I’ve never liked sandwiches. In fact, since grade school I’ve struggled to eat them. As a child I once stared down a salami sandwich for 6 hours and even forfeited a dinner out with family friends but I was determined – I wasn’t eating it. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve developed an affinity for specialty sandwiches – a Roast Beef/Boursin Sub or an Italian with everything on it. It’s the extras that make it worthwhile and enjoyable to eat.
When I read this Wall Street Journal article, “I Feel Very Torn Between My Child and My Dad’—Demands Intensify for the Sandwich Generation,” it resonated with me. So many of today’s caregivers have a variety of responsibilities and many of them involve caring for several different generations.
According to the Pew Research Center nearly half (47%) of adults in their 40s and 50s have a parent age 65 or older and are either raising a young child or financially supporting a grown child (age 18 or older).
When you think about that number it’s astonishing – so many of us share a caring burden that is multi-generational. Interestingly it’s not just caretaking – it’s also the financial burden that has increased and the stressors associated with it. Further emphasizing the need to care for yourself.
My experience with sandwiches seems the perfect metaphor for a different way to approach this type of caregiving. Finding the little extras that add meaning to my caregiving experience seem to make all the difference. Being the smushed deli meat in the middle definitely reflects how I feel about caregiving some days, but if I can add in the tasty extras like pickles, or in this metaphor a walk, then life is more enjoyable.
Below are some ideas to help find “the pickles” or rather several approaches to bring a little self-compassion to your life:
Give yourself the patience, acceptance, and caring you give to others.
Discover self-soothing by having compassion for yourself when you are experiencing difficulty.
Talk to yourself in a nurturing, accepting way.
Treat your body with love and care – take a walk or meet a friend for coffee.
Find joy in the caregiving process – even mundane tasks can feel pleasant.
As we proceed on this complex caregiving journey together, we hope you find ways to be a better friend to yourself.