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Do You Have Tips For Members of the "Sandwich Generation"?

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A

The percentage of people with elderly parents has increased due to the longer life expectancy of Americans. In 1940, only 37 percent of 50-year-old women had living mothers, compared to more than 65 percent today. The percentage of parents in their forties with children at home and living parents is even higher.

The demands of parenting adolescent children, being at the peak of involvement in career and civic responsibilities and caring for dependent elderly parents create a time of life often referred to as the sandwich generation.

Members of the sandwich generation often experience role overload created by too many or conflicting responsibilities. In addition, those who regularly tend to the needs of others can begin to feel resentment and guilt over not being able to meet those needs, and then guilt for feeling resentful. They may begin to feel unable to take care of anyone's needs, including their own.
Consider these tips for reducing role overload:

* Reduce the number of responsibilities you have. Examine your life and get rid of unnecessary outside commitments that may include getting off advisory boards, reducing travel at work or resigning from PTA.
* Clarify or change the expectations you or others have about your responsibilities. For example, you may feel your parent needs more care than you are able to give, but arranging for someone else to care for them causes you to feel guilty or uncaring. Clarify your own expectations by talking with your parent about what he or she expects of you. Have the same talk with other family members to divide responsibilities.
* Prepare yourself for new situations. Make tentative plans about "what if" situations and how you would handle them. This can help you feel more in control. Have a plan for living or financial arrangements if dependency needs of your parent go beyond what you can handle.
* Take time for yourself. When you experience role overload, the tendency is to meet everyone else's agenda by giving up time for yourself. By doing so, you send yourself a subtle but powerful message that everyone else comes first, and that their needs are more important than yours. Confidence begins to waiver, and soon jobs that were once manageable seem overwhelming.

In order to be worth something to anyone else, you must first be worth something to yourself. Strike a balance between the time you take for yourself and the time you give to others. The time you take for personal renewal will better enable you to meet the needs of all those who depend on you.

Posted on 24 Aug 2001

Tom Lee
Family & Consumer Science Program Leader & Department Head, Financial Management Specialist

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