Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Avoid the Squish of the Sandwich Generation

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Avoid the Squish of the Sandwich Generation

Article excerpt

We read in the media about the "sandwich generation." It's a label that describes people who care for their children and aging parents at the same time.

This might be as simple as a few shopping trips or as complicated as assuming full care of the parent in one's home.

My goal in raising my family was to teach my children respect for family members and the community at large. Respect involves valuing and honoring each person's individuality.

Like many parents, I began teaching this to my children when they were young. However, by the time my sons reached their late teens, I wondered why this quality, once so freely expressed, had disappeared. Occasionally, respect and compassion would surface, but more often there was a visible demonstration of "Me first."

From time to time I wondered, "How might I remind them of the importance of respect, patience, and compassion for others?"

Intuitively, I knew the answer was not in admonishments or lectures.

The answer came to me in a manner I had not anticipated. It was a lesson to be practiced daily, and it lasted more than nine years. It came about this way:

My husband and I realized our mothers were in need of help. We live in New England, his mother lived on Long Island, and my mother in central California. Over this period, our sons attended schools and colleges in Connecticut, New Hampshire, Missouri, New York, and northern California.

Over the nine years, as we made visits to the boys we also "checked" on our mothers.

We had their homes repaired, repainted, and made secure. We set up care and support for the mothers and hired lawyers and contractors from out of state.

It was an educational process; my husband and I discovered what the sandwich generation meant.

Our mothers had lived in their homes a combined total of 90 years, and, although they were in need of care, did not wish to leave them.

I realized that, in the same way we could not tell our children where to go to college or what careers to pursue, neither could we tell our mothers what to do. …

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