I first heard of the Sandwich Generation in my Master’s program Human Growth & Development class. The term refers to folks who are simultaneously caring for their children and aging parents. I never gave this much thought as it might apply to me–until now when I find myself somewhat sandwiched. I have an almost 2 year old daughter and baby #2 on the way, and since late December have watched as my mother lies in a hospital bed struggling to come back to us from what doctors believe is a stroke. Life though continues to roll. Gas prices keep rising, the mailman keeps coming, the bills keep pouring in. Phone, satellite, insurance…all bills arriving with mouths open like insatiable beasts demanding to be fed. When such an integral part of the family is out of commission it only seems fair that everything else would be put on pause. But no…the world keeps moving even when yours is falling apart. “Life goes on” can be so cruel.
I travel the uneventful stretch of highway to my parent’s house and sit at the kitchen table where my mother has sat so many times before and I work with my father to pay the bills. We are clumsy in our attempts to navigate her system, but the task gets done. I can almost feel the cosmic shift as I take on this role that should never be mine; I don’t lament it but rather struggle to keep myself grounded as the baby becomes a parent. I chafe at wearing this particular sweater of responsibility, but you go where you’re needed and so here I am and here I must stay.
As leaders, these sandwiched times will come to us all. While it may not be aging parents you will face times when you must assume responsibilities that are uncomfortable and unwanted. You’ll probably feel as uncomfortable in that situation as I feel in mine. Leadership doesn’t mean these feelings won’t come, or that you’ll even have the perfect answer. Being a leader means you have the stamina to endure and the fortitude to stand when all you want to do is cut and run.
I am sustained by my faith that this too shall pass, and that the many prayers going up for my mother are being heard and yes I know without a doubt, being answered. Until she is fully recovered and resumes her rightful place at the table I’ll do all I can to keep the ship afloat. This is what it means to support the people you love…to honor your parents…to be a good daughter…and yes, to be sandwiched.