I had heard about this term before. Although “Sandwich Generation” may sound appealing, I mean who doesn’t love a good sandwich, it’s not all bread and butter. The Sandwich Generation represents a middle-aged person who cares for their own kids while caring for an aging parent. I’m there…or here – now that it’s a reality for me.
I’m married to a supportive husband, a mom to a five-year-old spunky boy and seven-year-old sassy lady, work a full-time job and help my mom who is currently battling stage four metastatic breast cancer. I understand why they call it “Sandwich” as I’m oftentimes in the middle of juggling multiple things. There are days where everything is in balance and I feel good, while others I feel like I’m unraveling at the seams.
I wanted to share a few pointers that have helped me during this time but am equally looking for the CSP sisterhood to give me advice, too!
1. Be transparent at work. Let your team know what’s going on so they don’t feel like you aren’t giving it your all-in effort or that you’re leaving them high and dry. I keep my team aware of when I’ll be out for my mom’s appointments or if I need to leave early to attend soccer practice. They know that I put in the hours after the kids go down in order to get the job done. It gives me a sense of peace, too – as they become a level of support.
2. Ask for help. As my mom was recently admitted for double pneumonia, I was getting ready to travel for work. My husband encouraged me to still go knowing that he would make himself available to help my mom while I was out. There have been other times when I’ve needed help, whether it was tangible help or just to vent.
3. Find a support system. Did you know that 66% of senior caregivers are women? That’s a lot of us, ladies. It’s important to find a network. Vent to friends, get mad, sad and all the feels. Don’t bottle it in. There are other people that have gone through similar situations – find them, ask advice or just use them as a sounding board.
4. Have the tough conversations. Nobody wants to talk about wills or final wishes. My mom and I decided shortly after her diagnosis to take one weekend and discuss all the crappy stuff… where is your will? Cremation or burial? Power of attorney? Do not resuscitate? I’m not going to lie, it sucks, but it’s better to have the discussion while you can versus when their health deteriorates and the conversation can’t be held and you have no idea what their final wishes are.
5. Share calendars. My husband and I will send invitations to each other for kid items such as soccer practice, birthday parties, pick up schedules, etc. This really helps as there are times when I need to drop everything to help my mom. It’s a great way to make sure we’re hands-on with the kids during this hectic schedule or work travel, doctor appointments and more.
Being the Sandwich Generation is hard. I often feel pulled in many directions and feel like I’m constantly letting someone down. When I’m with my kids, I’m thinking about my mom’s test results. When I’m with my mom, I’m thinking about how I haven’t had a date with my husband in a long time. When I’m with my husband, I’m thinking about what work deadlines are still looming. And when I’m at work, I’m thinking about how I haven’t had lunch at my kids’ school yet this year… it’s a never-ending cycle of guilt. Oh, and there’s taking care of me. That just doesn’t happen right now. This is one pressed sandwich!
Other Sandwich Smarties, I’d love to hear from you! What are some tips you all have to share? Please share some of your advice that has worked for you or your own frustrations and/or experiences!