The Sandwich Generation, What?
The Miriam Webster definition of The Sandwich Generation is, ‘a generation of people who are caring for their aging parents while simultaneously taking care of their own children, or in some cases, their grandchildren’.
I am a part of the Sandwich Generation; in other words, sandwiched between caring for a young child and an aging parent. I am also doing it as a solo parent; raising my pre-teen daughter and care taking my live-in 92 year old father.
I support 3 people on one income and work full time, in addition to starting a new business venture. According to the Pew Research Center, 47% of people in the U.S. have parents over the age of 65 and are raising a minor child or supporting a grown child. There are many who are doing exactly what I’m doing.
What Are The Numbers?
Multi generational households are growing, says the Pew Research Center, with 16 percent of American households with at least two adult generations and one other (children, grand kids, young adults). That increased from 12 percent in the 1980’s.
Another Pew survey reported that grown children who move back after being away — reside 13 percent in American homes. Additionally, grandchildren are actively present in some households; as of the 2010 Census, there were 2.6 million grandparents responsible for the care of their children’s children.
For me, it’s sometimes frightening to be faced with the demands of my Dad’s dementia. Remaining present for my daughter as she moves into pre teenage years is also demanding. And facing this alone, without becoming forlorn, depressed or stressed is a daily challenge.
Like parenting overall, role reversal with a parent is trial by fire. How can you be your Dad’s friend, landlord and parent? How do I share the household rules with my parent without offending? Not to mention that I’m one person who can be stretched in only so many directions. When my 11-year-old’s school event, Dad’s doctor appointment and company travel collide on the same calendar day, even I crumble. No matter how talented you are, caring for lots of people with diverse needs is challenging.
There Are Joys….
The days we have fun and laugh together are extremely joyous. My daughter was adopted from outside this country, and my Dad is her only living grandparent. While our generational gaps are significant, we reach common ground every day. We work together as a team and realize we are each doing the very best we can given our own limitations. Our lives are simple, we don’t ask for material things and we focus on creating memories together.
There are some days when we stay in our pajamas and order take-out, watch movies, play games, read, create art and just chill together. I have to say, my friends have embraced my Dad and my daughter with love and acceptance that continually amazes me. They assist my Dad with walking, they take my daughter on day trips and are a huge support to me emotionally. As a family, we are blessed.
I consider the opportunity to care for my Dad and a child who was not born from me, a higher calling and a wonderful blessing. Every day I pray to have the strength to rise above the challenges and continue to be a positive influence on them both. And to maintain my focus and strength to ensure our success and survival.
I do know that I can always do better. Show more patience. Be more loving. Be kinder. Talk more softly. Empathize more. Sometimes I melt down, and that’s okay. I have given myself permission to be a flawed human.
As our journey continues, I know I may have to make the decision to change my Dad’s living situation at some point. Dementia is a thief, a robber of time, of memories and of human emotions. It is not understanding or empathetic and it waits for no one to adjust to its changes. However, until and IF the time arrives that Dad has to live elsewhere, as a family unit sandwiched together, we’ll just keep on keepin’ on. And laugh, cry and grow together.