Sandwich generation enters menopause
“Which one is the ‘sandwich generation'?” you may well be asking.
Simply put, it’s those folks who are parents or guardians to kids and caregivers for parents or elder family members, whether they are living in the same house or not.
What else is happening? For those with female reproductive parts, the stages of perimenopause/menopause may be entering the picture as well.
If you waited a while to have or adopt kids, and you’ve got elders in your life or family who are living longer, this kind of life and living could be part of your future as well.
Coordinating childcare and eldercare while navigating menopause is no joke. And many people are entering this very life, while also buying groceries, working full-time (or more than full-time), running businesses, and whatever else they can fit in.
Think about it, even if this isn’t you right now… This would be 3 three different developmental stages of life, each with their own needs, appointments, nutrition needs, and preferences, not to mention mental and emotional needs and support.
“Sandwich generation”... the term isn’t exactly new
Dorothy Miller coined the term in the early 80’s to describe women in their 30s and 40s who were taking care of their aging parents as well as their young children.
According to Pew Research Center (2012), roughly 47 percent of adults in their 40s and 50s have a parent who is 65+ and are raising at least one young child or financially supporting a grown child (18+). Primetime for perimenopause and menopause, right?
Where are you on your menopause journey? Take the Gennev Menopause Assessment.
Taking your time, and taking you-time
Being between two generations in need of care and support can take a real toll on body, mind, mindset, and wellness. Taking the needed time and energy for your own care, feeding, hydrating, wellness, sleep hygiene, and just plain being is critical.
Perhaps this can be simpler than you think. Could 2-3 minutes of doodling while you listen to a favorite song you haven’t heard in ages help you unwind without making you unravel? Could mixing your own decade-of-choice playlist for a little while give you a sense of fun and creativity?
What about staring out the window for a few minutes? Give yourself the luxury, and needed few minutes, to do nothing.
Self-care, whether it takes a lot of time or a very little, may be a hard habit to cultivate. You may not even feel good about taking the time, energy, or steps out the door if you’ve been a caregiver for someone who has gone through a severe illness or who is recovering in your home from a surgery or procedure.
Guilt may show up in the face of you doing something like taking a walk by yourself. You may need to exert yourself to take this kind of care of yourself. This is common and shows up for many people, and it’s going to give you more energy and focus when you do it.
Menopause provides all kinds of symptoms to experience life in; we share about many of them several times each week: anxiety, depression, hot flashes… anger and rage. They aren’t fun, but they are real. This may be similar to many of the caregiving tasks you may be faced with.
Include yourself, even in a small way, and especially if you don't feel you have the time or energy, in your caregiving.
This is not a time to “just do it”
Doing it, whatever "it" is, yourself may seem like the easiest thing to do in the moment.
This can also be habit-forming, give an illusion of having control, and ultimately be quite isolating, as well as serving as a fast-track to burnout. Remember, you’re going through your own changes as you’re experiencing perimenopause symptoms.
Engaging in help, support, and resources from other family or community members may take time and feel challenging, but doing it alone for years (or even decades), won’t serve. It can be difficult, even painful, to ask for help and support, but truly, it’s needed and worth it for the long game. After all, we all need help sometimes.
A few ideas to get you started
- Gimme a “No”... NO! One thing to remember, “No” doesn’t mean “Never.” Or, if you’re really uncomfortable with that, how about a strong “Not right now”? Or, “not today”? We can do it all and have it all, but maybe not all at once.
- What can they do? Kids and elders may be more willing to help than you think. Ask about it, talk about it. And if you’re very brave, and it’s appropriate, let them know that you’ve got a struggle or two and could really use some help.
- Get specific. Jot down a list of “It’d be amazing if…” Just have the brainstorm, make the list, and give yourself the opportunity to see what can happen, who may show up, and how you could be helped. Here’s the thing… you’ve got to be open to both identifying and also receiving the help or solution to have that amazing thing happen. A few suggestions of specifics:
- Regular laundry service for your dad
- Friday night game night for family and a few close neighbors, including potluck dinner
Map out your plan to manage menopause with a Gennev Health Coach
Body transformation, loss, and more change
This is a rich time in life: transformation, change... and more change. There’s plenty to navigate in caring for others, plus the myriad changes in your body as you journey through menopause. Care and attention must be spent on your body’s and mind’s wellness and health.
Emotions around loss, challenge, and change can pile up. Kids are growing up and moving away, parents or elders may be experiencing various forms of decline or aging, your own body’s estrogen levels are diminishing, and the reproductive organs are closing up shop. This is a high volume of change. Personal change.
Support is key. So, look around, ask around. Who else is going through this? Who “gets it” in your world?
More about living than anything else
When you step back and look at what’s going on in your body and in your life, how do you want to “be” with those you love most in the world? How do you want to feel? How do you want to live? What do you want your health and mindset to be? And what are you willing to do to achieve what you want and need for yourself and your family? This is now the game of life. You can build one you'll enjoy living with those you love.
What are you experiencing as a person caring for kids and elders? Where are your biggest challenges? And where are you finding your most surprising wins? Please share your insights, and scoop up a few of ours, in the Gennev Community Forums.
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