Caught in the Middle of Family – Part 1

This past spring, as the school year was winding down, I had to make the decision of whether or not I was going to go back to work for the next school year.  It was tough because I really enjoyed what I did and who I worked with.  I worked in an elementary school library as a Media Clerk (or, as I like to call myself, a Librarian’s Apprentice).  The choice I wound up making was to not go back to work, because my time and presence were needed elsewhere.  I am a member of the Sandwich Generation!  My family is my husband and two kids at home (8th grade and 11th), but I also have siblings and a mom who is 80 years old and has dementia.  While I loved my job, it was an easy decision to make.  My family comes first – and not just my husband and kids.  My mom is part of us!

What (or who) is the Sandwich Generation

Before we go a whole lot further, let’s talk about what (or who) the “sandwich generation” is.  As defined by google:
Sandwich Generation
sand·wich gen·er·a·tion
noun: sandwich generation;
plural noun: sandwich generations
a generation of people, typically in their thirties or forties, responsible for bringing
up their own children and for the care of their aging parents.
Here’s a few statistics about the sandwich generation.
  • 47% of adults in their 40s & 50s have a parent 65+ and dependent children (either under 18, or over 18 and receiving financial help).
  • 48% of adults in their 40s & 50s are providing some financial support for their grown children.
  • 1 in 7 (15%) are providing financial support for both parents and children. (1)

Here’s what we look like (averages):

  • Average age – 50.3 years
  • 77% married
  • 28% out of the workforce
  • Family income $114k
  • Education 14 years (2)

This “sandwich generation” is not a new phenomenon!  And, it’s certainly not unique to our culture.

I guess maybe I’m more aware of it, because it is my life now.  And, not just mine!  A lot of folks I know are dealing with similar issues.  Aging parent(s) who need more time/help;  children (whether young or old) who need time; and, in the middle of all of this life, we’re supposed to take care of ourselves.  Hmmm, I wonder if that even fits into everyone’s schedules.

Dealing with It All (and Family)

Here’s a few things that I (and my siblings and some friends) have found to be useful tips for those of us in this place.

  • Money!

    Yikes, this is awkward to talk about!   Money is such a hard topic to discuss, especially with your parents!  But, talk about it!!  Our mom now has dementia and thankfully the conversations about money took place several years ago or we would be in a big mess!  Funeral arrangement, life insurance, health insurance – so many necessary discussions!

  • Help!

    Finding the right help is crucial!  But, one of the hard things is that everyone’s situation is completely different.  Both in needs and finances.  So, it’s hard to say with any certainty how someone should handle their situation.  We are still in the process of finding the right help.  We’ve been through a couple of different agencies and found they did not work very well for our situation.  But, start early figuring out what you think you might need and how you would handle it.  It really stinks to be in a crisis trying to figure it all out.

  • Priorities!

    Know your priorities, but also know your parents’ priorities.  Family is our priority!  And, maintaining communication between all concerned is important.  If you have siblings, everyone might have their own thoughts on how things with the parents should be handled.  Communication and priorities are so important here!

    Both sides of my “sandwich”
  • Take care of Yourself!

    This is another one we are figuring out as we go along.  Each of us has our limits, and it is important to figure them out and stick to them.  Especially when you are not in crisis mode.  We all have our own lives and families that need attention.  We can’t give them the leftovers on a regular basis!  Respect your limits by taking care of yourself, and respect your families limits.  They may be quite different than yours, but that’s ok!

  • Crisis time!

    Try to figure out ahead of time how to handle a crisis.  Of course, that’s really difficult when you don’t know what the crisis will be.  But, having names and numbers of people who can help in a crisis is important.  Whether is means signing up with an agency ahead of a crisis so that you can call when you really need them (or even just figuring out what they offer), or having a list of friends/family/church friends/etc. who can step in for a short term to help out.  It is important for the main care givers to not burn themselves out!  And because  it seems to get easier and easier to get burned out as time goes on, have a good team in place!

I found this article by Charles Passy, in which he talked about Lessons for the Sandwich Generation.  It’s a good read if you are interested!

Sharing with Each Other

I’m guessing a lot of you are probably in a similar situation.  You have kids at home or in college (or both), and you have a parent (or parents) who are aging…it’s hard!  What have you found that is helpful?  Have you found any good books that you can share with us?  How do you know your limits and set boundaries?

Share and let’s help each other out!

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Caught in the Middle of Family – Part 2: Hard Conversations

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  1. This is so true! Love the positive attitude, you exude. We can give it all, and yet have it all, if we apply the thought that each area of life deserves 🙂

  2. I am grateful for you. I think you are wonderful and doing a great job raising a healthy, thriving family and loving the woman who brought you into this world with kindness and respect. You are doing it right.

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