Sandwich Years

I recently learned the term “sandwich years“–it refers to this time period in our lives where we are caring for our own young children but also gearing up to (or already providing) care for our parents. Sandwiched between different layers of caregiving. The meat of an intense, emotional sandwich.Happy moments

A lot of my friends have parents at least ten years older than my own parents. They are working through this hard stuff already.

My parents were quite young when they had me (Mom was 24) and their parents were quite young when havingĀ themĀ so I’m not really going to be a sandwich person for some time unless something untoward happens. Instead, my parents are the sandwich meat currently! I rely on my parents so much for help with my children. So much! And they live four hours away from me.

I suppose this makes my parents part of a club sandwich! Multiple layers of hard work.

In the past month, both of my grandmothers have had significant health challenges. My family had to move my maternal grandmother into a nursing home and just this weekend, my paternal grandmother had a pacemaker inserted. Do we say installed? Anyway, she’s been having heart trouble.

Both my parents are retired, thankfully, because they are truly using all their resources rotating between hospitals and nursing homes and doing laundry/errands for my grandmothers. Even with the help of their siblings, it’s a lot of work for my parents. So much stress!

At these times, I hate living far away from my family. It’s already hard to live far apart from loved ones, but when someone is hurting back home, I feel so helpless four hours away. I contemplated canceling our week and going home to help…but after some soul searching I realized this wasn’t the best move for anyone.

I have really young kids, one who still nurses. Whatever help I’d be giving to my grandparents would be at the cost of asking someone else in the family to look after my young kids, so really they’d be trading care of an elderly person for care of a young kiddo.

Plus, unexpected travel and abrupt schedule disruption make my already-intense children even more crazy. If I went home, I’d be bringing sleepless children who’d cry throughout the night and deprive my already-tired parents of even more sleep.

In the end, I decided to stay put, video chat when I’m able, be here as a listening ear if anyone needs that. We’ll go visit next weekend, when my son has off from school that Monday and we can stay a bit longer.

It’s tough feeling like I’m not holding up my end of the sandwich, like I’m letting my family down in choosing to live so far away. I’d feel differently if I lived farther. As it is, I’m just far enough to be out of reach but still close enough that I can stretch home if totally necessary. The hard part is determining when “totally necessary” kicks in.

Do any of you live far away from your loved ones? How do you stay connected across the distance when things get tough?

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