I asked Chat GPT for a blog topic on being the sandwich generation and the title of this blog is what it came up with. I had to chuckle. Survival?? Am I even surviving right now? Writing this, I am drinking my third coffee of the day, with Google open to figure out why Dad’s iMessage isn’t working. My kids are fighting over who gets the ‘adult’ bowl for their snack and who is stuck with the scratched plastic one from IKEA that is very clearly two kids’ old.
Maybe I should be thankful Chat GPT didn’t suggest “Thriving in the Sandwich Generation” because today, I certainly am not.
But surviving, I am. I am breathing, I have brushed teeth and I’ve had water today. When I was in the early throes of post-partum, that was what a friend said constituted a win each day. I had to complete one of eating, brushing my teeth or showering – I didn’t have to do all (thank goodness because just one felt herculean when I hadn’t slept all night) but just tackle one.
Today, my father is resting comfortably on his couch, feet up and Big Bang Theory on in the background. My kids, though fighting, are fed and well. And like I said, I’ve brushed my teeth.
So how does this happen? How do we survive this stage of juggling parenting and elder care?
1. Demand help
Notice I didn’t say ask. I hate, despise, loathe asking for help. There’s got to be a way that I can do it all. Isn’t that what all the books say? Women can have it all. Though I would add, not all at the same time. And frankly, we can’t do it all by ourselves. There may be that unicorn person who is a single parent, looks after their parents with full-time needs, who also runs a million dollar company, and who has two well-adjusted, non-picky children and does it without daycare, family or a nanny. (If anyone knows this person, send them my way – I have questions!)
But in reality, very few of us (if any) can do this without help. And sometimes, asking feels like too much. So we shrink back and we don’t ask. We struggle to stay afloat and breathe as the waves get high. We let our silence speak for us.
Our silence says we are okay. But in fact, we rarely are.
So instead, what if we went in the opposite direction and demanded help. Instead of asking, “Can you take my parent to the doctor?” what if the sentence turned into, “If you are free on Tuesday, I would be so appreciative if you could take Dad to the doctor.”
Or what if we said yes to those offers for help, instead of defaulting to “I don’twant to put you out,” or “We are fine.”
2. Do Your Research
I will be the first to acknowledge my privilege, and my family’s privilege. And, there are a lot of options available (at least, where I live) for those that need it. That’s not to say there’s no wait to access them, but it is worth a look.
Research what’s out there to help, especially with your parents. Contact the social workers at hospitals or care homes – they have pamphlets and while old school, they have so much good information. In doing a little searching, we were able to:
3. Bring them together
At first, when I had the kids, I often thought that I had to keep everyone separate. I would find care for the kids so that I could take Dad to his appointments. Or, I’d schedule my social time with Dad after the kids went to bed. I didn’t want to go to his appointments, I can’t imagine how my 2 and 4 year old would want to!
Until one day, it became too hard.
I couldn’t find the babysitter.
Dad was getting lonely. And I was getting frazzled.
So I brought the kids along. And it turns out, they loved it! They got some Grandpa time, they got treats for being well-behaved (I am most definitely not above bribery), and mostly, they got to see love in action.
They got to witness what compassion looks like, what patience in waiting rooms is. They got to see what a love that bears all things means. They got to see what it means to love Grandpa as he is, not as how I wish he would be. And then, there’s also the piece that I hope they do this for me one day. That they could see that this is how we love our family.
How are you surviving these days? What’s keeping things working for you? Tell me in the comments!