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Taking Care of Your Kids and Your Parents

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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.

Family in the kitchen

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

next: The Perfect Playdate
50 comments so far | Post a comment now
Amanda May 17, 2009, 11:43 AM

It’s amazing that so little is written on this. it’s comforting to know i’m not alone!!!! HOw many of other moms in this community are going throught this too?

MessyMom May 19, 2009, 11:40 PM

My mom has breast cancer and i have a preschooler….it is really tough… and i live across the country from my parents

Danae May 20, 2009, 12:08 AM

This article was so interesting. Life is full of so many challenges, they just keep coming it seems. Thanks for all the advice!

julie May 20, 2009, 12:30 AM

How difficult it is. So grateful for the info on the support group. Wow, that really is helpful. All the balances are burdening and it is too easy to fall into a guilt trap. I want to help so much but I also must realize that my mom has always been an independent person and even that causes a challange — to assist and guide without making her feel incapable or like we have reversed rolls. I need a support group to get assistance with this! Thank you!

jennifer May 20, 2009, 12:30 AM

Great article about an important issue that many of us grapple with. It is remarkable that there is so little information on this subject.
I always enjoy your posts and look forward to many more!

Ruby May 20, 2009, 12:34 AM

Never commented before but feel compelled because I always read what you write and this particular article was just what I needed at this time in my life. Keep writing and I will keep reading, you deal with so many important issues

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