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Sandwiched? Don't Lose Your Crust (or Sanity)

They call it the sandwich generation because you're stuck between two messy situations, just like the insides of a sandwich.

On one hand, you've got your aging parents. They might be the "roast beef" of the bunch – a little on the tough side these days, needing extra care and attention. Maybe they require financial support, or help with daily tasks, like navigating the tricky terrain of their kitchen without tripping over the rug.

On the other hand, you've got your kids. They could be the "submarine" of the situation – a long, complex project that requires multiple layers of support: homework, emotional support, maybe even driving lessons (because let's face it, teenagers are a recipe for disaster behind the wheel).

The thing that makes or breaks a sandwich, as with the sandwich generation, is the bread. That's you! You're the valiant hero holding everything together. If you're burnt out, like stale bread, the whole situation crumbles. But if you're fresh, resilient, and maybe even a little homemade (because who doesn't love a good quirk?), you can create a delicious, fulfilling experience for everyone.

Just like with sandwiches though, there's a limit. You wouldn't try to shove an entire roast beef and a whole submarine into one sad slice of white bread. That's exactly what happened to me about 15 years ago. Back then, my girls were like a four-tiered club sandwich – each one at a different grade level that I was homeschooling, from kindergarten to sixth grade! If that wasn't enough, I was also leading the women's ministry at church and a homeschool co-op. It was a delicious mess, but a mess nonetheless.

Then, whammo! My in-laws, the unexpected pickle on the plate, started having health problems. Because they lived far away, they decided to move in with us while they figured things out. Let me tell you, integrating them into our household was like adding a whole new layer of, well, stuff. Schedules got tossed, meals had to be diabetic-friendly overnight, and laundry became a never-ending avalanche. Before, I felt busy, but now I was in full-on overdrive.

That's when I finally reached my breaking point. Like a soggy piece of bread, I was about to disintegrate. I knew I had to ask for help and delegate some of the fillings before the whole sandwich became a giant, inedible disaster.

The years that followed were a bittersweet mix. We visited my in-laws often, enjoying their company and caring for them the best we could. We saw them slowly decline, the vibrant colors of their lives fading to grey.

Five years later, the inevitable happened. Though they are no longer with us, we are grateful for the time we were able to spend with them.

Looking back, the sandwich generation years were like a gourmet BLT – a beautiful combination of flavors with a few unexpected twists. It was messy at times, and stressful at others, but ultimately, a delicious experience that made us stronger and more grateful for the family we have.

I want to share some wisdom I wish I'd had back then for all the amazing women out there in the sandwich generation:

  • Self-care isn't selfish, it's essential. You can't pour from an empty cup. Schedule time for yourself, even if it's just 15 minutes a day for a walk or a relaxing bath.

  • Don't be afraid to delegate. You are not Wonder Woman (although some days it might feel that way). Enlist help from your spouse, family, friends, or even hired services.

  • Communication is key. Talk openly and honestly with your loved ones about your needs and limitations. You'll be surprised at how much support they're willing to offer.

  • Remember, you are not alone. There are countless women going through the same experiences. So many of my clients share similar stories and I have helped them navigate this season.

The sandwich generation can be a challenging time, but with a little planning, self-compassion, and support, you can create a delicious, fulfilling experience for yourself and your family. You can also learn how to prepare for this time so it's easier for your own kids to support you when you get there.

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