This May, we decided to eschew the usual ode to Mother’s Day, not because Moms are undeserving of the rhetoric, but because we wanted to talk about the unspoken and unsung role of Moms today. Today we want to talk about the fact that Moms care for more than just their children. They are the Sandwich Generation.
Understanding the Sandwich Generation
Any Mom in her 40s, 50s, and even early 60s understands what it means to be in the Sandwich Generation. Moms today are responsible for so much more than just their own children. They are the caretakers of multiple generations spanning from grandchildren to grandparents.
To illustrate, increasingly Moms are Primary and Secondary Caretakers of multiple generations and are sandwiched between all of the people who rely upon them:
1. Their Children – even after 18 years of age!
2. Their Children’s Children
Moms in their 40s, 50s, and 60s
3. Their Parents
4. Their Parents’ Parents
But why has this phenomenon been increasing over the most recent years?
Increased Responsibility for the Older Generation: People Are Living Longer
Moms are now more active caretakers of elderly parents and grandparents. As the elderly population gets older and older – and live longer lives – the primary responsibility continues to rest upon the women in the family to care for others – including the elderly family members. There are several reasons why this becoming more common:
- Medical advancements allow people to live longer
- Technological advancements to help people live healthier, longer lives (health tracking devices, health apps, etc.)
- The elderly are increasingly modifying their lifestyles to live healthier, longer lives (better understanding of diet, exercise, and the dangers of smoking, etc.)
- The elderly have better access to medical care and telemedicine
- The elderly have better access to elder care services
As the elderly population ages, Moms are being called upon to service. This theme is prevalent today, from the 54-year-old Mom who sets her elderly Dad’s medical appointments to the 48-year-old Mom who provides daily help to her ailing Mom, to the 60-year-old Mom who has to make life-ending decisions for her grandparents.
When it comes to care of any kind – the burden mostly rests with the woman.
Increased Responsibility for the Younger Generation: Cost of Living and Cost of Housing is on the Rise
As the cost of living escalates, young adults are relying more and more upon their parents for financial help and in some cases, even a roof to live under. As they become parents themselves, they need to rely on their parents to help raise their children. But when it comes to raising children (or even grandchildren) the burden will primarily rest upon Mom (or Grandma).
Need childcare help when your child is sick? Running late at your job and need someone to pick up the kids? Traveling for the weekend and need someone to provide 24 hours care for your children? All of these fall squarely upon your Mom (or your kids’ Grandma).
Access to Travel, Technology, and Communications
Another off phenomenon is the advent of improved travel networks, technology, and advanced communications.
So, think about it. Years ago, it would have fallen upon the closest relative to care for extended family. Now that we can access an app and be on a plane that afternoon, we can view CAT Scans within minutes online, and we can communicate face to face (virtually) with healthcare professionals, Moms everywhere, regardless of proximity are being called upon to Mother our extended family. In some cases, round the clock.
Remember to Thank Mom For ALL of the Unseen/Unrecognized Mothering She Does
So, the next time you decide to celebrate Mother’s Day and give her flowers or make her breakfast in bed, remember to thank her for all of the tireless and unsung mothering she provides to not just her own children, but to the generations before her and after her.
And maybe consider appreciating her on any given day and not just on Mother’s Day. She might even appreciate it if you made her a tasty sandwich. 😏