Relationships: The Sandwich Generation Challenge
In January of 2011, it looked like I was going to lose my mother. She was suffering from a rare kind of pneumonia, a type that comes on fast and made her incredibly ill. It took a bit of time for us to realize something was going on; she was exhibiting some altered behavior that I thought was the result of mixing medications, but it turned out she was hypoxic—meaning her brain wasn't getting enough oxygen. It was awful.
A medically induced coma, lung biopsy, and a couple of weeks in the hospital left her weak and struggling, but alive. It was a miracle. But after she finished up three months of rehab and moved back into her condo, it was clear that she was going to have to move in with us. The combination of her health and financial issues (not working for months on end put her in bad financial straits, and there was only so much we could do to support her, although we tried).
We got our house ready, and were happy to move her in with us. In retrospect, though, I realize that in some ways we romanticized the move. We thought how nice it would be to have the extra help with my daughter, as well as have someone share some of the household chores with (something my husband and I are not good at balancing with our full workloads).
But naturally, it has not been all sunshine and roses. Or, frankly, even close to that.
My mother’s health continues to be a challenge, so she hasn’t been able to help around the house, and she is often too tired to help much with my daughter. The prolonged lack of oxygen she suffered from the pneumonia caused some (fairly mild) brain damage which, while understandable, can be frustrating when you have to repeat something multiple times (don’t ask about how hard it can be to watch TV with her at night). Plus, of course, there are the old family issues, which sadly don’t go away just because I’m an adult. As a friend said to me once, “Of course your mom pushes your buttons; she installed them!”
But even with the challenges, we’ve managed to make it work ... most of the time. My husband—the utter saint of this story—has been amazing about including her into his family caretaking duties, always filling the gas tank in her car and making sure anything she needs carried gets where she wants it to go, and helping her when I go out of town for business. My daughter loves having an additional audience for her lengthy stories, and even if my mom doesn’t feel too well, she’s always up for a board game or dolls.
So, I’d have to say, I’m really happy that she’s under our roof, and that she survived her awful sickness (after all, the alternative is rather unthinkable). It can be hard; I could write a book about things to avoid when combining households the way we did. But having three generations of family together is, after all, pretty amazing.
What relationships are important to you, and what are you doing to strengthen them?
Featured image courtesy of Flickr.
Cecily Kellogg is the mom of nearly six year old daughter, a wife, and the social media strategist for AboutOne, an online family organizer that turns your phone into a remote control for your life, working with your existing calendar and contact tools so you can automatically organize, store, and share family memories and household paperwork. Through web and mobile apps, AboutOne guides you along the path to organization, rewarding you along the way for meeting your organizational goals.