Welcome to season five of the Herald’s parenting podcast: One Day You’ll Thank Me. Join parent and host Jenni Mortimer as she navigates the challenges and triumphs of parenting today with help from experts and well-known mums and dads from across Aotearoa.
Want to get in touch with the podcast? Email the team at email@example.com.
You may not have heard of the term ‘sandwich generation’, but chances are that you or your parent are part of this parenting middle-ground.
While only defined as such since the 80s, those living in the sandwich generation are typically parents in their 40s or 50s, looking after teenage or university-level children, while also caring for their ageing parents - effectively ‘sandwiched’ between caring for two generations at the same time.
This original definition is slowly becoming out of date. Decades of developments in healthcare have seen people live and work longer, while many new parents are choosing to go back to work earlier - or can’t afford to stay on paternity leave in the face of rising costs.
It has seen more and more parents in their 60s finding themselves in a ‘club sandwich’ situation - looking after older parents, adult children, and their grandchildren all at the same time.
Newstalk ZB afternoon newsreader Raylene Ramsay has found herself in that position.
“I’ve got a parent in their nineties, I’m in my sixties and then the grownups, my daughters, plus the grandchild,” Ramsay said.
She said she enjoys spending time with her three-year-old granddaughter, Emiliana, and the joy it brings, and has accepted what comes with being a “stopgap” for her daughter and son-in-law so they can let their careers flourish.
At the other end of the spectrum, juggling her 93-year-old mother’s care has been one of the tougher aspects of being in the middle of these generations.
“I think you grieve for the loss of being the child, and I found it difficult navigating to a certain extent. I would try to be the parent and then she would have to turn around and say, ‘Raylene, I’ve got this’.
“She’ll still occasionally admonish me, and that makes me feel good, because I’ve still got that relationship there.”
Ramsay said she is thankful that is able to have these experiences with the different generations, still having her mother alive at 93, while having a grandchild has shown her the “infinite love” we all feel that makes the ‘club sandwich’ struggles worthwhile.
“You’re looking at her and you’re just thinking, ‘gosh, we were part of this. She has our DNA there’.
“She’s taught me to just love life. You know, I just sit there and watch her and absolutely, absolutely adore it. I only would ever want the best for her.”