We think all you Sandwiched Boomers will enjoy this article by Roberta Benor – Food for the Sandwich Generation: the Meanings Behind the Bread You Choose – published in the Washington Post in 1992.
“When you are told by your secretary that a nurse is on the line, do you try to guess if it is the school or the nurse in the cardiac care unit? Are your conversations at dinner parties now centered equally around vignettes of both your youngest and oldest relatives? Do you find yourself sandwiched in the middle of caring for your children and your parents? Then you are definitely part of what has been labeled the Sandwich Generation.So how do you cope with these double demands on your time and energy? How do some people work out the intricacies of the life cycle web better than other people do?
The secret may lie in how you prepare your life’s sandwich, how you choose to view the situation. Just as in a deli, when you are asked what kind of bread you would like for your sandwich, you also can make the symbolic choice of what kind of bread you want to define the way you are able to handle your responsibilities in the sandwich generation. What follows are some choices of bread and the meanings behind them:
1) White Bread—as in the traditional Wonder Bread. You try to be Wonder Woman or Wonder Man by doing everything for everyone. And as with some white bread, you may wind up lacking the necessary vitamins and minerals, exhausted at the prospect of doing it all yourself. The reality of the situation demands that you change the recipe of your sandwich a bit. Add a heaping tablespoon of independence on the younger generation slice of bread. Guide your children into helping their grandparents to the best of their age capabilities and geographic boundaries. Dissolve any guilt you may feel by knowing that when you let generation one and generation three cook together, they will meld into a unified family.
2) Whole Wheat Bread—better for you, because the kernel is left in. Symbolically, you have to maintain your kernel of existence. You have to decide to do things for yourself. You have to say, “I’m not available now.” You have to make an effort to read that book, take that vacation, or relax on that porch when you want. The demands on your time always will be there, but you will become more successful at handling everything when you are more of a person for yourself.
3) Rye Bread—you need your wry sense of humor. It will be very helpful for you to step back from the situation and laugh. Yes, it is sad to see your ailing parent, but surely you can find something to laugh at. Maybe like the seeds in rye bread, your humorous episodes are few and far between, but they are there.
4) A Roll—this is what you need to “roll” with the punches. Perhaps you have to miss your daughter’s school play to be with your hospitalized dad. She’ll understand, because you are teaching her that life is filled with difficult choices. Maybe that’s why video cameras were invented. You can be comforted at those times when you are pulled in two directions at once by realizing that in showing compassion for your aging parent, you are serving as a “role” model for your children.
5) Multi-Grained Bread—some advocates say this is the most healthful kind. Many grains go into it. Therefore, it follows that this is the healthiest way for the sandwich generation to cope. You need to make use of multi-services. Of all the people you know, who can cook meals for your parents? Who can drive them to an appointment? Who can help you with figuring out their bills? You do not have to do it all. Each city or county has its social service department. Skilled employees can give specific advice. In addition, voluntary assistance agencies abound. It also is a good idea to ask advice of a friend who has been in a sandwich before. You want to avoid the end of the children’s song, “The Farmer in the Dell.” You don’t want people to say of you, “The cheese stands alone.” You will be mentally healthier if you allow yourself to be part of a multi-grain team.
Just as on a different day, you may feel like having a different sandwich, so on any given day you may decide to try a different kind of bread. What kind of sandwich do you want to be today? One of multi-grain and rye might become your favorite combo—keeping your sense of humor as you take advantage of help offered by agencies, family, and friends. You don’t have to be a Hero sandwich. It’s probably too much for any one person to chew. If you find that you are overwhelmed or are not satisfied with how things are going, that your sandwich is getting stale, then change your bread. Take a slice from another kind of loaf.
Finally, don’t forget why you like sandwiches anyway. They are cohesive units with your specific choice of bread hugging the filling, keeping it and you connected with satisfying love.”
Roberta is the author of a parenting book and a senior housing book. You can learn more about her and her business, recording life stories, at www.robertabenor.com.