Monday, June 20, 2011

Flying By the Seat of My Pants - an Interview About the Sandwich Generation

This morning I was interviewed by Heather Mundell, a life coach who hosts Mom In the Balance, a website for mothers who find themselves part of the Sandwich Generation. The interview was delightful... Heather made me feel very comfortable, and I found myself feeling like I was simply having a conversation with a fellow member of this group. I will post a link to the interview when I receive it. Meanwhile, be sure to check out Heather's website. She may just offer a service you are needing. I am flattered to think that Heather considers me something of an "expert" in any way/shape/form on the Sandwich Generation... most days I pretty much fly by the seat of my pants!

Friday, we kept Timothy for a few hours while his mom took care of some personal business. He was as fun as ever, and we enjoyed him immensely. He was with us about four hours... which was a good length of time for an impromptu visit! We are always glad to keep him; however, I think at this stage in his life, a stay of more than a couple of days and nights is a little much for him. He really missed his family during the week he spent with us when his sister, Zola, was born... and I think it was confusing for him. We are fairly sure he thought he was returning for another lengthy stay on Friday, and he cried and didn't want to leave. I am sure he got over it quickly, but when a baby is clinging to your neck and crying to stay, it's hard to put them in the car!

My niece and my sister took the children to see Mam-ma last week... her first introduction to Zola, her second great-great-grandchild. She really enjoyed getting to see them, and as I visited with her yesterday, she told me about how she held the tiny baby and marveled at her small size and delicate features.

When I arrived at the ALF yesterday, Mam-ma said rather gruffly, "Well! I thought y'all had forgotten me!" I asked why she thought that, and she said, "Well, I hadn't heard from anybody!" I told her that I had tried to call her several times over the last few days, and I never could catch her in her apartment. I added with a laugh... "You're apparently too busy to talk to us on the phone!" Then I reminded her that my sister and niece had visited and brought the children... and I knew that she had spoken by phone with my mother. It was just one in a handful of minor complaints she voiced.

I think the main problem this week is the heat. We are having brutal heat in Arkansas... hotter than normal for June - actual temps as high as 100-105.  When you add humidity, you have a recipe for some serious heat troubles.  Mam-ma was complaining that she could not sit out on the porch. There was a breeze, she said, but the air was so humid and thick that she could not get her breath.  And I know this keeps her from walking outside around the facility like she enjoys.  So when my grandmother cannot get outside for awhile each day, things are not right in her world.

I asked Mam-ma if she would be having tea time last night... she supposed they would.  "But it's not been very good the last couple of nights."  I asked why, and she said, "Well, one night Molly (a younger woman from her church) brought milk shakes for everyone."  "Oh, that sounds nice," I said.  She replied with a harrumph... "Well, I couldn't drink it all."  I commiserated that perhaps a milk shake after dinner was a little much, but I also pointed out that she didn't have to drink all of it - and I am sure Molly didn't care.  "So, if Molly brought enough for everyone... what was the problem?"  "Well, I just couldn't drink it all!" she said.  I surmised that there were probably some ladies who could drink all of it, and she confirmed that yes, there were. 

One of my grandmother's chief "complaints" about the ALF is that "there is too much food, and I can't eat it all."  I do not consider this a problem.  There is no way that the facility can personally tailor every plate to the appetite (at that moment) of each resident.

Heather asked me what I have learned from my years as a member of the Sandwich Generation... what advice would I offer?  Here's what I told her:
  1. Remember that your loved ones are still real people, no matter how crazy or irrational they may become... or how ridiculous their comments may seem.  They still deserve dignity... and toward that end, we must allow them to vent and express themselves and filter the comments and behaviors accordingly.
  2. Remind yourself, "It's not about me.  It's not my fault.  I am not responsible for this."  Do not own your loved one's frustrations.  Understand them, commiserate as much as possible, and do what must be done to cope, but do not take that upon yourself.  Remind yourself that your loved one is frustrated, scared - and perhaps not thinking clearly - and this is the only way they know to express this... then leave as much as you can at the door.
  3. Do not forget to take care of yourself and your own family.  If you have a spouse, be sure to make time for him/her that does not include conversation and activity with the children and/or elderly loved one.  It is truly about balance, as Heather's website suggests... and do not get so caught up in your loved one's life and concerns that you neglect your children... or vice versa.  Above all, take some time for yourself... recognizing that unless you do, you will be of no use to anyone else.  Do not beat yourself up for time spent on a workout... the afternoon you take to scrapbook or shop for a new dress... or the 30 minutes you spend soaking in the tub! 

    Don't feel guilty for screening calls and returning them later... or telling your loved one, "I cannot do that today."  Remember... you are only one person, and while the world will not fall apart if you are not there to do everything, it won't function as well without you. So make sure you do all you can to be as well as you can - mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually!
  4. Although I didn't mention this directly in the interview, don't hesitate to get help and support, if you need it.  Read blogs like this one - and websites like Heather's.  Spend a few $$ and get books that will help you - or hire Heather to help you balance your life!  The one component that has been in large measure missing for me in this journey has been support from others with "hands-on" experience.   I have friends to whom I can vent, and an incredibly supporting and loving husband... but there have been times when I really wished I had some sort of "Hotline" to call to say, "HELP!  What do I do now?" 

    This was in large part why I started this blog, and I do hope that you feel you can contact me and ask this very question.  I may not have the answer you need, but I will do all I can to help you find it.  And so will people like Heather! 
The Sandwich Generation is definitely a lesson in balance.  Some days are better than others, but if we all stick together, we can stay as close to the center as possible!


Paula @ Simply Sandwich said...

Hi Debbie - popping over from Heather's blog and wanted to tell you how much I enjoyed the interview! Thanks for the great advice in this juggling time of life! :)

Debbie Robus said...

Hey, Paula... I appreciate your comments. Thanks for visiting my blog!

Best Wishes...