The Sandwich Generation: How Gen X Women Balance Business, Family, and Aging Parents

adrenal fatigue burnout prevention burnt out entrepreneur emotional intelligence female empowerment female entrepreneur burnout gen x women entrepreneurs intergenerational leadership parenting and leadership sandwich generation women's health and wellness work-life balance Dec 04, 2023


As we continue our conversation about GenX Female Founders in Leadership is Feminine, this enlightening episode explores the unique world we all operate in, as GenX Women. Today’s focus is on the distinctive challenges they face as part of the "Sandwich Generation," juggling responsibilities towards both aging parents and growing children, often while managing thriving businesses. The episode delves into the nuances of this generational role, discussing how it shapes leadership styles, personal well-being, and family dynamics.

Kris candidly addresses issues like burnout, adrenal fatigue, and the evolving perception of women's health and emotional needs. The conversation also turns to the impact of Gen X parenting styles on current workplace dynamics, particularly the emotional intelligence and resilience of younger employees. The episode offers a fascinating look at how generational shifts influence leadership, personal growth, and professional challenges for Gen X women.

"We're the 'Sandwich Generation,' managing kids and aging parents, while running multimillion-dollar businesses. We're confronting burnout, adrenal fatigue, and a whole new world of emotional challenges. But as Gen X women, we're also uniquely equipped to lead with compassion and resilience. It's about more than just surviving - it's about thriving in these complex roles we play."

Key Takeaways from This Episode:

  1. The "Sandwich Generation" Challenge: Understanding the unique pressures faced by Gen X women balancing the care of children and aging parents while running businesses.
  2. Burnout and Adrenal Fatigue: Acknowledging the real health concerns affecting Gen X women, including the recent recognition and treatment of conditions like adrenal fatigue.
  3. Evolution in Women's Health Perceptions: Tracing how society's understanding and treatment of women's health issues have progressed over generations.
  4. Parenting Styles Influencing Leadership: Exploring the impact of Gen X parenting approaches on current workplace dynamics, especially regarding emotional intelligence and resilience.
  5. The Potential of Gen X Leadership: Recognizing Gen X women's unique position to positively influence the next generation of leaders with their balanced approach to work and life.

This episode is a must-listen for any Gen X female entrepreneur who feels the weight of being caught between personal and professional responsibilities. It provides valuable insights, shared experiences, and strategies for balancing life's various roles while maintaining personal well-being and effective leadership.

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All right. Welcome back to the second part in the series on Gen X women, female entrepreneurs. I am so loving exploring this topic. And today I want to talk with you more about what makes us unique and how that shows up for us more and more in how we lead people, and businesses, and relationships. So let's dig in.

Okay, so we're notoriously called the sandwich generation. I think a lot of people understand that, right? We had children a little older, and our parents are a little younger. And so as our kids have aged, our parents obviously have as well, and we're finding ourselves tending to all of that. And that alone is more complex even, than it used to be because of the way that the world is designed today.

A lot of us don't have parents that are close to us. They're not in physically near us. So there's a lot more responsibility in some ways. Not because women before, in former generations, didn't look after or help their parents, because most did. In fact, it was more expected than anything else, but that they didn't have full time jobs, or companies, and also have children. And so that unique cocktail has blended to create unique challenges for women like us today.

And I believe that's why there's a lot more of what we're seeing happen, which is a lot more life coaching, a lot more, physical support, self care resources. Everything from beauty products to health and wellness experiences to retreats, to all the things. The amplification of the resort. The, you know, creating these incredible and exceptional resorts is certainly because the wealth has increased in the world, but it's also because there are women like us who spend our money on that. And so there's a buyer for it, right? That's the truth.

A lot of that is born out of our own overwhelm and burnout. And so most women that we run into today who are in their mid forties or mid fifties all the way through there are pretty burnt out. They're strapped. Adrenal fatigue. Who talked about that in 1977? Probably not very many people, but thousands of women are struggling with adrenal fatigue. They're exhausted, they're depleted and they don't fuel back up. And that is a very, very concerning issue for women are age.

Unfortunately, up until probably, listen, I would say even just in the last two or three years, even that conversation talking about the exhaustion that you're feeling, the overwhelm that you're feeling, and then finding some doctor who would actually tell you it's real and you have adrenal fatigue and you're not just depressed and you shouldn't just take antidepressants. That was like, quackery. I was diagnosed with adrenal fatigue a couple of years ago, and then I went and talked to my primary care about it. And she pretty much told me it was quackery. We know it's not. I'm sorry. There's too many of us who are struggling. So I'm no physician, but this is what's happening.

So just like our mother, so the generation before us who fought it through the women's, movement and the revolution of feminism and really creating space for us at the table in a way that had never been before. We know that there was no space at the table for them. We know that they were looked at, scorned, insulted, degradated, and physically injured when they fought to have a voice. And they went through a journey of being told they were nuts. Those women would go to their doctor when they were 48 or 50 and say, "I don't feel very good. I just feel confused. I feel unhappy. I feel sad."

And you know what they would do? They would tell you to take better care of your husband, have more sex with your husband. You didn't exist. You were just this entity for other people. Or they'd check you in to the psych ward. They'd say you were hysterical. Where do you think the word hysterectomy came from?

We have evolved so much that those of us who are going through this right now, we don't even realize what the history of this is. That women have been going through significant life change for hundreds and millions of years for as long as we've been around. And only recently, like, five years ago, did people start actually talking about the reality of aging?

Now, I'm putting all of this in the context of you running your own company. You are running a business. You have a multi-million dollar enterprise. You have 25 people who report to you and you would rather stay in your bed and watch Netflix today. Thank you very much. I don't know. We have to talk about that and not just with your girlfriend. That's why you need a place to go where there are other people like you because you're not alone, my love.

Okay, I get on, I get on my rants. You know how I am. All right.

One of the other things that I think just, so this echoes, one of the things that is true about us is we're much more aware of ourselves and our emotions than our mothers were. We, you know, I don't know if you've had this conversation. I talked to a lot of women who, they say that menopause and the changes that we go through in life are their genetic. They come from our mother's side.

You go and you ask your mom. "Hey, mom, when did you start going through menopause?" And they don't remember. They don't have a memory of it. Or they say it wasn't a big deal. So interesting, right? Is it just a big deal now? Or did we just not talk about it? We just didn't know. We just ignored it. And we're much more aware that I believe that's why there's so many life coaches now. And people it's like, you know, look at the therapy, look at how we're introducing- we've, our generation has sort of demanded, on the flip side, that we understand ourselves better because we didn't grow up in an environment where that was really a topic .

I remember one of the most profound things I heard was when a former colleague of mine, Stacy, Dr. Stacy Tiger, came on one of my calls with my clients and she was talking about the differences in generations. And she said that one of the things that's really interesting about Gen X parenting of younger kids, and the parents of Gen Xers, is that Gen X parents have a lot of relationship with their younger kids.

So like millennial kids or Gen Z kids like hanging out with their parents. They have a much more communicative and socially fun sort of relationship with their parents. Whereas Gen X parents did not have that with their parents. And it was very one way, directional. Parents told you what to do and you did it. It wasn't collaborative. Whereas I think Gen X parents tend to be more collaborative. Like, "What do you think we should do for vacation?" "I'm thinking about, we're thinking about moving. What do you guys think?"

It's a very different relationship than what it was like when we were young. And it was like, "This is what we're doing. Get in the car." Right? It was simple.

And so, as adults, we've expanded what we expect in terms of the way that we are, but we're still working on it.

But the thing that I think is the most fascinating is that we were raised so independently and with so little constraint. And we did, I mean, we're here, but we're also the generation when missing kids started to be on milk cartons. Do you guys remember that? The milk carton kids. And adam, the America's Most Wanted guy, John, oh dear, it's gone. I know you're listening to me and you're like, you're telling me his last name and I can't remember, but he started America's Most Wanted, right?

And we started this interesting journey, I think this was in the 80s, of the potential that kids could be kidnapped and killed, that we should be afraid. I was never afraid as a little kid. Were you? Like, I just went out and played. I didn't worry about the white van until I needed to. And then I started seeing white vans.

And so we were raised with this freedom only to be confronted with the fear that comes with that. And so what have we done as parents? We're the helicopter parent. We're the ones who need to know where everybody is. No more slumber parties. We have a real fear in general that something will happen to our kids that I don't believe our parents shared, at the level that we did. That we do.

And so it's a fascinating bin that we've created because we raised children through what we call helicopter parenting, where everybody wins, everybody's feelings are considered. Because, of course, ours weren't. Right? Everybody gets a trophy. We know where everybody is. Everybody has everybody's phone number. Everybody has a phone. Everybody has a tracking device. We know everything. We know as much as we possibly can. It hasn't made kids any safer. I still think kids are getting kidnapped. It's horrific. There are always going to be horrific people. I don't know.

But what has happened is, we have contributed to developing a generation after us that has a tremendous amount of emotional acumen. I will hand it to you. Like, we've done a good job. Like, our kids know how to talk about emotions and how to, right. But they lack resilience and they almost feel, and can be overly emotionally acute, tuned in. To the point that as employers, because now, what was it? 62 percent of us are running the cell phone businesses here in the US. 62 percent are run by Gen X women.

And who are we the least patient with? Employees who need emotional time, who are having panic attacks, who feel anxiety, who can't handle feedback, who can't, right? Listen to me. I get it, but we did it. Now, I hear you in your car. You're like, "I didn't. I raised my kids to be blah, blah, blah."

I get it. But you were part of it. Because you did call Timmy's kindergarten teacher if you didn't like what happened in the classroom, right? What would our parents have done? "Deal with it. She's the teacher. Do what she says."

So we are all complicit. This isn't even about blame. It's a social pattern. And I think as soon as we recognize it, we can notice it.

So what's interesting is now as a leader, you likely want to lead like you were parented, which is like, "everybody needs to think for themselves. Everybody just needs to do their job. Everybody needs to just be motivated to be successful because I was, because nobody was told me what to do. I just figured it out."

But you're not leading like you parent, which is, "are you okay? Are you okay? Are you okay? Do you need anything? Do you need anything? Don't forget to tell me." Right? So we're annoyed with our employees, but our employees are actually our children that we raised. So now what do we do? I think that the Gen Z-ish, millennial-ish generation is pushing us in a way that I actually think is really good.

And in the next episode, I'm going to break that down because I actually think we have a next level opportunity here that we've never had. And I also think that as Gen X leaders, we are perfectly poised to be a part of this. So you're going to have to tune into the next. one to find out more. See you then.

Hey, if you are a female founder, business owner running a company and you are, you know, you've achieved some success, right? You're running over seven figures. You grow a little bit every year. Your team is growing. I know a lot about you. And one of the things I know about you for sure, is that you don't have a lot of time. And you also might be a little tired of everybody who wants to talk at you, and not listen to you.

So, I want to encourage you to join

We're going to be putting together a pretty powerful opportunity for you to work with me exclusively in some private coaching while also getting all of the tools and resources that you need to be better at leading your team, so your business can continue to grow. But you don't have to continue to literally expand how much you're doing all the time.

So I hope you'll check it out. Add your name. More information will be available soon.

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