Sandwich Generation: The 'Fair Share' Dilemma

Here’s how to make sure every family member accepts responsibility when it’s time to step up

by Jeff Brown • Next Avenue
Photograph: Shutterstock

In the perfect Sandwich Generation family scenario, everything goes like clockwork. The grandparents, parents and grandkids all pitch in for the common good with their time, effort and money: From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs.
 
Well, in the real world, communist countries haven’t made this work and most '60s communes failed. Not surprisingly, despite their blood ties, families find cooperation has its limits, too.
 
When One Family Member Is Resistant

So, what do you do about the family member who simply won’t get with the program?

Suppose all siblings — with the exception of one brother — want to help shoulder their parents’ medical costs. Or a twentysomething grandchild moves in with her grandma and won’t help with chores. What if the family has settled on a rental for a beach week together, but one sister won’t pay because she wanted to go elsewhere.
 
At some point, the family has to shrug its collective shoulders and accept the fact that Joe or Mary isn’t going to sign on and now everyone else will have to bear more than their share. A family, after all, is not a business, where you can fire problem workers. And as you’ve probably found, confrontation and pressure tactics tend to backfire.
 
Still, a little diplomacy can keep things from getting even worse and soothe the feelings of those who believe they’re being asked to carry too much of the load.

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