Ashwood Therapy Blog

The Meat In The Sandwich

The Meat In The Sandwich | Ashwood Therapy Wellbeing Blog

One phenomenon that has been recently reported in the press (see an article in The Guardian, here) is that of the rise of the 'sandwich carer'.  Such a person finds themselves in the position of caring for their aging parents at the same time as raising a (reasonably) young family.  They are the 'meat' between two generations who make up the bread of this sometimes tricky sandwich.

People are living longer, thankfully, owing to improved medical care and other factors.  While here in the West we may have moved away somewhat from a model of living whereby grandparents share the same family home as grandchildren, a lot of people visit their elderly parents regularly and help out with things that become harder to do with age.  Be it a trip to the supermarket to pick up groceries, help with tending the garden or changing out-of-reach lightbulbs, the needs of someone in their advancing years can sometimes only be met with the help of a loved one.  Add to that a child who has just reached 'double figures', or who is in their early teenage years, and the list of things that need managing day by day can grow quickly.

But what does this mean for the 30-40-something year old man or woman who is tasked with juggling these often conflicting needs?  While conventional wisdom may state that a candle should not be burned at both ends, sometimes it can seem that there aren't enough hours in the day to put the ticks beside every to-do list item.  Unless such a person is careful, there could be the danger that resentment creeps in, as time for self gets rarer and rarer and 'alone time' with spouses or partners seems to come a poor third to other demands.  In my job as a professional counsellor, I often see clients of both sexes at the ends of their tether, pushed perhaps a little too far by the relentless claims on their time and energy.

No-one can be superhuman all of the time.  While in an emergency such as a medical crisis or major life event, we can push through the tiredness and do the seemingly impossible, if we draw on our reserves too frequently without replenishing that lost store we can start to become unstuck.  Sometimes I share with clients that they seem to be expecting to drive 100 miles in a car that has fuel enough in the tank for only 45 miles.  While there are times when a person may eek 50 miles from that tank, pushing forwards any further without an additional refueling may lead to problems.

I have often noticed that when clients learn to make some small changes, designed to meet a few of their own needs (without feeling guilty), they seem to be happier and more able to go about caring cheerfully for those they love.  Investing in their relationship with their life partner, and perhaps replying with a gentle 'no' to a request from others every now and again can mean life as the meat in the sandwich is a little easier, and that can benefit everyone.

Rob Oglesby MBACP (Accred) B.A. (Hons) BSc | Ashwood Therapy

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