If you think, because today’s title mentions Paninis (a distinctively Millennial thing), that this post is going to trash Millennials, you would be incorrect.
I love Millennials. I raised Millennials. I thoroughly enjoy Millennials. I believe Millennials are our future. But that’s a topic for another day. (I will get to that topic one day, trust me.)
I also happen to like Paninis.
But I digress.
Today’s post is about Baby Boomers, …ahem… my generation. I may have been born at the tail end of said generation, but I’m a Boomer nonetheless. A young-ish Boomer. One still considered a youngster by my elder peers. But they’re the old farts. Not me.
Again, I digress.
Over the years, I’ve heard my generation referred to as the “sandwich” generation. We’re called that because we find ourselves caught between the needs of our longer-living parents (“The Greatest Generation”) and our later-launching offspring (Gen Xer, Gen Yers or Millennials, depending on where their parents fall in the Boomer range).
Apparently this caught-in-the-middle-thing didn’t happen to earlier generations whose elders died off in their forties or fifties (or younger). In 1900, total life expectancy in the USA was 47 years. A hundred years later, in 2000, it had increased to 76 years. Today, in the USA, average life expectancy is longer still: 81 years for females (though still 76 years for males).
Advances in medicine, better nutrition, increased safety awareness, better sanitation, nearly universal access to clean drinking water, pharmaceutical discoveries to treat and manage infection and disease — these and more contributed to the Greatest Generation living longer than any generation before.
While our parents lived longer, we Boomers put off starting families for the sake of our educations and careers. We therefore had our children later than our mothers did, waiting until our late 20s or 30s or even early 40s to start and raise our young. We had aging parents while we raised our children, and we were caught in between.
Calling us the “sandwich” generation was accurate. But not entirely so.
I’ll raise you one more.
I was one of few Boomers who had my children while in my early twenties. I was also one of few who gave up grad school and a career because I wanted to get married and stay home with my kids (many of my peers met that desire with condescending sneers, but again, I digress).
Now I’m middle-aged, my children are grown, my 95-year-old mother is still thriving, and my own 30-something daughter chose to have her children in her twenties. That leaves me caught not just between two generations, but three. My mother on one side; my children and grandchildren on the other.
I’m a Panini, the triple-decker kind, pressed between hot, heavy grills.
As I said before, I like Paninis. I like their crusty, chewy breads and their cheese-dripping fillings.
I like eating Paninis.
But I don’t like being one.
It’s too much pressure. I feel squished.
How can I be there for my mother and my adult kids and my grandchildren (let alone my spouse and siblings and friends)? There’s only one of me and three generations of them.
Truth is, I can’t.
I can’t be my mother’s primary caregiver here and spend weeks out of town with my grandchildren 1000 miles away. I can’t be 1000 miles away and be here for my local son who lives alone and might have a diabetic crisis.
If I’m with one loved one, I feel guilty for not being with the other. Or with the other other one.
Yet somehow we make it work.
I am my 95-year-old-independently-living-on-her-own-yet-declining Mother’s primary support and caregiver. But the county supplies Mom with Meals on Wheels and six hours of healthcare aides each week. We’ve learned to hire privately to fill the gaps or if I need a grandbaby fix. We’ve also learned to ask my DTS or DBBs to cover for me if I (or DH and I) need to get away (which they do without complaint; I’m blessed that way).
I am a mother to adult children, one a thousand miles away and two living locally, one of whom has out-of-the-norm medical issues. But if I’m away, my DH is here to handle a crisis if it happens. I’m just grateful that our kids want us involved in their lives, and that they occasionally need us still.
I am MeeMaw to three beautiful grandchildren (no bias, of course), but if I can’t be there as often as I’d prefer, I can FaceTime with them and send packages, and talk on the phone in between visits to foster our ever-growing relationships (they are six, four, and two years old). Long-distance grandparenting is better than no grandparenting.
We’ve worked it out.
Is being sandwiched between three generations overwhelming? Yes. Absolutely, incontrovertably yes. Am I sometimes so exhausted that I feel like crawling into bed and never coming out from under the covers? You betcha.
But I’ve learned to ask for help (and accept it), to allow others to step up and fill the gaps, and to allow myself to do only what I am able to do within the limits of my middle-aged humanity.
And I’ve learned to be grateful: grateful for my mother’s long life (that she’s still with us); grateful that our children want us in their lives; grateful that I even have grandchildren, and even more grateful for the times I giggle with them.
And I remember that this is a season, and like all seasons it will pass.
In the meantime, I figure I have a choice: I can resist being a Panini and feel crushed by the press, or I can welcome the gooey flavorfulnesss that being a Panini brings.
I, for one, prefer gooey and flavorful.
The Panini Generation. Yup, that’s sounds more like me. I have to admit I prefer the sound of “Panini Generation” to “sandwich” generation. Who wants to be a plain ol’ sandwich when you can be a warm, dripping-with-deliciousness Panini!
So here’s to a few more years of multi-generational gooeyness. *clinking my mug to yours*
Sounds yummy to me.
Until next time,