What’s your favorite sandwich? I love a good panini filled with roast beef and cheddar cheese, maybe a little tomato and avocado. Yum! Drooling yet?

Although I thoroughly enjoy a great sandwich – my hubby makes the best – I’m not so sure about being part of the Sandwich Generation. Plus, according to “Caught in the Middle”, I’m a club sandwich, and they aren’t my favorite.

Sandwich Generation Unwrapped

sandwich generation graphic
©️ Thrive Global

Maybe you haven’t heard the term Sandwich Generation. Two women coined the term in 1981, and it is used for women in their 30s to 40s who are not only still raising their children but also caring for their aging parents.

In 2020 the ago of caregivers has gone up to 40s to mid-60s, and about one in seven Americans are part of this group.

That’s the group my husband and I fall in. Last year it became apparent that my mother-in-law needed more full-time care, and we had her move in with us. It wasn’t an easy decision since she has multiple health issues. Plus, our youngest was a senior in high school, and we were actually anticipating an empty nest!

We talked to our daughter, and we told our other four kids who are grown and out of the house. This is definitely a decision the whole family needs to make.

Hold the Mayo

Living with your parent or in-law is…interesting. You have a whole other generation and way of thinking in your home. Pre-established behaviors get thrown out the window when someone else’s habits have to be considered.

Change is good, right? Maybe not always.

Even if you know the decision was the best, that doesn’t make everything flow easily. Things can get pretty sticky.

Example: this past Christmas, my mother-in-law insisted we put this huge light-up angel out front because it would be pretty. Don’t get me wrong, I love Christmas decorations. But I’m more the reindeer and polar bear type. I’ll let you guess who won. Let’s just say our electricity bill was a bit higher than most Decembers.

Don’t Forget the Salt and Pepper

Sandwich Generation UnwrappedI’m not old. 60 is the new 40, right? But some days I feel old. A bit tired, cranky, and achy. I enjoy a good nap every now and then. It happens to the best of us.

When you move an 83-year-old woman in though, you realize what old is! It kind of puts things in perspective.

I have to say that even with the hospital stays she has had, the numerous doctor appointments we go to, and the repetitious questions (darn that dementia), I would still choose to have her here. It adds some spice and seasoning to our household. One of our cats has adopted her as his person, and our youngest daughter has more time with her granny. Our oldest two kids live nearby so they come over often to visit.

Tips for Making the Best Sandwich Ever

  • Make sure this is a family decision. Everyone is affected.
  • Recruit help. If everyone in the family helps a little, it takes great stress off the caregivers.
  • Think ahead. We’ve had to have an advance directive done; that was tough. Be realistic though because life and death happen. 
  • Have fun. Don’t forget to laugh. Get your parent to tell some old stories or jokes. Look through old photos with him or her.
  • Have grace. When I have to remind my mother-in-law to go to the bathroom or wash her hands, I try to remember that she had to do that for my husband when he was little. It is quite a bit like raising a three-year-old while giving the respect and kindness she deserves.
  • Look for opportunities in your community. Ask your doctor for elder care opportunities in the area (like daycare but for adults). Maybe there is a monthly bingo or a senior center. Ask around and get your family member involved!

Are You Part of the Sandwich Generation?

sandwich
Photo by Youjeen Cho on Unsplash

Are you a traditional, club, or open-faced sandwich? Traditional sandwiches are adults who care for aging parents while raising their own kids. Club sandwiches – what I am – are described as people in their 50s to 60s who have adult kids and grandkids as well as caring for older parents. People involved in caring for the elderly are called open-faced sandwiches.

Are you part of this Sandwich Generation? Are you helping your kiddo get ready for college while making sure you have an advanced directive set up for your parent?

It’s a tough decision and not one to make lightly. I hope if you come to these crossroads you make the decision that is best for your family.

As for me? This club sandwich is off to find the panini maker.

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Jen Dodrill is a Navy brat from a long line of Navy brats. Born in Virginia, she moved to the Florida panhandle in 6th grade. After vowing to never date a Navy guy, she moved to Nashville, TN where she met and fell in love with Eddie who was - you guessed it - in the delayed-entry-program for the Navy. They met in June, married the following February, and over 35 years later are still sweethearts. They moved back to West Tennessee in 2008 after his retirement. Jen stayed home to raise their 5 kids, and she homeschooled the youngest three. The “baby” graduated in 2020, but Jen refuses to bow to empty-nest syndrome! She teaches Oral Communication as an adjunct instructor for Dyersburg State Community College and blogs at Jen Dodrill History at Home. Jen also writes curriculum under History at Home at TeachersPayTeachers and Boom Learning! When she’s not working, she’s spending time with her kids and adorable granddaughters. You can find her on Instagram, Facebook, and her favorite place – Pinterest! You can also visit her site "History at Home" at www.jendodrillhistoryathome.com