When my girls were younger we came across a card game called Slamwich. It is a fun, fast paced game, where you build sandwiches using cards that have pictures of bread, lettuce, bacon and other sandwich type fixings. While you are trying to build your sandwich you have to keep an eye out for the sandwich thieves who try to steal your sandwiches. At certain points in the game you slam your hand down yelling, "Slamwich," if you see the fixings for an entire sandwich, sandwiched in the discard pile. It was a favorite game of many of the kids their age and would often be accompanied by lots of yelling and slamming.
You may have heard of the sandwich generation. This phrase refers to people who are of an age where their lives are sandwiched between the demands of their children struggling for autonomy and the demands of caring for aging parents. The point at which one enters the sandwich arena depends on the age and maturing of the children and the increasing demands of parents with failing health or mental capabilities.
This past weekend I went to visit my mother. My father died 10 years ago, so my mother has been living alone for quite a while now. My oldest brother lives in the area, so he is there for her when she needs a job done around the house, if there is an emergency, or just to have her over for dinner with the family. I am thankful that Jeff is there and that he has taken an active part in helping my aging mother. He is definitely in sandwich mode.
As I drove the five and a half hours home, I began to think about that term and the thought struck me that it is really more like the slamwich generation! Sometimes, it feels more like we are getting slammed between the demands of these other generations of people. I think many of our children are self focused. We were too at that age. They don't often think outside the box of go to work, hang out with friends, go to school. Life revolves around what pleases them and what they think makes life significant. Married children are establishing their own homes, their own routines and starting families. You would think that it makes it easier for us who are in the middle of the bread! But I am still helping them out, whether it be with a little money to help them through another month of bills, or being available for babysitting. For older people, their demands are more obvious. While I was at my mother's she was having a large amount of anxiety over many different things. She has a harder time sleeping at night, so even that becomes a source of fear. I was able to calm her and help her work through some of that. I don't know about you other sandwichers, but it can be both mentally and emotionally taxing to be in this position..
I have a few bits of advice for all of us who are feeling like we are on display in the deli case at an upscale grocery store:
1. Remember, you are an essential part of that other person's life. They wouldn't be making demands of you, if you weren't needed or appreciated. Well, okay, the appreciation thing is questionable, but you are needed. Whether you are caring for your live-in mother-in-law with dementia, or caring for your grandson while his single mother goes to work, you are important.
2. God has a purpose in all of the messes of life, the lovely ones and the ugly ones. His desire is that we reflect His characteristics of love, compassion, gentleness and long suffering. Long suffering is definitely a slamwich characteristic.
3. I saw a quote recently on a picture at a thrift store over the weekend that I almost brought home with me:
How appropriate for those of us who are feeling the pressure of being in the slamwich generation. We have to have patience with these people we love, especially when the pressure is great. Our responses to them can turn them toward Jesus or turn them away. We also need patience with ourselves. There are times we need to get away. Take a walk. Don't answer the phone. Take a long bubble bath. Read a book. Get together with your friends and watch a movie. Be good to yourself and give yourself a break. And we need to be patient with God. He is trustworthy and He knows what He's doing, even when we don't have a clue.
I want to encourage all of you who find yourselves feeling like the salami and cheese smashed between two pieces of stale wheat bread, hang in there. You are not alone and you are His beautiful servant bringing hope and comfort to those in need.