The Sandwich Generation – From a Kid’s Point
There’s been a
lot of talk about the ‘sandwich
generation’, namely those baby boomers who are in
the midst of taking care of both children and parents. The phrase
was coined in 1981 by Dorothy Miller, who used it to describe
the increasing number of women who were in their 30s and 40s
who were taking care of young children, spouses, employers,
and aging parents; this phrase has now morphed to those in their
fifties and beyond.
Thanks in part to the
Great Recession, ‘Boomerang Kids’ now make up 25%
of those who live back with their parents, who are also helping
to take care of their grandparents.
Born in 1979, I had
never heard of this term until just recently, but I have come
to understand that I was a part of this generation. From the
time I was born until I moved out of the house, I was at the
younger end of this sandwich generation; I lived with my mother
and my grandmother. My mom was a full time nurse at two of the
local hospitals in my hometown and while she was out, my grandmother
Family Caregiver month and as I thought about and
read articles in regards to this, it dawned on me that I was
not only a product of the sandwich generation, but that my mother
was a caregiver. My mother is a baby boomer, born in later 1945,
while my grandmother is a part of the senior population; me,
I’m a Generation Xer, remembering the days when computers
weren’t home appliances, when Al Gore invented the Internet,
and before some kid in college invented Facebook.
a lot to be said for being on the younger end of this ‘sandwiched’
generation – as a kid, I only had to worry
about making sure I got my homework done and which shows I needed
to watch on Saturday morning. However, even as a child, there
are a lot of stresses to be had when you’re the main family
caregiver and the breadwinner. My mom was a single parent, as
was my grandmother, and I’d like to think that, as an
only child, I was easy to handle.
As anyone who has ever
worked in a hospital will tell you, nurses and doctors have
pretty stressful jobs; typical eight-hour shifts can get extended
when dealing with patients, schedules get switched and turned
around, etc. My mom’s an RN and would usually shift from
that of the newborn ward to that of surgery and recovery, taking
care of minor scrapes like broken legs to that of broken hips.
In terms of my grandmother, she had her own issues – a
slip in the tub and a fall one year caused minor surgery for
her hip and some minor surgery on her back.
It wasn’t uncommon
for my mom to take my grandmother to the doctor’s on a
regular basis and added to that my own childhood issues ranging
from the normal cold to bronchitis that got progressively worse
until I reached college.
My mother really was
the proverbial taxi, not to mention mediator, as my grandmother
and I do not get along, plus trying to be parent to both a child
and an adult. I was and have always been involved in extracurricular
activities, mostly in fine arts. I’ve been in choir, drama,
orchestra, and band and with that comes instrument rentals (and
purchases), plays, and concerts; I’m sure I made her happy
by not being in sports, despite my love of baseball. My grandmother
had health issues that increased as I grew up; to this day,
I’m convinced she has hearing loss with the way she kept
her TV up all day long. Not that I can say anything as I’m
convinced I’ll be deaf in a few more years myself.
There is some good from
this experience of mine. This of course is completely different,
I’m sure, from those caregivers who are actually giving
care and those who are being cared for, but this is what I’ve
taken away from the experience –
While probably based on my being an only child, I do have to
say that I gained a lot of independence having my mother as
a caregiver. I grew up to be fairly responsible – I could
be left in the house by myself at a young age, usually due to
the fact that my grandmother had a doctor’s appointment
and my mom had to drive her there. In most cases, she could
do this and still be home in time for me to have come home from
school, but in other cases, I was tasked to come home, use my
key, and take care of myself until they returned.
Let’s face it – there are generation gaps when dealing
with a sandwich family, usually three. I of course lived through
the days before the interconnectability of the Facebook and
the Twitter, even though the Internet was really in swing when
I hit college in 1997. But before all of this, I learned how
to tolerate and be accepting of others.
My grandmother comes
from a generation in which blacks were second-class citizens,
where we were kinda equal, but definitely separate. I’m
of the generation that the Civil Rights movement fought for,
where hate crimes are prosecuted and the world is a better place.
This was probably one of the reasons we clashed.
I am not of a world
where doctors are out to experiment on me or where I cannot
be in a class with white, Hispanic, and Asian friends. My grandmother
is not of a world where I’m more connected with people
through an invisible force known as the Internet or where my
communication is based on email, texts, or social media.
I now realized, tried to be a balance between us and in no way
did she succeed.
At this point, I don’t
know if I’ll be in a position of repeating this process
– where I am taking care of children and my parent at
the same time. Certainly, with me out of state, that process
could pose a problem as to how to work this should this happen.
With that said, there are benefits to this whole situation,
but downfalls too, especially for the person caught in the middle.
I lucked out for the most part and I can only guess that my
grandmother lucked out by having a home field advantage in being
taken care of.
My mom? Not so sure
So on this Family Caregiver’s
awareness month, help the man/woman in the middle – give
them the month off.
2012 by Regina
- Article by Regina
Woodard exclusively for Assisted Living Directory