Fighting loneliness as a caring daughter, mother and grandmother

Women in the 'Sandwich Generation' care for both their children and their parents. Tracey Robbins gives a personal perspective.

It’s possible to feel lonely despite being in constant company. Tracey Robbins explains, from her personal experience, the concept of the Sandwich Generation.

Until recently, when my mother passed away, I was one of “33 per cent of 45- to 56-year-old women who are simultaneously caring for their parents and their children”.

I was a ‘sandwich’. Maybe a triple sandwich, providing support for my mother, daughter and grandchildren. I am part of the Sandwich Generation, squeezed from both sides.

Why this blog, then? The Queen’s Speech recently recognised the Sandwich Generation, who juggle work and caring responsibilities, offering them support from local councils.

It’s a welcome move. If only love really was unconditional and free. But it’s not, and yes, I felt the financial burden of supporting both generations of my family: my daughter, who struggles on benefits, and my mother on a state pension.

Bearing the fuel cost, as I travel from one to the other, for our days out and our meals, as well as topping up the shopping and bills for two more households, I am ever aware, as I creep ever more dangerously into my overdraft each month, of the cost of being one of the ‘squeezed generation’. It seems on average we pay out £3,500 a year caring for our children and parents.

The cost is an important part of the story, important to tell, as it is with many others, but it isn’t the whole story. It doesn’t convey that sense of responsibility, the pressure of time, trying to manage and share yourself between three lives, including your own, as this is what is needed. It is not just the financial support.

My daughter is struggling to raise two small children and is often lonely and isolated and carries the burden and stigma of being labelled a ‘scrounger’, a member of the underclass, trying desperately to prove she’s not (just like her mother). And, like her mother, she is using education as a way to take more control of her life and help her girls.

My mum was the only parent I had left. My dad died 18 years ago, she never remarried and was scared and often lonely, no matter how often or how many of us were there for her.

I couldn’t – and can’t – prevent their homes from being lonely places sometimes, but I can try and make my daughter’s and grandchildren’s lives a little better, a little brighter, a little easier. Whatever the costs, I get great pleasure from this.

To my daughter, I am her mum, her unwavering number one supporter. To my mum, I was her ‘baby’ who lit up her weekends and was always at the end of the phone. Best of all, to my grandchildren I am their ‘happy nana’.

Is that not why our families matter?