The Sandwich Generation

The Sandwich Generation October 2, 2011

When I am driving, I tend to jumble all the noises in the car as one big mixture of sound.  It is almost music to my ears.  There is someone talking non-stop, another snoring, one crying and one screaming for no apparent reason.  Since I cannot keep everyone at peace, I just let them be and focus on the road instead.  This is a typical afternoon for me.  It may seem as if I am talking about a car full of rowdy, uncontrollable children.  However, only two of them are my kids. The other two are my parents.

I am proud to say that I am part of a “sandwich” generation.  I am taking care of my kids and parents at the same time.  I have a preschooler and a toddler, and my retired parents are in their mid- to late- sixties.  My father has been quite sick for some time now, and my mother needs a good amount of help taking care of him.  She has plenty of health issues herself.  They live on their own about a half-hour south of me.  I am there almost every other day running errands for them, taking them on outings, helping them around the house, and just giving them company.  My kids are with me the whole time.  I do not mind it at all.  I consider myself truly blessed.  I have been given the opportunity to take care of my parents after all they have done for me.  In my faith, parents are highly regarded; we have to honor and respect them unreservedly and treat them with utter kindness.

It can be hard sometimes to balance my time and energy between my kids and my parents.  My mom tries to help me out with my kids as much as she can, but most of her time goes to assisting my dad.  He needs help showering, getting dressed, walking, and doing simple tasks.  Plus, the man absolutely loves food, so she is constantly cooking for him throughout the day.  Unfortunately, I can not be much help in that department, because he only prefers my mom’s cooking.  Nevertheless, it is this exact selflessness of my mother’s that inspires me to do more for them.

My kids have definitely gotten used to this lifestyle.  They enjoy spending time with their grandparents, and they learn so much from them.  In the same way, being around the kids keeps my parents content, energized, and distracted from their health issues.  For example, my dad can not run around with the kids, so instead he tells stories to them, loves to tickle them, and plays simple games with them.  Their favorite game is when he asks for a hug, he pretends to trap them, so the kids have to find a way out of the hug.  If my daughter complains of her legs hurting due to restless leg syndrome, my mom forgets all about her arthritis and massages her granddaughter’s legs for her.

These types of moments are what give me purpose in my daily life.  I can honestly say though that I did not learn to value my parents until I became a parent myself.  I hope one day my kids will be able to take care of me in my old age as well.  They will only learn that by example.  It is never too early to instill in my kids these types of family values, which are a huge part of my religion.  It is one of the things I find so beautiful about Islam.  Trying to be a good person, keeping good relations, and treating people with kindness is what being a Muslim means to me.

Tayyaba Syed

Tayyaba is a freelance journalist from Illinois. She has been featured on NPR and writes for numerous publications. She also speaks about marriage and family. Most importantly, she is blessed to be a mother of two little adventurers and blogs at  “Parenting One’s Parents” ( The Sandwich Generation) was featured on the NPR show “Speaking of Faith”.

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