The exhaustion of the “sandwich generation”, these French people caught between their aging parents and their young children

This afternoon, Myriam Guilbert, silver hoops and discreet makeup, did not have time for lunch. It’s become common these days. She spent hours trying to change her mother’s mutual insurance contract, making appointments with her physiotherapist and speech therapist, and now has to pick up her son from kindergarten. Myriam Guilbert may have “one hour to work between 5 and 6 p.m., before preparing the evening meal”. Since her mother had a stroke in December 2022, her days have passed in the blink of an eye, without a moment of rest. An only child, she has to do all her shopping, bring her meals, phone her twice a day to check that everything is fine, complete the work of the housekeeper who only comes for one hour a week.

Her husband, a handler, works staggered hours and does not often have time to lend her a hand. “I sometimes took my son to my mother’s house, but it made him miss naps. He’s tired, I have less time to enjoy him, I feel guilty.”, regrets the freelance teleconsultant, based in Wattrelos (North). Before going to bed, she got into the habit of writing down all her tasks for the next day in a notebook, so as not to forget anything. “Until 10 p.m. every evening, my brain is in turmoil. I work half as much as before, I’m afraid for my next salary. It’s shaking inside. For the past few days, I have been telling myself that I will not last long, there is a fatigue that is setting in.she sighs.

This feeling of being caught between the needs of one’s parents and those of one’s children is the lot of the “sandwich generation”, an expression coined by Anglo-Saxon demographers to designate people in their forties and fifties forced to day-to-day care of a parent in poor health, while they still have young dependent children. The aging of the population, the postponement of the age at which children are made, the later departure of young people from the family home…

Several factors have favored the emergence of this new category over the past few decades. According to figures from the Barometer of caregivers, established by BVA Opinion, 5.6 million French people help a parent on a daily basis. If, in France, the “sandwich generation” has not yet been the subject of statistical studies, a survey carried out by the Pew Research Center, based in Washington, in October 2021, shows that a quarter of American forties have a parent aged 65 or over and a dependent child.

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