Like many of you, I was at the grocery store stocking up this week (responsibly – stop the hoarding, people!). I’m a working parent living through COVID-19, so things have been ad-hoc and chaotic at best. I had my son strapped into the cart and was taking a work call while simultaneously making sure I had enough of his favorite snacks and the right medications for my father-in-law. It was at that moment that I realized for the first time; I am the sandwich generation. I’ve talked to many who face the dual challenge and burden of caring for their kids and their parents at the same time. It sounds hard. It sounds stressful. It sounds exhausting. I’ve never considered myself to be in that same position before. But now that, too, has changed thanks to COVID-19.
My in-laws are here with us for the duration of whatever happens. My father-in-law is the oldest of the grandparents, and not in excellent health. He’s the most at risk in our family, and we’ve now found ourselves trying to protect and care for him during this crisis. My own parents are in another part of the country. Their fear is palpable and the distance makes it worse. I’m not alone. Many of the other working parents I’ve spoken with this week have found themselves in the same position: slammed straight into that sandwich with no warning. For many of us with healthy but aging parents, the coronavirus has forced us to reckon with how vulnerable they actually are. We’re a generation who pushed off many of the markers of adulthood – marriage and kids the biggest among them – and while we were waiting to have kids, our parents were getting older. Yes, they’re healthier and living longer than prior generations, but still, time marches forward. Knowing they are most at risk in this pandemic and taking steps to care for them puts us squarely in the sandwich generation. It’s an unexpected, added responsibility brought on suddenly and aggressively by COVID19.
While I was navigating the overcrowded and eerily empty aisles of the grocery store, picking up some unnecessary things (sliced jalapeños are unlikely to get a lot of play), I could not stop thinking about other highly vulnerable populations. In the midst of panicked over shopping, it’s hard not to reflect on the stress and anxiety a global pandemic would place on the already constant, day-to-day fear that accompanies food insecurity. Those who are sick, homeless, or children and families living below the poverty line, our most vulnerable populations, are more vulnerable today than ever. Many kids will lose their only dependable food source when schools inevitably close.
We’re all facing a multitude of questions each day and the comfort and familiarity of our routines vanished overnight. It’s a crazy, confusing time and it will be worse for some of us than others. If you can, consider helping those who need it most. There are many organizations dedicated to getting resources to people without the access or means to acquire them themselves.
We are all physically distancing ourselves from one another right now, but the irony is that the very moment when we are separating and enacting social distancing is exactly the time when we most need the connection and support of our communities, our villages, and our families.
How are you staying connected during this period? How will you reach out to those who need support despite distancing measures? Have you just found yourself thrust into the sandwich generation?