A woman looks worried as two versions of herself bend in opposite directions in front of her. One bends to hand off a sandwich in a baggie and an apple, and the other bends to cut a sandwich in half, on a plate next to a pill organizer and glass of water.

Sandwich Generation: Stuck In the Middle With You

I’ve heard the term “sandwich generation” a few times over the last couple of days. It hit me that that’s where I am. That’s where my friends are. That’s where most of you are. We’re sandwiched in the middle of taking care of the generations both older and younger than we are. I don’t have any kids of my own, but I have a big family with lots of nieces, nephews, and cousins. I also teach around 700 kids a week in my computer classes. So, that’s my way of contributing to younger generations I guess. Most everyone my age is in the same leaky boat. They’re juggling work, bills, kids, and more and more often the needs of their own parents. The struggle is painfully real.

Life pushes us out of our comfort zone

I recently had a conversation with a close friend. I asked her, “When do you really start to feel like a grown up?” At nearly 40, with lots of “grown up” experience, I sometimes still don’t feel like an adult. Often, I still feel like a clueless kid who still needs her parents. I sure didn’t feel qualified to step into a parental role for my own father. I wasn’t ready for him to leave his role as my parent either.

Sometimes, though, life makes you leave your comfort zone, and I felt like I woke up in my own version of Freaky Friday. Daddy spiraled downward quickly, and we had to step up equally as fast. Role reversal went at warp speed and was involuntary, but necessary.

Stepping up to the task for my dad

I went from Daddy frying bacon and buttering my toast to him relying on me to fix his oatmeal, coffee, and a fistful of pills before I left for work. I still had to work. I still had to pay bills. I still had to take care of all of my babies in class. I still had a million everyday responsibilities, but now I had my dad's needs stacked in a messy pile on top of that ever-growing mountain.

So, I stepped into his old, hand-me-down parenting shoes and handled it. I took care of it. That’s what parents do.

There will be ups and downs

This whole life thing is like a roller coaster. Your deer-in-the-headlights-looking parents bring home this fragile, little, helpless person. They take care of you, feed you, clothe you, and take care of all your needs. You grow up, get a job, start a family. Eventually, you are not a fragile, little, helpless person anymore, but your parent may be.

So, after you finally make it to the top, the peak, of that squeaky metal track, a new descent begins. Sure, it’s scary. You will most likely feel the bottom falling out from under you. You may not let go and let your arms fly at first, but you will get there.

You will have good moments. You will find life’s rewards by rolling up your sleeves and bringing someone else joy. You will find a purpose so much bigger than yourself by helping connect life’s big, crazy, lopsided circle. You will make memories in those lean sandwich years that you wouldn’t trade for the world.

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