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I’m a Burnt Grilled Cheese in the Sandwich Generation

If 2012 has taught me anything – it’s taught me that I am a card-carrying member of the Sandwich generation. I’m living inside the sandwich. Tightly packed between extra toasted bread and melted cheese.

In January, we began the massive process of cleaning out my mom’s house. She and my dad purchased the tri-level house in 1970 when they were first married and never moved.

My dad passed away a few years ago and it is time for my mom to downsize and live in something with less maintenance and fewer stairs.

The process has been exhausting. I’ve spent at least a day every weekend since January at my mom’s house sorting through rooms and rooms of stuff. She loves her stuff – it has so many memories of those who have passed on.

We have sorted, we have donated, held garage sales, argued and slowly moved through the entire house. It should finally go on the market this week.

Last week, my mom was diagnosed with a rare nerve disorder caused by her diabetes. She has severe weakness in one leg and although doctors say she will recover, it will take a lot of time and patience.

She can’t handle stairs at this point, so she is staying with us. We don’t have a bedroom on our main level, so she’s staying on the sleeper sofa in the living room.

Meanwhile, I hold a part-time job and run a mom taxi service for my two elementary-aged daughters. Taking a weekend day every week for my mom has been difficult. My husband has had to take over with laundry and household duties and I have precious little time to take care of all the demands in my life.

With my mom now living with us and unable to drive, I am a full-blown taxi service, maid, cook, confidant and assistant for everyone. My entire life consists of caring for people.

There is nothing more difficult than choosing between taking care of my mother and my children.

I’ve been so focused on taking care of my mom that I feel my kids are losing out. I’ve taken them to the pool once so far this summer and that’s it. We aren’t enjoying the carefree summer. Instead, I’m stressed to the max while I try to juggle everything.

Let’s not forget my husband and I. We come in dead last in the care department. When there aren’t enough hours in the day to take care of everyone and everything, there’s no way we have time for ourselves. I’m so drained I’m ready to go to bed at 8:00 every night.

The thing that scares me the most? Growing old and becoming a drain on my children. No parent wants their children to get stressed taking care of them. All I really want to do is clean out my house and let go of everything I’m hanging on to and get my affairs in order. Now.

I know I am not alone. So many of my friends are going through similar demands from aging parents and growing children. It is incredibly difficult to take care of everything and everyone in your life, especially when there are two generations with needs burning your grilled cheese sandwich from the top and bottom.

The truly sad part? Knowing when things eventually slow down, our parents will be gone and our children grown.

How do you like your grilled cheese? With a side of fries? Pickle?


Susan Wells
Author: Susan Wells

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  1. Oh, this part slays me: “The truly sad part? Knowing when things eventually slow down, our parents will be gone and our children grown.”

    I wish it were easier, Susan. XOXO

  2. This is so true, Susan. My parents don’t live near me but we’re definitely in a transitional period when the kids become the parents. It’s tough but your concluding remarks summed it all up!

  3. I can only offer you a shoulder (open 24/7/365) and the advice my mother gave me, which she reminds me of almost daily:

    “You can’t overload a lifeboat. If you do, EVERYBODY drowns.”

    I asked her, then, what I should do if/when she becomes incapacitated.

    She made me promise to take care of my own children first, and if that meant hiring someone or investigating a “facility,” so be it. She told me that the thought of depriving my children of a lot of time and experiences was horrific to her, and definitely not what she wanted under any circumstances.

    Mom sacrificed many years of her own life, taking care of her mother and later, my dad. She says this is not what she wants for any of her own kids, and made us promise not to renege on this promise.

    Whether we will or not, I don’t know. Yet. But I do know that your small children deserve to have you there for them, and that your mom would agree. I know this about your mom because she raised you, and you’re a beautiful person.

    I also know that you will probably continue to try to cope with it all, again, because you’re a beautiful person.

    But remember my mom’s advice about the lifeboat. Fill it too full and everybody drowns.

    Days with your growing children are also passing by, and we never get that back.

    Hard times. I’ll be thinking about you.

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