Back-to-School: Sandwich Generation Edition

BlogHer Original Post

The newness of back-to-school has worn off, and we're settling into our parenting routines. Right? Except for those members of the sandwich generation who never quite know what to expect from their aging parents. What do you do when you have soccer practice at the same time as your father's doctor appointment? Your father who can't drive anymore? Replicate yourself?

Taking care of kids and elderly parents is never easy, but the issues compound exponentially at work: Now you've gone from needing your own sick days (if you're lucky enough to have them) to needing sick days to care for ill kids and ill parents, as well -- facts that don't bode well for the upcoming flu season.

Take it one step farther? Single mom Mary at The Women's Journal writes:

I received the call early on Sunday morning. My father was undergoing emergency heart surgery. I felt helpless. My immediate reaction was to get on a plane and fly to Minnesota to provide the support he needed; however the reality of the situation was much different. I am what is now coined as the classical “sandwich generation” working full time, single mother of three faced with caring for my parent.

Mary must be a sleepless super creature to hold all that together.

I'm getting to the age in which my friends' parents are growing elderly. I'm 35 but have friends in their late forties and early fifties who face both high school sports schedules and parents who can no longer drive or live independently. Who gets first dibs on their time?

Though my own mother was a 1970s member of the sandwich generation as her mother needed care while we were still living at home, I'm amazed at how many of my hometown friends' grandparents are still alive when my grandmother has been dead almost twenty years. There's one significant difference between them and me: Maternal age at the time of birth. My mom was only one year younger when she had me than I was when I had my daughter.

Eliza writes at Silver and Grace:

Why is the Sandwich Generation membership expanding?
There are several reasons why concurrently caring for children and parents is becoming more prevalent:

1. We are having our children later in life, such that we still have school age children well into our forties, and possibly fifties

2. Our children are living at home longer, not leaving until well into their twenties

3. Our parents are living longer, with the average life expectancy now surpassing 80 years old

At the same time sandwichers are being squeezed harder for time, there's less support nearby. Fewer people live in their hometowns and have local relatives to lean on to watch the kids for a few hours or pick someone up from school when there's a conflict. If there are no free options, care must be paid care, and in a down economy, even the wallet's having to call sides.

Lauren Young writes at Market Mix-up:

But now, Campbell and her husband, Dave, 56, are finding themselves pinched in ways they hadn’t anticipated. They’re putting their son and daughter through California Polytechnic State University at the cost of roughly $20,000 a year for each . They’re also digging deep into savings to care for their aging parents. So when the couple’s retirement investments lost 38% last year, their plan to slow down and shift to volunteer work in the next few years had to be put on hold.

How do you handle it when you need to be two places at once for kids and for parents? How do you get relief and support from your time spent caregiving? And where does your money go when everyone needs you?

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