Deb Ejenas, Communications Manager at Bright Horizons, shares her recipe for club sandwich generation success.
And if you recognise that reference you probably are in my generation, lucky enough to have “been there, seen that and got the t-shirt” in the glorious 70s and 80s! You may even, like me, now find yourself labelled as part of the Club Sandwich Generation – and that doesn’t feel quite as lucky, or as much fun!
Google the term and you’ll soon feel your age. Here’s just one definition from the Daily Telegraph: “they are middle-aged and nearing retirement but forced to juggle caring for elderly parents with supporting their grown up children and grandchildren.” Hard to swallow?
Here’s my recipe for making that sandwich just a little more digestible:
C for chicken - and check it out. There are many sources of advice and help out there, such as charities like Care UK, Age UK, Independent Age, Family and Childcare Trust, Working Families and Grandparents Plus.
Check with your HR team what support your organisation can offer, whether that’s practical help such as back-up care and flexible working, or information and advice via webinars and carers groups. You could even point them to the charity Employers for Carers for some more ideas!
B for bacon – and boundaries. It’s ok to say “no” sometimes, and it doesn’t always have to be you that does it all for everyone. Other family members might be happy to step in occasionally and be the baby sitter or the dog walker, to mow the lawn, to do the shopping for your parents – but if you don’t ask them you won’t know!
T for tomato – and taking care of yourself. If you make yourself sick with worry you are no use to anyone. Make sure you get time for you, find a way of taking exercise that you enjoy and will stick at, and plan your meals so you aren’t grabbing unhealthy snacks on the go.
L for lettuce – and letting people know – the club in the club sandwich. It’s easy sometimes to think your situation is unique – but it rarely is! Talk to friends and colleagues, form a support group at work, talk to your boss, don’t struggle in silence.
I’m adding a dash of P for Pickle - and positives – too. The flipside of responsibility for those you love is just that – people you love and who love you. My mother makes me laugh and keeps me on my toes; my daughters inspire me and support me; my grandson reminds me that we all start life with open minds and a capacity to find wonder in the smallest things. The club sandwich can be a bit of a mouthful but it is also a source of nourishment.