Effective Tips On How To Survive Being Part Of The Sandwich Generation
STORY: Priyanka Elhence
08 November 2022
Wedged between their aging parents and children, the aptly named ‘sandwich generation’ is a tough spot to be in, caught in the continuous struggle to cope with the differing needs and demands of both generations. And it isn’t just emotional or financial stress that the sandwich generation has to deal with. A lot of it can be perennial mental stress which affects all parts of life, leading to chronic anxiety, panic attacks, anger outbursts, burnout and other mental-emotional issues.
Break the cycle! If you are part of the sandwich generation, there are a few things you can do to lower your stress levels:
1. Ask for help when you need it
Sounds easy enough, but most people find asking for help very hard. If you have a friend or a family member who can help with a chore (picking up the kids after school, babysitting, bringing over food), and so on, don’t refuse their offers to step in. You’ll also get plenty of opportunities to return the favour.
2. Take care of yourself
Women are particularly affected by the sandwich generation dilemma, often due to traditional gender roles in which women are more likely than men to shoulder the burden of elder and child care, even if both spouses are working. Self-care is not only essential for the caregiver, but it is essential for the well-being of the entire family. Eating right, sleeping enough, drinking plenty of water, and making time to exercise are the basic, non-negotiable elements of self-care. No matter how hectic life gets, you need to take care of yourself and make time for yourself, so you have the mental and physical energy to care for your parents and children.
3. Let go of the desire to achieve a perfect balance
Perfection doesn’t exist, so stop beating yourself about having the perfect balance while you’re caring for three generations (including yourself). Life happens, and some weeks you might find yourself caring more for your aged parents, while other days might be totally dedicated to looking after your young children. And then there’s still the need to make some time for yourself and your spouse. Let priorities guide the time spent and it’s ok to let certain things stay on your to-do list for a little longer. Sometimes it’s all about putting out fires, and that’s much better than stressing yourself out about how to manage doing everything.
4. Know your financial situation
Discussing money matters is always awkward, but it is so important to have because most people stuck in the sandwich generation don’t talk about the financial burdens that they are dealing with. Once you know your financial position, you’re in a better place to plan for your aging parents’ care plans and children’s futures. If your parents wish to contribute to the expenses, don’t be afraid to receive help from them. At the same time, it’s ok to say NO to frivolous spending for nice to have luxuries, not necessary must-haves.
5. Keep the family updated
Plan ahead before there is a crisis and keep everyone in the family (usually siblings who would be helping with taking care of aging parents anyway with you) about what’s going on with aged parents at the very least, especially when it comes to medical needs, paperwork and financial help. Keeping connected is simply updating everyone on a chat thread, so that information is relayed quickly.
6. Plan ahead for retirement
Knowing that you have your finances in order for your own golden years can be a big relief. But retirement planning still ranks poorly for some people, as they aren’t able to think long term and have to spend their money putting out immediate fires. Planning ahead for retirement is especially crucial for the sandwich generation, because of increased costs if your children continue to live with you (look at today’s ever-increasing rents and cost of living), and of ways to continue providing care and support for your parents should they lose the ability to care for themselves in the future.
Plus, if you are financially secure in your old age, you’ll be helping your kids break the vicious sandwich generation cycle, by relieving them of feeling the same financial burden that you might be going through. Stop putting off planning and start contributing towards your retirement now if you aren't doing it already.
7. Get insured
As with retirement planning, having insurance (life, financial and medical) is just as important as you navigate the sandwich years. Insurance gives you peace of mind and ensures financial continuity should the worst occur. There may be a good possibility that your parents might require nursing home care and/or long-term care, both of which can result in steep medical bills if without medical insurance.
Likewise, you always want the best for your child, so having the right coverage will help protect your assets so that your child is financially independent and protected when you are no longer around.
And finally, make sure you’ve got your own health covered. Singapore is expensive, and without medical insurance, you could easily wipe out your hard-earned savings in one small disaster.