I am part of the sandwich generation. While writing this article, I discovered there are three different kinds of sandwiches. Really, It’s a thing. The Traditional, the Club, and the Open-Faced Sandwich. I’m of the traditional variety, with some spicy mustard. I am taking care of my 91-year-old mom and a sister with downs syndrome, and we still have one college grad at home working on getting into a master’s program.
The term ‘sandwich generation’ is becoming so commonplace that it was added to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary in 2006. This rising demographic already accounts for about 47 percent of adults in their 40s and 50s who have a parent 65 or older and are also raising a youngster or supporting a grown child. In fact, one in seven of these adults are financially assisting both their parents and one or more children.
Our support is not so much financial as it doing all the things a nonagenarian can’t do anymore, and navigating Medicare and Medicaid, prescriptions, yadda, yadda, yadda. You know what I mean. Life becomes a series of peaks and valleys getting closer and closer together. The peaks seem to grow steeper and the valleys deeper, making it difficult to see beyond our present circumstances.
Clearly, I don’t have the spiritual gift of mercy. The Basic Life Principles Institute says the mature mercy-giver is kind and gentle. My patience with others tends to run short, and let’s just say that don’t empathize with others well, either.
There’s no time, I have stuff to do!
Don’t squander the gift of time
I am a mother, I know how fast time passes every time I look into the eyes of my grandchildren. They look so much like their parents. Parents! When did that happen? You see what I mean. Time doesn’t stop just because you’re not enjoying life today.
In this season of caregiving, I find it hard to pause long enough enjoy the moments. I can almost feel the years dissolving like sugar in warm water. There are days, hours, and minutes that should be savored, not pressed through.
No, time slips by unnoticed, until we notice. One day, my mom will not be here to hold my hand, or pray for me, and me for her. Why is it so hard to live in the moment? To enjoy a conversation or just spend time together? One would think that after being shut in, due to Covid-19, we would have at least learned that.
I have the gift of administration. That means I can see the big picture. I like to manage projects, break down the steps, assign them to others, and remove roadblocks so they can work. It’s just how I see things, so that’s probably why I tend to compartmentalize the caregiving function as work rather than a labor of love. When the laundry is done, the meals are made, and the pillbox filled, in my mind, I’m done for the day. At least, I want to be. But that isn’t true. I am still a daughter who still needs her mother and, as a mother, I know mine still needs me.
God gave each of us certain gifts to serve the Kingdom. Caregivers, we must remember that serving our loved ones is serving the Kingdom and God will provide what you need to do it in love. Don’t be afraid or feel guilty about asking for His help or for anyone’s help. You don’t have to do this alone. Family, friends, and neighbors will help if they know you need them. No one will think less of you because you asked for help. What do you have to lose?
The curse of the work-life balancing act
A coworker described caregiving as “exhausting”. He cares for a mentally ill brother and it is challenging.
He’s right, caregiving is exhausting. It’s constantly running to complete an unending to-do list. Caregiving often brings on feelings of guilt. The physical and mental work involved increases over time, and all of it generates stress. According to the APA, stress seems to hit moms harder. It seems women do the bulk of the caregiving work and worry, while tending to sometimes multiple households and humans. There are many days we don’t want to do the next to-do on the list. That’s when God increases our capacity (Psalm 118:5).
With so many stressors, the sandwich generation can often experience:
–Caregiver burnout and feelings of depression, guilt and isolation.
-Issues finding the time to be a good spouse, parent, and child simultaneously.
-Trouble managing work, hobbies, relationships and time for themselves.
Psychological issues as they struggle with being pulled in multiple directions every day.
Being a caregiver is hard, and it is work. That must be why it often feels like just plain hard work. But it is doable. Seriously, taking care of a loved one can be a gift, and finding a healthy work-life balance is the key to unwrapping the prize.
Our loved ones are not our projects. They are our mothers, sisters, grandmothers, and grandfathers clinging to independence even as they feel it slipping away day by day. They need our assistance, energy, attention, and love. The same love we shared before we stepped into the role of caregiver. They deserve our kindness.
We have been given an opportunity to serve and we should do it to the best of our physical ability and spiritual capacity. Let us remember, God provides us with both (2 Corinthians 9:8) Yes, I’m giving myself a pep talk, too. We must be encouragers. Work on sowing seeds of joy instead of dread, because they will see the dread on your face and that is not life-giving to anyone. I must say that I haven’t perfected the balancing act yet.
David bloomed where he was planted. We, too, are called to bring God glory in whatever place He has put us – career, ministry, relationships, our homes. We can either let the soil we’re in deplete us or feed us – it’s our choice. Like David, we can expand the family of God by allowing seeds of encouragement and faith grow in us. We can give encouragement and build each other up in the faith instead of expressing bitterness and doubt when the winds of strife or pain blow. Those precious seeds will multiply by the Spirit of God in us, reaching far beyond the place where we remain.
– Quantrilla Ard
How can I do this?
How can we better serve our loved ones and ourselves so that we enjoy the time we have together, so it isn’t exhausting, and doesn’t seem like work? That’s a big ask, but we have a big God!
These are just a few suggestions I am trying to implement in my relationship with my mom and sister. I hope they help you, too.
Pray before you play (Proverbs 3:5-6) My son is a church organist and music director and, after years at the piano, I still tell him to pray before he plays. This concept applies in so many areas, including caregiving. Pray before you leave home and before you enter their door. Ask God to give you His countenance, patience, and kindness when you can’t seem to find these qualities within yourself.
Plan your visit, but allow some flexibility (Proverbs 16:9)
For example, do not try to squeeze a visit in while your dinner is in the oven. That’s baking in disaster (yes, pun intended because we have to have fun sometime). You will be rushing, forget something, have to go back and that’s a sure smile-killer. Yes, friend, learn from my mistakes. Ask God to help with your schedule and learn to leave some open time in it. Do not box yourself in. Creating your own stress-bomb, well, that’s on you, not your loved ones.
Smile until the rest of you catches up with your face (Proverbs 15:13, 15:30)
Caregiving can brew anger, resentment, and bitterness. It’s too late when bitterness starts bubbling over because it bubbles over on everyone in your path. Do not let it happen. Smile and remember that you love this person and they love you.
Take care of yourself so that you can care for your loved ones (Ephesians 5:29)
It’s ok to get professional help with the stress of it all. Set up boundaries with your loved one so that you both know what to expect and when. Sleep, eat right, exercise, and try to do something fun.
I’d love to hear what works for you. Don’t forget to smile!
You can also find me here this week:
Faith on Fire, Lyli Dunbars link-up.
Grace and Truth Link-Up, hosted by Lauren Sparks (This post was featured here)
Inspire Me Monday link-up, hosted by Anita Ojeda
AARP guilt https://www.aarp.org/caregiving/life-balance/info-2017/living-with-guilt-bjj.html?intcmp=AE-CAR-CLB-IL
APA American Psychological Assoc. https://www.apa.org/helpcenter/sandwich-generation
Senior Living, Sandwich Generation Stressors https://www.seniorliving.org/caregiving/sandwich-generation/
Proverbs 31 Ministries, First Five app, Called and Confident by Quantrilla Ard, on 1 Chronicles 14
Spiritual Gift of Mercy, https://iblp.org/questions/what-spiritual-gift-mercy
Photo credits: Unsplash.com