by: Susan Fox
24/7 MOMS Family Living Editor
The “sandwich generation” A new term, actually found in the dictionary.
The day has come in my life where I am what they call “sandwiched”. Sandwiched, as a mom/wife, between my own family (husband and 3 school-aged children) and caring for my baby-boomer aging and ailing parents. I am definitely like a filling; spread too thin; in keeping with this “sandwich theme.” I had heard about this sort of situation, but had thought that is was still a ways out in my future. However that time has come in my life and I am living it. I was not entirely surprised by it, but I was not prepared.
3 years ago my father was diagnosed with emphysema and had a lung surgery. It was no picnic. 14 days in the hospital and about a 3 month recovery with many bumps in the road. 2 1/2 yrs. ago He moved in with us. I did not realize how drastically this would affect me. I had been concerned about how it would affect my husband and children but did not think it would be a hard transition for me. Boy was I in for a shock. Even though I have always had a pretty positive relationship with my father, this was and continues to be extremely difficult.
In the past 9 months both parents have had health issues. My mother, who lives over 2 hours away, has had 2 major surgeries, with the worst the week before Christmas. My father had open heart surgery in January. Can you say “stressed out?” Even my children have begun to use this phrase to describe how they feel. Yesterday was my first time out of the house in 3 weeks aside from going to the hospital, doctor or grocery store. My days are filled with the many chores involved in being a caretaker as well has having a regular entourage of home health care professionals coming to our home on a regular basis. I won’t bore you with all the details. If you have been or are there you know. If you don’t chances are at some point you will.
According to the Pew Research Center, Americans are living longer, and people are starting their families later. One out of every eight Americans, ages 40 to 60, is raising a child and caring for a parent at home. Being in this situation is a tangled up mess of emotions, finances, responsibilities and needs. It is like walking a tight-rope especially for the person taking on the major role as caregiver. This is usually the wife/the mom. In the best scenario’s chores are spread among siblings but this is often not the case due to demographics, personal finances, difficult relationships, work and other responsibilities. If it is possible at all for you to talk with your family members about all of this ahead of a crisis I urge you to do so.
The modern caregiver scenario is not pretty. We are not talking like “the Walton’s” here, with grandma, helping in kitchen peeling potatoes for hours on end and grandpa out in the barn choppin’ some wood. The way we live has changed. Caring for a sick and or aging parent is very hard, whether they live with you or 500 miles away. This is not the same America anymore. This is the America of broken families, strained relationships and job-insecurity and many other complexities that families of past generations didn’t have to contend with.
As I have walked through this new phase in my life, I have reflected a lot on the past. But I have also been forced to look down the road and into my own mortality. Americans in general are not really a healthy bunch anymore. We have more health issues that have been brought on by tobacco use, obesity, lack of exercise and all other manner of unhealthy living. And it is all coming back to bite us, and we all pay the price.
I have a new sense of wanting to be physically fit and a new desire and reason to eat healthier. I have also been guilty of being the wife who complains when her husband wants to go out on one of his beloved long bike rides, which means that I get left alone with our 3 demanding children for a weekend afternoon. I am now a new fan of his bike rides. If it keeps his heart healthy, bike away!
Here are few great resources for you to check out that may be helpful if you are “Sandwiched”