The over 50’s are increasingly finding themselves positioned as the main care giver in the middle of multiple generations. Sandwich is the latest buzz word to describe people who find themselves having to look after their children, grandchildren, parents and even grandparents.
They call us the sandwich generation; women like me in their 50s, pulled and pushed in all directions by offspring and perhaps grandchildren, whilst also being at the beck and call of ageing, needy or just plain demanding parents or older relatives as well. At its most extreme we can find ourselves smack in the middle of up to five generations of family – the mother of all sandwiches.
As a youngish grandmother myself, when my first grandson was born, there I was at the birth – a huge but exhausting privilege. I went through an entire night, coaxing, breathing, encouraging and all but feeling my daughter’s contractions, without sleep or so much as a glass of water, and then my life changed forever as this dear little scrap of grandson finally pitched up. Going without sleep all night reminded me of being in my 20s – not sadly because I could vaguely remember dimly-lit, alcoholic, all-night parties, but because I had my children young and spent many a night feeding or pacifying my babies whilst my not so hands-on husband slept soundly.
Back to the day my first grandson was born: I took a rare day off from my fairly demanding job, ostensibly to catch up on sleep. What I actually did was to drive to visit my very elderly grandmother in another hospital to the one my daughter had used hours earlier to turn me into a grandmother. As I sat with my own grandmother during her last days, and helped her to open the various items I had frantically shopped for in my lunch hour the previous day, I wondered how many other grandmothers get to nurse, comfort and dress both their grandchildren and grandparents in the same day. I didn’t wonder for long because I was too exhausted, and thinking time is a luxury women of the sandwich generation are used to doing without.
These days I’m still smack in the middle of my family, but of a mere four generations. I know that many have it far worse than me, and I’m not as yet technically a care giver for anyone, although it sometimes feels like I’m far too responsible for everyone’s happiness and wellbeing. I’m holding down a responsible and interesting job at the same time as being there for my pre-teenage but lovely grandsons, whilst still feeling somewhat battered by my grown up daughters, and my cunning, somewhat demanding mother who is in excellent health but never ceases to remind me of my daughterly obligations and my many inadequacies. I see why they call it the sandwich generation. My lot is far better than many who don’t have time to form their thoughts into actual words, but I sometimes feel like a 3-day old sandwich that has been trodden on and tossed into the bin!
Guest Blogger. They call us the Sandwich Generation. High 50, 2017
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