The Sandwich Generation

I am back on the radar, finally! I have been a little M.I.A. on the blog and social media for the past few months and this will explain why. Like so many moms, I’m often spread in different directions and in a state of what I call “zombie survival mode”. You know what I am speaking of. The constant struggle to keep afloat as a parent. I started to write this article several months ago and could never find the time to finish it when I wanted to. Between normal life and the events that popped up along the way, the project slipped further and further away was left on the back burner for a day when I could “find the time”. Thank goodness we have emojis of zombies and of a lady another smacking her forehead available because my phone is full of them!

As a mom with two home businesses, a toddler that is full of adventure and energy, and trying to get everything done, I often feel like I am in slow motion and operating at a snail’s pace. I just can’t seem to complete the list that I make each day that in reality needs three or four days to complete. Unless it is nap time. During nap time I am in hyper turbo speed to get as many things done as I can! Are any of you with me on that? I hear you! Taking a moment to do what used to be a simple task before children, now seems to take five times longer. And having another generation to care for adds to the work load, but in a good way. You will see why at the end of this post.

My idea for this post started in the fall when I found that was I caring for both my son and a parent. I started calling myself a “sandwich” as I faced the daily challenges of spreading my octopus arms out as far as they could stretch. I quickly discovered that the Sandwich Generation was a real thing. And go figure that its not a new idea, it makes sense, but I had not officially learned about it until I looked more into it. By definition, when you have children, and your parents are still alive, you are officially in the “Sandwich Generation”. The generation that is between caring for children and parents at the same time. 

My sandwich reality hit hard when my mom’s health took a sudden turn for the worse. I had been assisting her for several years, but she was independent at the same time. Before she fell ill, she was not in remarkably great health, but was not in poor health either. Four weeks passed and it was November. Many hospital trips, phone calls with doctors, specialists and planning for the future were now part of my every day routine. My toddler son came with me on several visits and patiently waited while I ran errands with him. We often packed snacks and dinners and they were fit in between car rides and various stops around town. And then there the special moments, the ones that mattered, then ones where my son and mom were able to spend together and visit. He always put a smile on her face when he walked through her door.

I continued to handle my mom’s affairs including her home, which meant I was now handling two households. Two homes to pull garbage out to the curb, water plants, clean, feed pets, collect mail. My 20 month old son was still learning new words and “mail” became his new favorite. Every time that we pulled up next to mom’s mail box or walked past it he would say “mail! mail!” with much excitement. I didn’t realize it then, but now I see how it created a sweet memory for our family. At the moment it felt like another chore in the day. Now, he loves to check the mail and says hi to any and all mail trucks that he sees. 

Going back to being in the middle of a sandwich. Time management was one of my best skills, but the challenge to find time to fit every task in was near impossible and I was failing to “do it all”. And how the heck was I supposed to find a moment for me? I tried to find solitude moments but at times that only came in the form of an extra along shower or taking a few extra moments before getting out of the car to listen to music or quickly sip an iced coffee which I once had time to savor.

My mom passed two weeks before Thanksgiving, and before I had time to wrap my head around what was happening. In the blink of an eye Christmas was around the corner too, and we had plans to move. As a family, we managed to keep our holiday traditions alive. We visited Santa, looked at Christmas lights and spent valuable time with friends and family. I put the websites, blogs and social media on pause. We also had a few little life hiccups like when I was ill or when we didn’t have wifi or appliances for three weeks because of issues on the supplier’s end. In December and January, my sandwich felt like an overdone pannini! But somehow, someway we managed to create good memories in the light of handling my mom’s affairs and paperwork at the same time.

Fast forward to today, still winter but almost spring. I’ve been thinking about the blog and wanting to post more on Facebook and Instagram. Instead of thinking about it, I am slowly hopping back on the train to actually do it. I’ve started to take two steps forward, one step back and two steps forward again. The past few months have been a whirlwind and I am not sure how I or my family survived it, but we did. Why am I telling you my story? I wanted to share my little slice of life in hopes that you could relate or pass it on to someone else who could benefit hearing about it. There have been so many times I had a parenting question or wondered if I am alone and a quick Google search or post to a Facebook group leads to excellent advice from others who have had the same experience.

It is a rewarding position to be in the middle of a generational sandwich and at the same time might feel like your arms are in a constant tug of war game between your children and your parents. In the end, to have the opportunity to watch generations grow and spend time together is priceless. So many people don’t have the full Sandwich Generation experience as families are spread out over distance, other countries, or family members have passed.

My best advice and lessons learned along the way are to take the time to enjoy each moment, cherish what you have, treat each day like it could be the last and savor your family sandwich.