As someone who is a card carrying member of the Sandwich Generation (well, not literally -- there aren't really cards... yet. But there is a secret handshake), I can tell you that it makes for interesting days. Though I've written before about the Sandwich Generation, if you are not familiar with the term, it's one that describes a person who is raising a child at the same time they are caring for an aging parent. (Can you picture it? It's like they are the bread and you are the turkey...well, that didn't sound right. I mean whatever your preferred lunchmeat is...)
For me, it is definitely a major part of my Juggle Struggle.
For you... well, dealing with the challenges of caring for people at opposing ends of the life spectrum may or may not be the situation you are in...yet. But if you have kids and parents in your life, you just may need some examples to help you recognize what that will look like.
Here are 10 ways to tell you are an SGer.
- You can easily rattle off both your kid's and your parent's birthdates and social security numbers, but when anyone needs yours, you have to really stop and think.
When it comes to technology, you find yourself working to keep up with your kid while trying to teach your parent. The latter typically does not happen easily. You just may hear yourself repeating, "No, swipe here... no, not there, but here" a few dozen times. A day. Though you can easily put your child in a time-out or grounding, there are many days you wish you could do the same with the other end of the spectrum. You are bracing yourself for the day your kid gets his driver's license as well as the day you have to tell your parent that it's time to give theirs up. While of course you are a parent to your child, you walk the fine line of caring for your parent without making them feel like a child. How's that goin'? Yeah, I thought so. You sometimes have to remind both to think before they speak. You consider adding to the cliché "out of the mouths of babes" to include "and senior citizens." You find that you have to repeat what you say to both child and parent. For one because they aren't listening and for the other because they are hard of hearing. (Can you guess which is which?) Actually, for the parent, often both reasons apply. Both your child and parent need your help. Both also resist it -- and both for the same reason: they want to be independent. You are well aware that the issue mentioned in number 8 will have dramatically different endings. And so you deal with the emotions of caring for your child, knowing that your responsibility is to prepare him to ultimately leave home -- while at the same time caring for your parent... to ultimately go "home."Too often you forget to take care of the "turkey" -- or whatever lunchmeat you chose to represent yourself. All this does is make it harder for you to take care of the entire sandwich. You know this, but you continually fall short. Something you are very used to doing. That's okay. Love yourself anyway.
If more than a few of these apply to you, well then consider yourself accepted into Sandwich Generation membership. I'll be happy to teach you the secret handshake.
In all seriousness, though, if you are someone who might have to face the reality that your parent may someday need caregiving, be brave enough to have the conversation now -- or at least well before the time arrives. Both you and your parent will be the better for it.