Feeling stretched thin with the demands of caring for aging parents and caring for your children at the same time? Welcome to being a part of the “sandwich generation”. And you are definitely not alone.
The sandwich generation refers to a group of people who are simultaneously taking care of their children and aging parents. This group is often sandwiched between the responsibilities of caring for their children and fulfilling their obligations towards their elderly parents. This can have a significant impact on their relationship or marriage, and it's essential to understand how to navigate these challenges, and it can be especially difficult for couples who are trying to balance their caregiving responsibilities with their own relationship needs.
According to a 2018 study by the Pew Research Center, nearly half of adults in their 40s and 50s have a parent age 65 or older and are either raising a young child or financially supporting a grown child (or both). This group, sometimes called the "sandwich generation," is particularly stressed, with 62% saying that they feel "a lot" of stress from both caring for their parents and their children.
A 2018 survey by Caring.com found that caregiving can take a toll on a couple's relationship, with 40% of respondents saying that caregiving had a negative impact on their marriage or partnership. The most common issues cited were lack of time together, emotional strain, and financial strain.
One of the most significant impacts of the sandwich generation on couples is the increased stress levels. When couples have to juggle the demands of their careers, children, and elderly parents, it can be incredibly overwhelming. This stress can lead to conflicts and tension in their relationship, making it difficult for them to connect emotionally and physically.
Moreover, being part of the sandwich generation can also lead to financial strain. The cost of raising children and caring for aging parents can be a significant burden on a couple's finances. This financial pressure can lead to additional stress and strain on the relationship.
Another significant impact of the sandwich generation is the time and energy it requires. Caring for children and aging parents can be time-consuming, leaving little time for couples to spend together. This lack of time can lead to a decline in intimacy and emotional connection, which can strain the relationship further.
Despite the challenges, there are ways for couples to navigate the impact of the sandwich generation on their relationship. Here are some tips:
Communication is key. Couples must communicate their feelings and needs with each other. This communication can help them work together to find solutions to the challenges they face.
Prioritize self-care. It's essential for couples to take care of themselves physically and emotionally. This self-care can help them manage stress and stay healthy, which can improve their relationship.
Set boundaries. It's essential to set boundaries around caregiving responsibilities. Couples must work together to balance their caregiving duties with their other responsibilities and needs.
Seek support. There are various support groups and resources available for caregivers. Couples should take advantage of these resources to help them manage their caregiving duties.
One of the biggest impacts of the sandwich generation on couples is the added stress and pressure that comes with caring for multiple generations. This can lead to increased conflict, communication breakdowns, and overall dissatisfaction in the relationship. When couples are dealing with the emotional and physical demands of caregiving, it can be difficult to find time for their own needs and for each other.
According to a 2019 report by the AARP, caregivers in the sandwich generation are more likely to report feeling isolated, stressed, and overwhelmed than other caregivers. This can put a strain on their relationships with their spouses or partners.
In addition, the financial strain of caring for aging parents and children can take a toll on a couple's relationship. Couples may have to make difficult decisions about their finances, such as cutting back on vacations or other activities that they enjoy, in order to make ends meet. This can cause tension and resentment, particularly if one partner feels like they are bearing the brunt of the financial burden.
The sandwich generation can also impact a couple's intimacy and sex life. When couples are dealing with the stress and exhaustion of caregiving, they may find it difficult to connect emotionally and physically. Sleep deprivation and the demands of caregiving can also lead to decreased libido and overall dissatisfaction with sex.
Despite these challenges, there are ways that couples in the sandwich generation can maintain a strong and healthy relationship. Communication is key - couples should make an effort to discuss their feelings, needs, and concerns openly and honestly. They should also try to carve out time for each other, whether it's a date night or a weekend getaway. Seeking support from family, friends, or a therapist can also be beneficial.
In conclusion, the sandwich generation can have a significant impact on couples and their relationships. However, by recognizing the challenges and taking steps to address them, couples can navigate this difficult time together and emerge with a stronger, more resilient relationship.
Parker, K. (2018). A growing share of middle-aged adults say they’re ‘sandwiched’ between aging parents and children. Pew Research Center. https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2018/01/18/a-growing-share-of-middle-aged-adults-say-theyre-sandwiched-between-aging-parents-and-children/
Caring.com. (2018). 2018 Family Caregiver Survey. https://www.caring.com/caregivers/sandwich-generation-survey/
AARP. (2019). Caregiving in the U.S. 2019. https://www.aarp.org/content/dam/aarp/ppi/2019/05/full-report-caregiving-in-the-united-states.doi.10.26419-2Fppi.00049.001.pdf