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The Sandwich Generation

Point of Realization

It was May 2019 and my youngest child had just graduated from high school and was preparing to go to college. My middle child was in college, about 4 hours from home. My oldest child had just graduated from college in December 2018 and had moved out of the house, but lived in town. He was in college 5-1/2 years and shortly before he actually graduated, I remember thinking that if he didn't graduate soon, we might have THREE kids in college at the same time!

I was married (still am, happily and thankfully), and both me and my husband were working full-time, outside the home (those lovely pre-Covid days).

And oh by the way, my then 75-year-old widowed mom, with a host of health issues (including being legally blind from glaucoma) had been living with us for exactly three years at that point, in my daughter's old bedroom. And keep in mind that college children don't live "at college". They come HOME during the summer, on breaks, or whenever they feel like it. When my daughter would come home, she'd have to camp out in the living room, fitness area or dining room area. Notice I said "area". These spaces are not bedrooms with closets and doors (therefore no privacy, God bless her).


I was 46 years old then. I was the textbook definition of someone in the Sandwich Generation.

What exactly does it mean?

Pew Research Center described the Sandwich Generation in 2013 as adults "who have a living parent age 65 or older and are either raising a child under age 18 or supporting a grown child". Fast forward to an article written by The Washington Post in March of 2023. According to Patty David, vice president of consumer insights at AARP, the concept of the sandwich generation needs to change. Her definition of the term is "those that are caregiving for both a younger loved one and an older loved one", regardless of age. And the reasons for being thrust into these dual caregiving roles, which can be physical, financial or emotional or some combination of all three, are numerous and sometimes very complex.


I 100% agree with Patty's definition.

While men and women may share in these caregiving dual roles, it can be extremely stressful on women in their mid 40s, who may be starting to struggle with their own health issues, primarily the drama and stress of peri- and full on menopause. Women may also feel more pressures as they advance in their careers or work to grow their businesses, and may feel conflicted about trying to be the best spouse or partner, mother AND child to their aging parent(s). 

I know this from personal experience. In August of 2019, even after my mom received another cancer diagnosis, I decided I needed to climb the corporate ladder by working for a company two hours away from home. 

Yep, I did that. 

We owned a home outside of Nashville so I had a place to live during the week (although I stayed with my in-laws so as to not be alone). I'd get up at 4am to make the drive to Nashville every Monday morning then drive back home to Huntsville every Friday after 5pm. Crazy. And during that time, my husband was my mother's primary caregiver, not me. He took her to all her doctor's appointments and chemo treatments and kept up with her medications and took her shopping when she felt up to it. I'd come home absolutely exhausted. We'd try to spend as much time together on the weekend to nurture our relationship. During the times when the two youngest kids were in college, it was fairly quiet around the house, so the overall stress and chaos was fairly minimal. But that was all about to change.

Enter COVID-19. And the world turned upside down and we all know the rest of that story.


But even without Covid, our personal situation was getting more complex. I was working back in Huntsville, so no crazy work commute, but my mother's health continued to decline and she started to have some memory issues on top of everything else she had going on. Add to that, one of our children struggled physically and emotionally with the demands of college and online learning. We then helped to move the oldest to Plano, TX, and there was a sense of loss for me, because I knew I'd no longer be able to see him regularly. And there was always the work and financial pressure of life (two kids in college, two mortgages, repairs and maintenance, utilities, food and personal items, clothing, car payments and repairs, etc., etc.) threating to smother us at any moment. During this period, I didn't have the time (or take the time) to manage my own health, and I worried that not doing so would have some negative consequences. I was lucky, because I continued to eat well and exercise a little, but the stress of not going to the doctor and getting routine checkups definitely weighed on me at times. And to be fully honest and transparent, I definitely turned to adult beverages far too often to cope with the weight of my world.

Take my advice - don't do that! Stay tuned, and I'll be sharing tips for this.

Learning, growing and sharing.

At some point in life, your time as part of the Sandwich Generation my come to an end, for any number of reasons. Mine came to somewhat of a conclusion, sadly, when my mother passed in October 2021. I was formally in the Sandwich Generation for almost seven years (my tenure began when my dad became ill in 2015) but the physical and emotional effects of that experience will stay with me for a very long time.


I left the workforce in December 2020 to care for my mom full time. I made the decision (with my husband's support) because I was spending so much time with my mom at her doctor's appointments that I wasn't able to give my job a full week's worth of work. And while I was with my mom, I'd try to do as much work as possible, so I wasn't giving her and her medical providers my full attention either. The decision impacted us financially but I'm so glad that I resigned because I was able to spend quality time with her, in what turned out to be the last 10 months of her life.


We still have adult children at home, I've returned to the workforce, and now my husband is battling several chronic health issues and is unable to work. I now know how to be a better caregiver (even though I hate it!), and know to always expect the unexpected and go with the flow, when it makes sense.


During this time I have continued to grow my Nutrition and Health Coaching business and these experiences have helped me to finally figure out my niche in the wellness coaching space! I want to help women who are going through what I went through.

I hope that I can be a tremendous resource for you if you find yourself in this crazy, complex, sometimes strangely beautiful phase of life.


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