The Sandwhich generation and Gen X-austed

Trapped between kids who never leave home and ageing parents living longer, leaving kids late has its real problems.

IT’s a strange phenomenon to observe: people who decided to have children late trapped in a world where three things are happening simultaneously. They are having to take kids through the teenage years and the end of high school;, at the same time as women going into perimenopause and men into andropause; at the same time as having to deal with ageing or sick parents.

The years of supposed freedom of many of us are thus being hamstrung from both ends: by kids who never leave home and ageing parents who are living lomger.

According to a recent column in The Economist, many baby boomers in this position are being dubbed the ‘‘sandwich generation’’ while their younger siblings, generation Xs, are being called gen X-hausted. Another typical dilemma for the Xs is the need to parent very young or teenage kids during a period when career obligations are at their most intense; and for older members of the generation, there’s still the issue of ageing parents who often require time and money.

By choosing to marry and have kids later, and enjoy the fruits of life, freedom and career during those precious and fabulous 20s and 30s, we pay the price. It never dawned on many of us that it would add such responsibilities and conflicting needs later in life, when we had the least time or hormonal energy to deal with it all.

I have watched as friends and colleagues in their late 30s to mid-50s rush between colliding roles: good daughter/son; good parent; good friend; good money earner/employee. Yet they’re riddled with guilt because they never feel they’re doing any of these jobs well.

Which makes me wonder what will happen now women are choosing to have kids even later and men are raising second families with new partners. I had my daughter in my mid-30s. What of people who are now delaying children until their mid to late 40s? I have two friends who were older than 48 when they had kids. Madonna adopted at 51 and superstar photographer Annie Leibovitz began her family of three in her 50s. The dilemmas of this are not even foreseeable.

So, what advice will I give my daughter about child- rearing? I still believe that the 20s and 30s are the best years to be free, and offer the best chance to study and get somewhere in the early part of a career. So I would tell her to do as I did — not have kids until her mid-30s. But I would also tell her to learn from the mistakes made by the ‘‘sandwich’’ and ‘‘X-hausted’’ generations — we who never saw the competing needs coming.

Do what you want, but keep your eyes wide open to the consequences.


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2 Responses to The Sandwhich generation and Gen X-austed

  1. nomadd 23 September 2012 at 2:34 pm #

    Yes Ruth,
    I am aware of this happening. However, all the women I meet are divorced and never wish to ever marry again, and thus are not increasing the population – thank goodness. All of them went to university after their divorce and now have very good careers and lifestyles and do not want anymore children.

    Many women cannot have children and are breaking their necks to have children by any means. Why don’t they accept the inevitable and go without children, children are not the be all and end to life. There are many other roads to having a wonderful life.

    Homo sapiens is the most selfish form of life in the universe and destroying the habitat of wild animals all around the world in order to pro create their lust to make room for more children. Slowly the animal feeding grounds are vanishing to make way for more houses and that curse of the universe – more people.

    Already we have approximately 9 billion humans, and anymore will destroy the life of wild animals for ever. This planet cannot sustain anymore human beings.

    All major religions are to blame for this with their endless pleas for more humans. What we want are pleas for no children to be born for a few hundred years.

    Fortunately, nature takes care of most things and I think climate change will eventually wipe out about 3 – 4 billion people in the future. This will be good for planet earth and give wild animals a fair chance to increase.

    I am of the belief that wild animals and plant life have as much right to life as homo sapiens, therefore, something must give way, and hopefully it will be humans being sacrificed.

  2. Kim Oxley 23 September 2012 at 11:39 am #

    Choices. Moments in life when we make a decision that completely alters our future. Mine was to marry a man 18 years my senior and have a child. I’m now 54, our daughter is 15, hubby is 71. My father, now 89, is living with us and I find myself juggling age differences I never contemplated when I first met my husband, the fascinating artist. My daughter is so embarrassed to have such “old parents” and being an only child, she’s grown up in a complicated network of adults. If she has kids at all, I suspect she’ll have 2, when she gets to her 20’s. But then again, she might meet an older man who is fascinating, and simply not look to her all important future, and consequences. Another very astute article Ruth – certainly close to the bone, here!

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