My parents passed away when I was young, events that reshaped my world and forced me to grow up quickly. At twenty-five, I was on my own. It was a painful experience, and yet, as I watch some of my friends and family now struggling with the responsibilities of navigating the sandwich generation, I can’t help but feel a sense of relief that I’m being spared from that responsibility. There is a distinct difference between my journey and the one that many are walking, juggling the pressures of caring for kids and aging parents simultaneously.
My husband is one of them, sandwiched between work, our family’s demands, and his parent’s needs. I watch him try to hold it all together when something unexpected happens, his face etched with worry, his shoulders heavy with responsibility, always trying hard to see the positive.
Caretaking is simple and complicated at the same time. Simple in that you show up and be a loving presence. Sounds simple, right? It’s much more complex because, well, we’re only human. One moment, he’s the caring son, patiently listening to his father’s stories he’s heard many times and his mother’s repeated questions she asked just 10 minutes before. The next, he’s annoyed at having to repeat himself over and over because his Dad forgot to put in his hearing aids, and sadly, his Mom forgot the answer he gave just moments before. Caring for aging parents is not about our own convenience, and it’s hard to keep this in mind when we’re in the thick of it. When frustration sets in, which is normal, I tell my husband to pretend they’re someone else’s parents. Why are we often kinder to people we hardly know? It can be an opportunity to find closure and peace in our relationship with our parents.
So, no, I’m not a part of the sandwich generation, but I’m living it through my husband. I’m there for him, doing what I can, but I’m on the outside, looking in. I care deeply about my in-laws; they have been in my life longer than my own parents. But I am mindful that they are not my parents, so I give support with care and respect.
Watching my husband navigate this journey reaffirms that I married the right man. He approaches it with love, honor, and grace. Watching him navigate this experience is a valuable lesson for our kids, who I hope will learn from his example and grow to be as gracious as he is.