The Club Sandwich isn’t about food, but my adaption of the phenomena called The Sandwich Generation: active parenting combined with active care-giving OF a parent. I’ll grow up to be a real sandwich someday—maybe even a foot-long submarine.
My mom recently had surgery for a total knee replacement—her right knee to be exact which means no driving for Mom—and would need some adult assistance (her husband is disabled). This means, as her locally living, only child, and a SAHM to small children, that we were going to Nonie’s House for an extended visit. Not a social visit, either, I would be visiting as a caretaker.
Being a mother isn’t new to me. I’ve been providing care since my oldest son was born, 3 ½ years ago. I have “slept” in a chair to keep a baby’s stuffy nose draining. I have picked up a crying child and been covered in vomit. I have remained covered in vomit, while I cleaned up my kid first. I have worried, schlepped to doctors, and googled. I have done all of those things—because they are my children, and because I am their mother.
But long before I became a mother, I was daughter. Long before I was caring for and nurturing others, I was being cared for and nurtured. All of those caretaking tasks were being done for me, not by me. But those roles are slowly reversing.
Within my own extended family—on both side of the tree—I’ve already watched the shift of those child/parent roles. Since both of my sets of grandparents live/lived out of state, my participation in their caretaking was limited to brief visits. I was/am not there for the long-haul of it.
I’m in awe of both of my Aunts and their families, for the amount of time and effort required in caring for my grandparents. Despite each of them having siblings they were the only ones, who as adults and young mothers, remained local to their own parents. Proximity increased availability and they each bore the bulk (if not all) of the associated responsibilities. And they both did it with grace and good humor. Good examples for me, in the future.
Look at the caregiving statistics from a 2010 survey. There will be more and more WOMEN caring for both children and elderly parents. At the same time. Oh, and working outside of the home, too.
Maybe it’s just me and everyone else realized this a long time ago. While I certainly felt the ongoing press of dual responsibilities—to my children/husband and to my mother—I didn’t have a true sense of how imminent and inevitable it would be for me. No sense of how consuming it could become if my Mom doesn’t remain in good health. In my mind, the age where my Mom will require that kind of assistance seems so very far away.
I’ll bet it seemed far way for Aunt Polly and Aunt Donna, too. Until, you know, it wasn’t.
In ten years, assuming that no one is struck with a catastrophic disease, I will have children that are 13 and 11 years old and a 70 year old mother. I won’t be done raising my kids and will likely be working for pay again. I will be providing increased care for my mother.
I can barely get it together now—with small kids and a very relaxed schedule. Juggling children in school, a career, and my mom makes itchy. My mom already worries that I will be resentful of having to care for her. It would be naïve and foolish of me to promise that it won’t happen—stress tends to make me cranky. Regardless, I will do all of those things—because she is my mother and because I am her daughter.