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Love and Hate

The ups, downs and overall delights of parenthood
Sep 8, 2010
08:20 AM

I Hate Being the Meat in the Sandwich Generation

It's a little unnerving when you realize that your parents are gradually becoming a little less self-reliant and a little more dependent on you, especially when you still have your own kids to raise

I Hate Being the Meat in the Sandwich Generation

Some people like to say that American kids grow up too fast. That certainly wasn't true in my case. I went well into my 30s with a very child-like, selfish sensibility. I could make (and happily spend) my own money, do whatever I wanted with my spare time, and have potato chips for breakfast and bananas for dinner, if I wanted to.

But it was my lack of responsibility that made me think something was missing. I wanted kids. I wanted control over something bigger than my silly adolescent life.

Well, now I have responsibilities – in abundance, thank you very much.

It was a shock when my daughter came along and I realized the world was no longer about me. Suddenly my life was about serving someone else. Hey, wait a minute. You mean now YOU are going to make messes and I am going to clean them up? How did that happen?

Then we had another daughter. And I got used to being a big girl (about time, in my 40s) and became a normal, busy, crazy, bossy, responsible mom.

But I did learn one important reason NOT to have kids so late in life: It makes for older grandparents!

When I get exhausted I can't drop the girls off for 12 or 24 hours at Grandma's, as so many younger moms seem to do. My mother's threshold for kiddo chaos is limited to about three hours. And I've noticed that when we are with Grandma she has something in common with the kids: She seems to need a lot of direction. I spend half of my time telling everyone what to do.

"Patti, come over here." "Suzi, don't pick that up, honey, it's dirty." "Mom, no, we're going this way." I begin to feel like a drum major, tussling to keep my little marching band in line and playing the same tune. Someone has to be in control.

My mother put it simply when we were all on vacation together. After I curtly told her to do something, Mom turned to my daughter and said, "Just when I'm getting less bossy in life, your mom is getting MORE bossy."

It was true. But hey, my mom's lucky. Now she can coast. And she seems pretty darned happy NOT to take responsibility, too. How else can you explain it when she gives the girls a handful of chocolates right before dinner!

But don't get me wrong. Both my mother and parents-in-law are perfectly capable of running their own lives. It's just I'm starting to see patterns. My mother once wandered away at the zoo and got lost for a frightening half hour before I found her calmly smoking a cigarette, her cell phone turned off.

My husband's parents are more likely to get lost in technology. I have twice spent agonizing eternities on the phone with my mother-in-law, helping her sign up for online accounts, only to hear her say (as I wiped frustration sweat from my forehead with trembling hands), "What? They want my credit card number? I've seen on Dateline what can happen if you put your credit card online. Well, they can just forget it! This computer business is a bunch of nonsense!"

Sometimes I'd really rather give up all this responsibility and let my mother take over again, lay down all the rules and make all the tough decisions. While that's not going to happen, I bet she has one good motherly turn left in her. After my mom reads this blog, she's going send me to bed without my supper.

Sep 9, 2010 04:16 pm
 Posted by  Anonymous

Hi Sharon-
I think we're soul sisters! You are living my life, except for the fact that I have 1 boy instead of 2 girls.
The last 8 months have really tested my mettle. My parents have had some major health issues this year, and I'm worn out. Like you, I have days when I wish I were 30 again, with no responsibilities.
I, too, have turned into a drill sergeant. I tell my son what to do, my parents what to do, and my siblings what to do.
What I've learned is that you have to know your limits. Do what you can do. Make sure that you nurture yourself as well. When you take time for your life, you have the energy to happily take care of others that rely on you. Humor helps too! I keep my parents laughing about our new 'roles' and the tension melts away.
I love the way you tackled this topic!
Pamela Beaudet

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