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Jan 23
The Sandwich Generation: Are You the ‘Filling’?

Family Tree 2.jpgAuthor: Georgina Barrick

I’m not a big fan of ‘New Year’s Resolutions’.
I prefer to work with a set of enduring and broad themes – or guiding lights to use as waypoints as each year unfolds. In 2018, my focus was very much on how to live more mindfully – how to manage stress better, get more sleep and live more consciously.
While I didn’t always get it right, exploring ways to live more mindfully has certainly improved my overall quality of life. As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, ‘life consists in what we think of all day’.
My mindfulness journey continues in 2019.

As 2019 kicks off, I’ve been thinking about friends and colleagues who are paid-up members of the ‘Sandwich Generation’. Today, thanks to advances in medicine and health, we’re all living longer, while our children are growing up in a world where it’s harder to get (and maintain) financial independence. Actuaries are predicting that people who are now in their 40’s will be the first generation to live to 120 and beyond (a scary thought when retirement age is still 65).

The burden of managing this delicate generational balancing act falls on the Sandwich Generation – who sit in the middle and care for aging parents, while bringing up young children. This burden often comes at great personal, physical, emotional and financial cost.
Research by the American Psychological Association found that nearly 40% of adults aged between 35 and 54 feel overextended and suffer extreme levels of (poorly managed) stress as they try to balance the needs and demands of growing children against those of aging parents.
And, this stress is taking a toll, with 83% reporting that relationships with their spouse, children and family are their biggest source of stress, making it difficult to take better care of themselves.
In South Africa, a survey by Old Mutual found that 28% of urban adults take care of their children, while also supporting parents, siblings and other family members – a statistic that is growing by 2% (on average) per year, making the ‘Sandwich Generation’ a reality for many South Africans.

If this is what life looks like for so many of us, how do we find a balance between all of our dependents so that we’re not meeting the needs of one to the detriment of others?
And, how do we make time to take care of, and nurture, ourselves?
 
Identify (and Manage) Your Stressors…
I’ve found that being able to identify what triggers stress allows me to respond more appropriately.
Also, unhealthy behaviours – like drinking or eating too much – aren’t helpful.
Try to explore how you can replace this behaviour with healthier ways of coping and how you can incorporate stress-reducing activities – like exercise, socialising with friends or meditation – into your daily routine.

Practice Self Care...
When you’re running on empty, you can’t properly take care of others.
It’s important to make time to take care of yourself. Get good sleep, schedule time for exercise and do the things that you enjoy and that nourish you.
For me, it’s about taking time to have a massage or catch up over coffee with good friends.
The world won’t fall apart in your absence – and you’ll return refreshed and better able to cope.

Find (and Lean On) the Right Support...
Even if you’re Super(wo)man, it’s not possible to do everything yourself.
Think about what you need and ask for help. Whether it be siblings, older children, friends or professional caregivers, help is available. Share the load. In my experience, people want to help.

Manage Your Finances…
Many older people shy away from talking about money, believing that it’s ‘not the done thing’.
Given that 41% of respondents to the Old Mutual survey rely on their children for financial support, understanding the true state of your parent’s finance is key to being able to put together a financial plan that works for everyone.
Start by getting everyone’s finances out in the open so that you can properly plan.
It’s also a good idea to get your children involved so that they can learn to become financially independent themselves.

Live in the Moment…
Truthfully, being the ‘filling in the sandwich’ is sometimes no fun.
It’s important to live in the moment. Love your loved ones. Prioritise what matters and let the little stuff go. This too shall pass – and you may miss it when it does.

And finally, I believe that there are two gifts that you should strive to give…
First, make your children truly independent. Focus on giving them a good education and ensuring that they understand how to become financially independent.
Then, ensure that you remain financially independent as you age and make all of the big, necessary life decisions around retirement ahead of time so that you don’t burden your children.
Good luck!

Georgina Barrick, MD of Cassel&Co and Insource.ICT/ IT Edge, all divisions of ADvTECH Resourcing (Pty) Ltd. Georgina has over 20 years of recruitment and executive search experience.

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