As you get towards the end of your 40s, life usually begins to ‘settle’ if you are lucky. Your career is consolidating; you’ve passed on your gene pool, and you’ve formed social relationships that are stable and rewarding.
And just as you start to think life may even be rosy, it starts to take an interesting turn. You find yourself in the sandwich.
On the one side, you have kids flowering into adulthood, causing your relationship with them to change from authoritative to co-operative, bringing with it the fear of letting go. On the other, you have parents wilting into the sunset of their lives, causing your relationship to change from co-operative to supportive, bringing with it, again, the fear of letting go but in a more permanent sense.
In our own community here in Australia, many of us have family relationships split across two continents: one, with seniors back in India, and two, with their young families here in Australia. (This, of course, excludes those that now have their elderly parents living with them here.)
Those with split families in two continents, experience the tyranny of distance. The advantage, often, is the strong network of social support that India offers. There are solid community and family bonds that facilitate access and availability of assistance for the elders in the family. The challenge for the middle generation is to manage time, so as to be able to spend large periods with the elderly parents.
The advantage in the Australian system is that employment can offer you breaks and with longevity in a company, there are options of long service leave etc which can be availed. However at that stage of your professional lives, job responsibilities are such that it may be difficult to have extended breaks. While professionally, there may be an option to manage the situation, another challenge arises from the next generation. Specific challenges can be faced such as in case it is an HSC year and the parent needs to be overseas on family duty.
Of course, the pressures are different if the three generations are together in Australia. While there is no need for travel, there is limited social support, and so there are demands on time to care for the parents.
In either case, there is no simple solution as the squeeze is felt; rather, the challenge is how to manage these responsibilities.
Sandwichers should consider this a stage of development with its own particular challenges. Recognise that there is no right way, and your unique circumstances will require you to tailor your own solutions to suit. Perhaps you can prepare yourself by developing, over the years, relationships with both generations that are nurturing and honest. There’s a lesson there for younger readers not yet feeling the squeeze.
And for those in the thick of things right now, a reminder: take time out to look after your own selves as you look after others. Ensure you have healthy eating and sleeping patterns. Adopt a flexible approach as you plan your daily schedules.
Treasure every moment with your loved ones.