Welcome to Eureka Street

back to site


The plight of the sandwich generation

  • 02 August 2021
‘Another Meanwhile in Australia video? What is it with Gen X and their obsession with Jimmy Rees?’ We’re in the kitchen. I’m slicing up chicken; my sixteen-year-old cuts tofu. At the bench, Christopher, a hulking fourteen-year-old, has set up his laptop, ostensibly to do homework, but judging by the frequency in which he shows us memes, I don’t think much work is getting done. 

‘What do you mean, Gen X?’ I ask. I thought everybody liked those videos where the same man pretends to be all of the states and territories in Australia. They’re funny.

Matilda tilts the tofu towards Christopher, who nods before she tips it into a bowl. ‘Gen X. Like you and all of your friends and all of my teachers. You all like the same things. And lockdown memes! Gen X is all over the lockdown memes. That one you put on the family chat about the Montague Street bridge being used as a border because it stops removalists? FIVE of my teachers shared that exact same meme. They all thought they were the only one.’

‘If a teacher thinks it’s funny, it’s basically not ever funny,’ Christopher confirms.

Eleven-year-old Harry delivers a large bowl of chopped vegetables from his workstation at the dinner table. ‘I’m going to use my screen time now,’ he says.

‘But I love lockdown memes! They’re the best!’

‘Yup. That’s because you’re Gen X.’ Mat’s hunting for a frying pan.

‘Actually, I think I might be a Millennial,’ I venture.

‘No way. You are so Gen X. You are classic Gen X.’

‘Classic Gen X,’ Christopher echoes vaguely, grinning at his computer screen. 

I was born at the end of 1980. For many years, I was supposed to be at the older end of Generation Y. It has only been more recently, when Strauss and Howe’s description of the ‘Millennial Generation’ was further refined by the Pew Research Center as beginning with people born in 1981, that ‘cuspers’ or ‘Xennials’ like myself have been relegated to Generation X.

‘Gen X has grown to middle age. We are now the sandwich generation. Many of us care for young children at home. Many care for our ageing parents. Many do both at the same time.’

Gen X is the overlooked generation. The middle child of generational groups, Gen X was originally defined for its indefinable qualities. Unlike Baby Boomers, whose characteristics have distinct historical influences, Gen X was seen as a more mysterious cohort. Once