What, you might be asking, is the club sandwich generation?
Let's start with a simple definition:
The Sandwich generation: Baby Boomers in their 30's and 40's stuck between caring for later in life children and aging parents.
Translation: You, the Baby Boomer, followed the feminist advice and started your career before starting your family. At the same time, medical science helped your WW II parents live longer lives, while many times coping with chronic illnesses. As a result, at say, 40, you have to raise a 10 year old, and care for a 70 year old parent who is taking a lot longer to die than his parents did.
The Club sandwich generation: Gen Xers, in their 30's and 40's stuck between caring for later in life children, aging parents and grandparents.
Translation: You, the Gen Xer, followed the bad feminist advice from the Baby Boomers and started your career before starting your family, and you started even later. At the same time, hard living helped you Baby Boomer start dealing with chronic illnesses earlier in life. And your grandparents are sill limping along, while your Baby Boomer parents are becoming less willing or able to care for them. As a result you are 40, with a 5 year old to raise, a 70 year old parent to care for and a 90 year old to look after as well.
(A therapist named Carol Abaya may have copyrighted the term "Club Sandwich Generation". I've been using it for 20 years now, since my family started expecting caretaking behavior when I was quite young. However, if she wants the copyright, or trademark, or whatever, I really don't care. She can have the credit, I'm still using the term)
In my family this translates into a number of issues. My Mother put my Grandfather into an assisted living facility last year. It's working out well for him, he really needed more care than she was willing to provide. However, she has made it quite clear that she would rather he shut up and go away. Anything more than check writing is a major imposition on her life.
And yet, he needs some care. Yes, his day-to-day needs are met, but he needs to know that he is loved and respected, he is still part of a family, and that his family is still willing to provide what care the facility cannot.
Mother has also recently moved into town, for the express purpose of living closer to me "so that you can care for me as I get old". Given that she is 60, a fairly brittle Diabetic, with high blood pressure and Glaucoma, in a family with a history of heart disease as well, odds are she is going to need more care, and sooner rather than later. She is already on some fairly heavy-duty meds, doesn't exercise, and has refused to follow a diet plan in any but the most nominal way. (She also calls me Mommy. Very trippy.)
Pop, on the other hand, has reached 90 while navigating most of the major health related issues common to men in his demographic. While he dealt with the emotional issues common to all veterans, and the minor issues common to someone of the WW II era, he has encountered neither cancer nor Diabetes, neither heart disease nor stroke, and none of the common forms of dementia. He could easily continue on for another 10 years without encountering any major issues, and finally die of just running out of steam.
In the meantime, the husband and I haven't even started our family yet.
So I must say I'm very glad we have structured our lives around one-income. Two elderly relatives and a couple of young children are going to keep my busy enough over the coming decade. However, that's one of the big reasons why we can't physically move to the country, I have multiple levels of aging and elderly relatives to care for, they refuse to or cannot leave town, and the drive between the country and town would be too much.
Personally, I'm already tired.
(Note - 02/21/2008 - This past January my father and step-mother informed me that they were moving to the area because we have excellent health care and because they have family here who can help take care of them. His other children are in Montana and Florida, hers are in Nevada.
Sigh - AC)