When you are providing support to your kids AND your parents, don't forget to find support for you.
Dr. Cara Gardenswartz: The Sandwich Generation is a term used for those of us sandwiched between aging parents and supporting our children at the same time. Many of us moms with children between primary- and high-school age have the responsibility of not only taking care of our kids, but also of our aging parents. It is not something we thought about as we entered mommyhood, but for most of us it becomes a reality at some point. When our children are 5-15, our parents are typically 65-85 years old. The odds of one or both of our parents becoming ill or having significant physical or mental aging is likely to occur.
Whether we are geographically close or far away from our parents, we have the challenge of balancing our care-giving efforts -- between our children and parents. We are confused and confronted with decisions about how we spend our energy -- on our kids, marriage, parents, or self. The stress that the "sandwich generation" moms have is not often talked about, but is a subject that needs to be discussed. We need validation that this is a stressful circumstance, and we need to hear that we are not alone in it. We need to talk about the choices we have to make which can feel extreme: missing our son's middle school graduation or missing our mom's surgery; flying cross-country to care for dad, or being at home for our daughter after school when she is struggling with a peer friendship. There is also the added stress, for many of us, of paying for our parent's health care (e.g., nursing facility) and saving money for our child's education.
I am a huge advocate of support groups, especially if you are not already being supported by or can relate to your friends with similar struggles. Caregivers feel stronger and less stressed out when they get practical advice and validation. A nonprofit organization that recommends affiliated support groups and even has a support group online is www.caps4caregivers.org.
|Dr. Cara Gardenswartz is a licensed clinical psychologist who provides therapy to adults and couples, and specializes in relationships, mental illness, and group therapy. She has over 16 years of education, training, and experience in her field. She received her BA from the University of Pennsylvania and went on to earn her Master's and Doctorate in Psychology at the UCLA. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband and son.|