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I am ham. Or jam

Today we’re having children later and seeing our parents live to a greater age. It’s bound to affect our lifestyles – perhaps more than we were expecting.

One day you’re running around after your children, rushing to open evenings or sports and after school clubs, and playing taxi to a burgeoning social life. The next day, you think your life is your own again. And then almost as quickly, you’re back in the driving seat, visiting your parents, collecting the shopping and taking in the grand tour of local surgeries and hospitals.

For many, it’s worse than this. It’s not a sequential activity. The needs of our children and our parents are starting to overlap, and we’re getting no space to breathe.

This is the “sandwich generation”.

Our parents and our grandparents were more likely to have children young, and enjoy a bit of break before taking on care for their parents. Now though we are starting families later, and our parents are living longer. Taking responsibility for others is turning into something we could be doing for most of our adult life.

And of course, we’re not just nuclear families anymore. We have not just parents and in-laws (or out-laws) to consider, but potentially also a whole range of aunts, uncles and step-people who might be in need of help.

It’s going to be absolutely vital for our sanity and family harmony that we get some balance in here, and quickly. However much we feel we love, respect and owe our parents, if we over-commit to helping them out, everyone’s going to end up unhappy.

Partners and children will have the choice of joining in or feeling left out if you focus on your parents first. Parents will feel let down if we make promises we can’t keep.

However much we’re driven by generosity or guilt, we need to be sensible in what we can do. And that means forward planning, rather than constant knee-jerk reactions. We can plan to give our parents a day a week, or a fortnight, or a month even. We can plan to call them regularly. We can plan to take them with us on short breaks and holidays. If everyone knows where we stand, we can aim to be a healthier sandwich.

Do you have a partner who thought that “us time” was finally on the horizon again, and is now being horribly disappointed? Do you feel just the tiniest bit resentful yourself? Do you have practical tips to make the sandwich a little less painful, or even enjoyable? Let off steam by commenting below.

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