people much older than me. Or, was it when my Dad’s cancer returned with a vengeance in March of 2014 and I, along with my sister, packed up my family and moved home to take care of him and hold his hand as he passed from this world? That certainly put me there though I wasn’t thinking about being a “sandwicher.” I think what finally did it, at least in my mind (or maybe I just stopped denying I was this young and a “sandwicher”), was the most recent life change where The Mom is now living with me, my sweet (albeit sometimes crazy) husband, J, and my precious (and mostly rambunctious) four year old daughter, Munchkin. Oh, and the Mom brought her tiny dog—Pup-Pup. It finally dawned on me that at age 36 I’m entering a new phase and I need to get a handle on what all this means or whew, help us all!
Funny enough, I’m a Sociologist. You might have thought I’d have realized I was a part of this growing group a long time ago. You might have though as someone who thinks about societal change and even teaches about the sandwich generation it MIGHT have dawned on me much sooner I was actually talking about myself. Nope…not once. I do find that funny.
As someone who clings to research for a living, I started doing a lot of reading about this new group I find myself a part of (you know, as soon as I figured out–yes that means YOU, Dr. Sociologist). The Pew Research Foundation found that about half of adults between the ages of 40 and 59 have care of both their parents and kids whether they are considered “grown” or dependents. Of all of us identifying as sandwich generation about 73% are between the ages of 40-59 though for those younger than 40 (here’s looking at you Dr. Sociologist) we make up about 19% of the group. Men and women are equally likely to be a part of the sandwich generation (well, there is something for equality between the sexes, but I’m sure I’ll be exploring the likely nuances of this stat in the months to come). Those who have more disposable resources are more likely to be a part of the sandwich generation. Finally, married adults are more likely to be a part of this growing group (www.pewsocialtrends.org/2013/01/30/the-sandwich-generation/).
I also found studies about the stress, both financial and emotional, that one in this group experiences. Great. Just great. But, on the bright side other studies show we are just as happy as our non-sandwich peers despite all the stress. Yay! I think…Some studies note that we are also slightly more likely to report being pressed for time. Ya think?! But, at least it is only a slight statistical chance.
I’m going to use this blog as my way of blundering through the new changes. I hope writing about the good, bad, ugly and hysterical of the last four years and the many years to come will help me figure out how to handle the moments between laughter and tears and allow others to process their own experiences as a member of the sandwich generation.
Until next time!