I’m part of the sandwich generation. And if you’re reading this, and caring for a spouse or parent(s) while raising children, you’re in this club too. It’s an exclusive club none of us ever wanted to be part of, but here we are.
So the question is, what part of the sandwich are we?
I believe the person who came up with the cliché “sandwich generation” connected caregivers to the meaty middle part of the sandwich – viced between two worlds (bread) that need our constant and all-consuming attention. (Good) Bread (with salted butter), in my books, always needs my constant attention – goodness I love carbs.
But as a caregiver, I’m not so sure that I’m the meaty part of this metaphorical sandwich. More often than not, I’m the sour, salty, or sweet (rarely) condiment that brings the sandwich together and makes it “work.” Sometimes I’m spicy mustard, and sometimes I’m a sweet Texas BBQ sauce. It just depends on whether you’re the insurance company denying coverage – or the sweet nurse whose faxing all of the test results to another doctor, and following up to let me know that the fax went through.
Being part of the sandwich generation also means that we’re perpetually waiting for the other shoe to drop.
You see, I care for my darling husband (DH) who lives with – and battles against – Multiple Sclerosis. Being in our late 30s (me) early 40s (him), we’re in the middle of raising two littles who we adore and live for, but we also have parents who are getting older. In a situation as complex as this, something is bound to go wrong.
Maybe it’s just my caregiver anxiety talking – but in knowing other caregivers, I’ve learned that the unpredictability of managing a chronic condition means that we always need to be prepared for the worst possible thing to happen.
I do wonder how we will manage when the other shoe does drop. Mostly I wonder how we will cope emotionally – logistics can usually be farmed out – but heartache is never logical.
Sometimes, I think about what life might have been like for us if we were 10 or 20 years older. DH would have been diagnosed at a time when there weren’t many options for medications, or studies on how therapies may help protect functionality. We can’t predict what the outcomes would have been 10 or 20 years earlier, but it certainly looks bleak.
And while advancements in therapies for MS have made progress, this isn’t the case for all caregivers who are lovingly moving through the journey of illness with their spouse – or anyone for that matter.
Being sandwiched isn’t for the faint of heart – but I suppose that life for caregivers has always been difficult. In those hard moments, we get to decide how to add flavor or color to the situation – and in 2019, the condiment section is the largest aisle in the grocery store.