Cheese Pandesal - A life in the Sandwich Generation
Growing up, my favourite school lunch was a Cheese Pandesal. A sandwich consisting of a traditional Filipino bun and cheese. Funny how my life has turned into a Cheese Pandesal with me being the cheese sandwiched between caring for my 2 kids and my mom at the same. Often times, Filipinos add ham to the sandwich so that would be my hubby who can certainly be a ham (yup, I'm cheesy like that).
The feeling of being squeezed between the care of my kids and my elderly parents was stressful to say the least. I worried about not having enough time for my kids and then struggled with giving the best care possible for my elderly and ailing parents. In June 2017, my life in the sandwich generation was like being in a panini press. I was balancing my time between being at my dad’s bedside, checking in on my mother who suffers with dementia and being a mom to my son and daughter who were both involved in competitive activities. Oh, and I can't forget to add my job into the mix!
There came a point where the panini press burnt me almost to a crisp. Caregiver Burnout. I was burnt and crusty!! I was unhealthy. I became irritable, sleep deprived, stressed and depressed. Deep within me I felt like there was no light at the end of the tunnel. I had no energy to give to those who needed me and it was really affecting my relationships with everyone. One thing I didn’t think about at the time was, what about the relationship I had with myself? I needed to take back my life and figure out a way to thrive through this caregiving journey. I need to be a fresh slice of Filipino cheese (if there is even such a thing). How did I do that? I got some extra help, made self care my focus and invested in caregiver coaching.
So let me tell you about this value meal combo. You know that saying, “it takes a village?” Well a village is definite in a sandwich generation. The village would be like condiments for a sandwich, like ketchup and mayo. My village consisted of family members, friends and community services that would drop off meals, help with driving the kids to their after school commitments like dance and basketball practice or just dropping by to have a cup off coffee with mom. These condiments made my sandwich taste a lot better.
There’s also an old saying that you can’t pour from an empty cup. What goes well with a sandwich other than a nice cup of coffee or pop? At one point my cup was empty and needed a refill. I refilled and recharged by taking a break from work, joined some caregiver support groups and took some time out to do things I enjoyed like outings with my husband and kids and a few spa treatments here and there. The importance of self care is vital in caregiving because when we make it a practice to take care of ourselves, we feel well enough to serve with a better and clearer mindset.
While having a sandwich, some may have a side salad or a plate of fries. That’s where I go into my side hustle through my caregiving journey. There was a time that I felt lost and alone. I didn’t know who to approach or speak to about my struggles and challenges. I needed guidance and navigation. I needed someone affable. As time went on, I felt that no one should ever feel the way I did. So last year I made the decision to invest in training to become a certified caregiver coach. A trained professional who would help navigate and provide emotional support and resources. A job of passion and purpose.
Although one piece of the Cheese pandesal has been taken away from us (we miss you dad!) I did it! I gained resilience and did what needed to be done. I’m still the cheese in a sandwich and my hubby is still the ham as we continue to care for my mother and through this journey, I’ve learned so much and gained so many helpful resources that I can’t wait to share with you. Remember, you don't have to do this alone.