I Am Sandwich Woman

1964: Child, Mother, Grandmothers and Great-Grandmother

And by that I mean, I’m not just fond of a bacon butty (which I most certainly am), I am becoming part of the so-called ‘sandwich generation’: “those who are simultaneously providing care, including financial support, to younger and older generations at the same time.” It is also a nod to Allison Pearson’s column about the fictional character Kate Reddy who finds herself torn between the needs of children and parents.

Women¬†like my mother aimed to be married by the age of 21. Any older and you were in danger of being ‘left on the shelf’. Invariably babies soon followed. So it was with both of our mothers. By the time they were forty their offspring were leaving home for first jobs or university. When I was forty my children were aged 10 and 7. When my husband was forty our eldest child wasn’t even a twinkle in his father’s eye.

Like many couples we now have children who, although they are of college age, are still dependent on us to varying degrees. In DD’s case she still needs us to ferry her about to social engagements, while H may never be wholly independent ¬†(he is learning disabled). At the same time our parents are becoming ever-more-reliant on our help and advice.

These, then, are our sandwich years: sandwiched between children and parents. Not for us the responsibility-free years enjoyed by our parents, who, from the age of 45 onwards only had themselves to please. These were (literally) their carefree (care-free) years.

Once or twice DD has said that she intends to have her children while she is “still young.” My initial reaction was to throw up my hands in horror. But she probably has the right idea. By the time she is my age (50) we, her parents, will be 83 and 94 if we are (un)lucky enough to live so long. In addition, she may also have the added responsibility of caring for her brother. So it would seem we are bringing up the next generation of sandwich carers.

Since 2010 we have been ‘keeping an eye on’ my husband’s mum and her aunt who live together in a nearby market town. They are both fiercely independent, capable, house-proud, northern women. Auntie has been widowed for thirty years and as such has learned to fend for herself. MiL (mother-in-law) was widowed in 2007 and has found it difficult adjusting to being the sole decision-maker.

For the time being our caring is a juggled, from-a-distance affair. This coming Thursday we will take MiL into hospital for a(nother) knee replacement operation. Then OH will pick H up from college for the half-term break. And finally I will take DD to stay with Auntie so that she doesn’t have to go into respite care whilst MiL is in hospital. Like I said, juggling.

Keep your fingers crossed that all goes to plan x