The Sandwich Generation. It’s a trending phrase. It’s my life. Everyday.
The Sandwich Generation is the label for the group of us who have found ourselves simultaneously taking care of our children and our parents. It’s a group that is growing rapidly with the 76 Million baby boomers aging. I believe many of us will find ourselves in this category at one time or another. It’s nothing new – young generations taking care of older generations, but until you’re in that middle layer of the sandwich, you really have no idea of its true meaning.
I was very fortunate growing up to have two supportive, independent and fun – loving parents. They supported me unconditionally, equally giving me sage advice when asked (I should’ve asked more often), and at times sitting back and watching me live and learn a few lessons (and trust me there was a period of time, eh hem, 1997-2000, that could not have been pretty to watch). So, when life threw my family a curve ball that involved me taking a more active role in their day to day lives due to health, there was no question in my mind that I had to step up.
My role? My role as a daughter is to love and support them. It is very simple in theory.
Theory and reality are worlds apart in this situation. In reality, it’s a messy sandwich. The kind where one piece of bread has fallen off, the other piece is soggy and the cheese…it’s moldy, that’s right, because I forgot to shower today. It’s trying every single day to live the example that you want your children to see. The lesson of ‘taking care of your elders.’ The reality is, there is no recipe for this. Making decisions and having conversations that deal with the quality of life for your parents, isn’t anything you can prepare for. Tables being turned and roles being shifted is not something easily digested, by either party.
The only thing tougher than parents asking for assistance, is children accepting the fact the time has come that they need it. There is no book on how to do this. There are no rules. I am making this up as I go, feeling out the boundaries of our new relationship dynamics. The only thing I do know for sure – I’m exhausted. Emotionally. Mentally. Physically.
Exhaustion. Exhaustion is nothing new in parenthood. It’s expected. I never expected being someone’s child to be exhausting. How selfish is that? Especially when I know that I, myself caused them years of exhaustion.
It is pretty darn selfish. They were always the ones that were there for me. I called them. I needed them. I depended on them. They always answered, always came, always helped. Not only did they always show up, they came armored with the tools that would help (I was notorious for running out of gas), the advice I needed to hear and the love I needed to feel. Today….they call me. They need me. I answer. I show up. After all, we are parents and that is what we do, whether it’s our children or our parents, you show up and you love.