There may come a time in your life when you find yourself raising your children and/or grandchildren. Then something happens to your parents and you redefine yourself as one of the millions of Americans who’ve joined the ranks of the Sandwich Generation.
What if you don’t have children? But now you are responsible for “raising” one or both of your parents? Welcome to the Open Face Sandwich Generation.
You have no experience but what the school of hard knocks teaches you about managing or administering medicine, dealing with finances, legal issues, Medicare, long term care insurance—if you’re lucky—or even long term illness beyond aging.
What about the emotional side: maintaining your parents’ dignity, maintaining your own sanity? Not to mention the role reversal.
Remember the awkwardness of the birds and the bees conversation, either giving or receiving? Or when you turned sixteen and enjoyed the driving conversation—independence. Now reverse that, you’re talking to your parents about giving up their drivers license—a total loss of independence.
Perhaps you’re familiar with the axiom, “when you get old, you get cold.” Don’t tell me you’ve never noticed an elderly person walking down the street wearing two sweaters on a seventy-five-degree day. Or you’re like me, you didn’t link the two together. Then called the fire department on the first night of your parents residence because you didn’t recognize the symptoms of hypothermia. We laugh about that one now. At least I now know a hot shower and electric blankets work wonders.
After you’ve established the rules of the household, another uncomfortable conversation, then there is the transition in your relationships with your significant other. In my case, my husband.
Even if your parents or in-laws are congenial, there is still potential for conflict. It is easy to let your relationship with your mate fall apart when you’re exhausted from working, care giving, and maintaining a household.
The goal: Not to take it out on your loved ones—keep your sense of humor.
You’ve worked a long day, work was chaotic. You’re in the kitchen cooking dinner. Your parent, who can no longer help with meal prep, is sitting at the kitchen counter—drumming their fingers—waiting for the meal. You have visions of beating them with a sock puppet named Phil after they’ve asked you for the third time when will dinner be ready.
It would be too easy to take it out on your unsuspecting mate when they enter the kitchen and ask the same question.
Now is the moment to take a step back, re-frame, and realize it doesn’t have to be this way.
My husband and I work from home, which means we work and care give 24/7. We rarely get respite support from our family.
Enter healthy selfishness. Do you remember the thrill of sneaking out of the house when you were growing up. That adrenaline rush thinking you might get caught? Maybe you never snuck out.
Sometimes sneaking out of the house after your family member has gone to bed, for twenty minutes of “quality alone time,” lifts the spirits. I’m not advocating abandoning your family member, I suggesting taking twenty minutes of respite to keep your relationship with your mate alive and healthy.
We call these deodorant dates because that’s what we needed the first time we took one. Because we live in a small town, when the staff of our local grocer sees the two of us in the store without a chaperone, one of the staff usually asks us if this is our “deodorant date.”
So if Tom Sawyer can convince his friends that white washing a fence is fun, you should be able to convince your mate that a date is what you make it. Even if it’s just a quick run to the grocery store for deodorant.
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Since this wouldn’t be a special edition without a little music, here are the Beatles with “When I’m Sixty-Four.”