A few weeks ago, I was on the phone with my brother, having a sobering conversation about our father’s health. We discussed the latest reports, potential travel dates, and how we were coping.
As soon as I hung up the phone–literally–my daughter started singing “If You’re Happy and You Know It.”
It felt completely surreal, and this emotional tug-of-war is just one issue that moms in the “sandwich generation” face while caring for aging parents as well as supporting children.
The stories differ.
Some are primary caregivers for both parents and children–all under the same roof. Others might lend financial support to parents while still supporting young children. Still others are faced with the logistics of walking with a parent through an illness but also supporting a family and keeping up with responsibilities at work.
That was my situation this summer.
My father lived in Alabama, so I wasn’t the one taking him to doctors’ appointments and overseeing his medicine and meals. (Those responsibilities rested on my amazing stepmother.) However, supporting him through his illness added an extra layer to an already complicated struggle to balance work and family responsibilities.
I’m still evaluating the whole experience and trying to process what I could have done better and what my husband and I might need to think through as his parents and our children continue to age.
So I don’t have all the answers, but I know a few things that help.
I signed up for a few webinars offered through Care.com, and it was encouraging to hear others’ struggles and successes and also know there are some resources out there for people in this situation. (Although it seems like more are needed.)
Whether it’s flexible schedules or additional time off at work, a meal from church or texts from a friend, that tangible support can go a long way toward relieving some of the stress. Especially for those that are physically caring for parents and children. Not having to cook one night or having help with unexpected travel expenses can make a big difference!
My husband spent a lot of time entertaining my daughters as I was with my dad this summer, and we worked hard to explain (as best you can to toddlers) what was going on with Grandpa and why Mommy was sad sometimes. Friends and family have been on hand to talk when I needed them and have been supportive when I had to back away from engagements and responsibilities.
I’m so grateful for the information, support, and understanding I found. However, I know that some people have a much tougher situation and fewer resources. So, even though my experience in the sandwich generation might be over for now since the passing of my father, I’m going to continue to do more research into this and try to find ways to offer others the help I was so lucky to receive.
What about you? Are you a member of the sandwich generation? What challenges are you facing, and what would help you deal with them?