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Ten things people will say when they hear you live next door to your parents

Post written by Kay

  1. Whoa!
  2. Wow, I could never do that
  3. My mom would drive my spouse crazy
  4. My dad is too set in his ways for that to work
  5. Free babysitting!
  6. My parents would butt in all the time
  7. My parents would spoil my kids
  8. My brother/sister/aunt/cousin/therapist would have a lot to say about that
  9. I would have to drink a lot more
  10. Good luck!

Here is the one thing you wish people would say instead:

  1. That’s a big responsibility. Tell me more.



What is a Sandwich Family?

Post written by Kay.

My definition of a Sandwich Family is: a family that bears primary responsibility for at least three generations simultaneously. That responsibility could be daily living and care, financial, health and wellness, legal, or a combination of all of those.

In my family, this means my husband, our school-age children, and I live next door to my mother. So my husband and I are the “filling” in our particular sandwich.

But your sandwich could look very different from ours. Perhaps the older generation in your family lives far away or in a retirement community, and you have financial and healthcare power of attorney responsibilities for them, while your children are in college. Maybe you have always been the daily companion for a beloved aunt who lives across town but you don’t have any legal responsibility for her, you are divorced and your children are still quite young. It could be that you are retired and share your home with your adult children and your grandchildren. Or maybe, like a friend of mine, you are currently rearranging your life so you can move your spouse and family halfway across the world to take care of your aging father.

In short, being a Sandwich Family is complicated, stressful, difficult, and hard to understand if you don’t live in it (and often hard to understand even when you do live in it), but it can also be rewarding, at times lovely, meaningful, and filled with acts of devotion and love. Basically, Sandwich Families are just like any other daily family, but with an extra generation layered on top.

What does your Sandwich Family look like? Leave a comment below!

Post photo: pixzolo on unsplash

Social Security Confusion

Social_security_cardMy mother has been getting the run-around about claiming my father’s monthly Social Security check now that he is gone. We understand that the system is plagued with fraud and that she might need to prove her identity (and even show proof of their 50-year marriage). We understand that sometimes systems as large as this one can get backed up. Yet we were baffled as to what exactly was standing in the way of what certainly must be a run-of-the-mill request.

Yesterday, my mother announced that she had finally gotten to the bottom of the problem. It seems that she has been having trouble because she worked and has her own Social Security account. She has to file extra paperwork to claim my father’s benefits instead of her own (which is her right according to the law).

This doesn’t seem so shocking in and of itself, except that neither a funeral director nor a savvy financial planner knew about this rule. And a call to Social Security didn’t reveal this answer, so Mom had to go to the Social Security office herself to investigate in person. And, she still can’t get it resolved until she has a phone appointment with Social Security – in 3 weeks.

I don’t know why I have been surprised and upset by this. I should know better than to expect a system as large as Social Security to run smoothly. Yet, I keep feeling as if my grieving mother should not have to put up with such shenanigans. I feel as if she should be treated with respect, dignity, and maybe even a little sympathy. I feel as if our system should recognize that we have all been through a terribly stressful and traumatic event and should treat us all with a little humanity.

Leave a comment: what financial transitions have surprised you and your transitioning family?

Post written by Kay.


“Have you had THE conversation?”

No, not that conversation. THAT conversation – the one about end-of-life wishes. According to The Conversation Project, “60% of people say that making sure their family is not burdened by tough decisions is ‘extremely important'”, yet “56% have not communicated their end-of-life wishes.”  To be sure, it is a tough conversation to have.

My dad had the conversation with my mom and each of his kids many times. When he passed away suddenly last month, we all understood so very clearly what decisions he wanted us to make on his behalf. We did not bicker, complain, or feel the need to argue a case – we just signed the paperwork and said our sad goodbyes.

Now that Dad is gone, we are grieving, but we are not left second-guessing our decisions. We honored Dad’s wishes. We loved him and we owed him nothing less than that.

If you have not had this important conversation with your family, it is never too late to start. You can find a conversation starter kit here. And please talk to us! Leave a comment or send an email (kaysandwichfamily at outlook dot com) and let us know how your conversations are coming along.



Becoming less black and white – the daughter’s perspective

I had a minor soul-jolting moment with my 11-year-old son, R, last night. We were snuggled together on the couch, watching a documentary on the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. He turned his big brown eyes up to me and asked, “Mommy, why would anyone do that to someone else?” Then he followed that up with, “I mean, I know why someone would do that, but why?!”

What I saw in the depths of his eyes at that moment was his realization that the world does not run according to any rules, nor our desires or interests, not even our own personal moral codes.

R has been struggling with his grief over losing my father, H, only a month ago. He had always been very close to “Pop-Pop,” and his death has been a great blow. We can see that he is grappling with handling his grief not as a child would – raw and fast – but as more of the adult he is becoming. He doesn’t want to cry in front of us, no matter how many times we tell him it’s okay to do so, and he doesn’t want to admit how much he is hurting.

We are proud of R and the young man he is becoming. Still, it is hard to look at him and know that his world is so much less black and white now, that he is seeing so many more shades of gray instead. So much like a man and so much less like a child.

Leave a comment: have you dealt with grieving (and growing) children?

Post written by Kay.

Give, give, give, give some more, and then take a little – the daughter’s perspective

Living with someone is hard. Marriage is the prime example of this, of course, but every close-living relationship has its challenges. Living next door to my parents was hard. Losing my dad less than a month ago and, now, living next door to only my mom is hard too.

wooden hug

But mostly, it is hard in really good way, at least for me (and I suspect we all feel this way). It is making me into a better person. I find myself being so much more forgiving, more entertained by life’s antics (rather than so frustrated by them), so much more willing to just take a breath and enjoy being in the company of my wonderful family.

I know we all feel like we have to give 90% of the time, which is just another way our living situation reminds me of marriage. And, like marriage, it is work that is absolutely worth it, work that pays off in dividends that can never be tallied.

My mom is a wonderful person and she has always been a great mom. Her challenge now is to continue to be a great mom and mother-in-law and grandmother 100% of the time, because we are right next door. At the same time, she is grieving the loss of her husband of 50 years. Our living arrangement means that Mom doesn’t have to give up her lifestyle, doesn’t have to pack up and move anywhere, and doesn’t have to drive two hours when she wants to cuddle with our kids. But it also means that she doesn’t have any time away from us (she can escape whenever she wants to go visit one of my siblings, but that is probably not quite the same as taking a grand vacation in Europe).

We have all gained and lost by making this choice to live as a Sandwich Family. Choices are like that, generally.

Talk to us – leave a comment to tell us what you have gained or lost in the generations of your family life.

Wish I could have been there – the daughter’s perspective

The 2014 Aging in America Conference just wrapped up. Wish I could have been there! The 2015 conference will be held in Chicago. Maybe Mom and I will be able to attend.

Post by Kay.

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