The Sandwich Generation--Trite but True!

August 23, 2012

An expressive but rather unsavoury metaphor to describe those in the unenviable position of having the complex job of raising children still at home and caring for elderly parents who, in many cases if not failing mentally and/or physically, are becoming increasingly demanding.

Finding yourself in this situation is tough on many levels. Having been through it myself, I felt this drive to "fix" it all.

I wanted to be there for my parents naturally as they had been incredibly nurturing and supportive all my life. Now in their declining years, both with debilitating physical situations, I was working hard to find the best and most "dignified" situation for them. But all of that took time, and lots of it: meals, home care, medical appointments, and personal loving time with me.

Meanwhile, I had two kids in high school, good kids, but they were both in competitive sports, were in challenging courses where they required high marks for their future plans, and did require the basics Maslow outlined--food, shelter and so on.

My sandwich, as with most in this situation, was actually a club sandwich as it had a third piece of bread. I had a full time teaching job, senior English. The marking was constant, heavy and always there. Lessons preps, coaching and supervision duties rounded out the picture.

This list feels daunting just writing it. But what is not as evident was the emotional toll. I wanted to do all these things, and I wanted to do them well. They were all important to me and, taken individually, I loved them all.

Caring for my parents made me feel so satisfied. I felt content that they were safe and that their needs were being met. My kids brought me incredible joy. Seeing them grow and mature into wonderful young adults had to be the most satisfying feeling. And finally, I loved teaching. My journey of learning so that I could teach young people in a creative and effective way provided me a sense of moral purpose that really grounded me.

So being the ham, veggies, hummus or whatever in the sandwich and feeling pressure from the bread on all sides is not the most desirable position to find yourself in. But at the end of the day, it is called life, and meeting these challenges is what defines who we are and what we stand for.

It does not last forever, and there are days when I long for that chaos again.


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