Life Between the Bread: Women Over 40 Are the Sandwich Generation
When our kids were little, my husband and I would stand on either side of them and say, “Lulu, you’re the peanut butter and Jack is the jelly!” And then we’d throw our arms around each other, squeeze as hard as we could and everyone would yell “PEANUT BUTTER AND JELLY SANDWICH!!!!!” And we’d all scream and laugh.
The reality is, though, that it’s no fun to be in the middle of the sandwich after about age seven
Gen X is not the first generation to be referred to as the sandwich generation, but we are experiencing it in a more intense way than our parents did.
First of all we had our babies later. The average age for a first birth in 1970 was 21. Today it’s 26. So the spread is widening between our children and our parents, meaning they are all becoming more and more likely to need our hands-on involvement, and certainly our mental/emotional labor, at the same time.
One of the reasons for the delay in first births is the rising education opportunities for women, and with that comes career opportunities. From 1970 to 2000 the number of women college graduates nearly doubled, and today 72% of moms are employed (up from 48% of moms in 1970). So now not only are we juggling our kids and parents, we’re doing it while spinning the plates of our careers.
And this was all before Covid hit.
No wonder life feels like a circus
With all the effort expended on care for others, it’s no wonder she’s tapped out by the time she gets to herself, at the bottom of the seemingly never-ending to-do list. Take an exercise class! Meditate! Do a face mask! Spend 15 minutes to an hour on personal maintenance that you should be doing anyway and consider it ”you-time.” Then, get back to work.
So how can brands help?
What can they offer that women who are feeling the pressure and the pull from all directions actually need? And beyond that, what can they offer that women want, because covering their needs is not enough.
Show you understand by taking a stand
Support organizations, efforts and policies that are actively addressing the caregiving crisis. Starting within your own walls. Do you offer paid leave? Do you work to create a culture of understanding? Are there benefits in place that can relieve some of the pressure?
Create opportunities for her to connect
Caregiving, whether for a newborn, multiples, the elderly, or people with special needs, can be extremely isolating. And everyone’s experience is different. Can you sponsor in person or virtual events around your product that can bring caregivers together? Can you help her build her community of others who understand.
Enhance the relationship between caregiver and receiver
Caregiving is work. So much so that it’s easy to end up focusing on the job and forgetting about the person. Can your brand offer opportunities to help her connect with her loved one in a way that’s not business as usual? That brings back fun or laughter or just a moment or two of peace, sitting next to each other remembering the love.
Reverse the roles
By all means, create messaging that shows you “get” her and what she’s going through, but don’t forget to portray men as hands-on caregivers, struggling with the same concerns she is. As advertisers and marketers we have the opportunity to reflect the world as it is today, or we can use our power and influence to move the cultural needle forward. When we see images of men doing what is generally expected of women we begin to expect it of them.
As our population ages, and the number of elderly grows, it’s increasingly likely that we’ll all find ourselves caring for multiple people in multiple generations. The question we’ll all be asking, is who will be caring for us?