Tag Archives: sandwich generation

Sandwich, Anyone?

Hello, blog.  Remember me?  What did you do on your summer vacation?

I wish I could say this was the best summer we have had in our household in a long time.  After all, both kids finished school earlier than in previous years (end of June!!).  We had a fabulous week at a beach rental planned.  SuzyQ and I were excited to get her packed up for college.  Oh, how plans do go awry.

It turns out that excitement about outfitting SuzyQ’s dorm fell victim pretty quickly to anxiety about whether she and her roommate would be able to coordinate color schemes, disagreements with Darling Husband about what is “essential” to take with her and what is excessive, and plain frustration over the daunting task of packing our child’s life up to fit into the back of our SUV.  Ultimately, it all fit; only minor things were forgotten; and SuzyQ is happy.

I wish I could say the same for those of us not away at college.  Both of my parents saw their health deteriorate this summer.  My dad had a particular crisis in a progressive decline, while Mom experienced some mobility issues.  He’s 77, and she turns 73 today.  And neither of them are spry or active for their age.  As the only one of their children living close by, I find myself assuming the growing role of caretaker.  The big problem is, my parents don’t want to need help.  Does that make sense?  They know that they need help, but they are definitely not happy about it.

So to anyone who is in similar circumstances, I put to you a few questions:

  • What do you do when you don’t agree with their medical decisions?  I’m not talking about, “Get me a power of attorney; they’re unfit to make these decisions.”  I mean things like refusing physical therapy or feeling too awkward about asking for a second opinion or settling for the same old course of treatment instead of asking for something different.  Neither Mom nor Dad seek any input from us adult kids when it comes to what test or procedures they will have done.  Should we have any say in the matter at all?  What if they then complain incessantly about their doctors or all the pills they are taking?
  • How do you help your parents downsize when they both tend toward hoarding?  No, it’s not time to call the producers of that “Hoarders” show on TV, but both parents would be better off with more open space in the house to make getting around safer and easier.  And eventually they will have to move into a single-story, maintenance-free home.  Both my parent grew up in essentially poor families.  To them, everything is valuable and must never be thrown away.  They rarely even donate things they aren’t using because, “We might need that one day.”  Add to that the fact that Mom especially has an irrational emotional attachment to most of the “things” in the house.  This too-big piece of furniture reminds her of a particular Army posting.  That ugly ceramic was made by a dear deceased sister-in-law.  All of those years worth of greeting cards were sent by someone special and therefore cannot be thrown out.  I don’t see how they will ever get past the emotional hurdles of downsizing, never mind the physical work involved.
  • Will you always disappoint someone when you are trying to balance your roles?  Mom and Dad will vehemently stress that I must consider my own family first.  And yet…  With Darling Husband facing military retirement and hunting for a new job, what happens if we relocate because of his second career?  How will the parents manage with no family nearby?  Should that be a factor in how broad his geographic search for a job should be?

As I recover from packing one child off to college 6 hours away and get the other one started on his AP classes and SAT prep, I have to shake my head again about all of those helicopter parents out there.  They should be saving their energy.  What they might want to consider instead is helicopter parenting their own parents.


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Juggling, Balancing, Keeping Plates in the Air

image by egarc2

All and none of those expressions quite captures what life has been like in the Uncommon home these past 2 or so weeks since my last post.  They say that Generation X is the new “sandwich generation,”  caught between caring for both parents and children at the same time.  I can attest to the accuracy of that description.  And I propose that full-time, at-home moms in particular feel the squeeze more than others.  After all, if you’re not going to work every day, you must be free to…fill in the blank.

  • SuzyQ is in full-cram mode for her 2 AP exams at the end of the week.  As her home educator, I’m making flashcards, reading sample free-response essays, quizzing about important terms, and strategizing.  As someone who majored in History, I can tell you that no one really needs to know off the top of her head, who Louis Blanc is or what the Defenestration of Prague was all about.  That’s what the index of your textbook or, at the very least, Google is for.
  • SuzyQ also just emerged from a week of chorus performances.  Every night.  I’m a lover of music and all, but by the third show, it’s just old.
  • My dad is going through a health crisis right now.  It looks to be the beginning of  a long road of health issues.  It gets tough trying to stay informed about his condition while still trying to respect his privacy.  All of the magazine articles tell me that this is the perfect time to have THE TALK with my parents about their finances and their wishes for long-term care and final arrangements.  Are you kidding?  In addition to running to the doctor’s office every other day for blood draws in between various diagnostic procedures, my dad is supposed to get together with all 4 of us kids and divide up his estate?  Oh, and his grass needs to be cut.
  • Planning for the summer has become a now or never situation.  Vacation rentals are already down to the leftovers.  My calendar is also down to the leftover weeks.  Apparently, the lazy days of summer are long gone for us.  So I’m scrambling to reserve a summer destination that will make everyone happy.  This is a lot like chasing unicorns, pots of gold at the end of rainbows, and snipe hunting. 
  • It was Easter a week ago.  For our family, this is more than a one-day holiday to celebrate spring and bunnies bearing baskets.  We head to church for the majority of Holy Week and prepare traditional meals.  This is not easy to do in a secular world that insists upon baseball practices on Holy Thursday and ice cream socials on Good Friday.

As a result of all of this general chaos, Darling Husband and I are like 2 ships “that pass in the night, and speak each other in passing, only a signal shown, and a distant voice in the darkness.” (That’s Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, by the way.)   We resort mainly to text messages and prominently placed notes for communicating.  Here’s a sampling:

“No key.  Lv back door open pls.”

“Pick-up time for chorus changed.  Be home around 11.  I’ll try not to wake you.”

“Dog needs to be fed.”

“Stuck in traffic.  Not going to make it in time for baseball.  Can you get Junior to the field?”  “He’ll either be really early or really late.  Have to drop off Suzy Q downtown.”

We will observe our 19th wedding anniversary next week.  When I say “observe,” what I really mean is, “Junior’s game starts at 5:30, and SuzyQ’s call time is 6:00.  Dinner is whatever you can find in the fridge. Oh, happy anniversary, dear.”  It’s no wonder a mid-life crisis supposedly is just around the corner.


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