My Work-Life Story: Behind the Scenes of the Sandwich Generation

As winner of a writing contest, Valerie W. talks about being a working mom taking care of ailing parents.

Sometimes grief comes with a side of bacon.

My dad died on a Friday night three months to the day after we learned he had stage IV lung cancer. It was a day that one chapter of my life ended -- the one that included driving dad to and from daily treatment and a new chapter of my life began -- life without my cheerleader, my dad.

That next morning, my husband and I told our six-year-old that his papa had died. He was quiet at first, then -- like most six-year-olds, I'm assuming -- began making faces and acting goofy to alleviate the awkwardness of the moment. So, I did the next thing that made sense to me -- I made breakfast.

I pulled eggs, bacon, sausage and hash browns out of the fridge and started cooking. I was starved, since the day before was filled with hours in ICU and little time and desire for food. Now, I needed something to do. I was hungry and I wanted to comfort my son and my family with something normal: breakfast. By the time we sat down at the table, our almost four-year-old daughter was up and our son asked us if we were going to tell her. My husband and I exchanged glances and told him that we would wait until after breakfast, to which he promptly reminded us that we talk and share at meal-time. Gosh, I hate when my own words come flying out of my kids' mouths appropriately.

So we explained once again about Papa. At least by the time the eggs were eaten, the worse of Dad's death was over -- I, we, had told the kids.

More than three months have passed since that Saturday morning, but much has changed. We've moved mom out of their house of 40+ years into an independent living apartment that is closer to us, which is helpful because she no longer drives.

It's been a struggle since, let's face it, I was never that close with my mom -- certainly not like I was close to Dad. I keep telling myself to give it time. Take a deep breath when she's passive-aggressive. Give her time to grieve and adjust to her new life. And give myself time to adjust and learn how to deal with my second aging parent.

This story will highlight a little about how I manage being the best mommy in the world, a grieving yet dutiful daughter and a wise and caring wife -- all while working to build my freelance writing business, chaperoning my mother to her appointments and attempting to keep my life balanced.

Welcome to the sandwich generation!

Next: 6 Ways to "Buy" Myself a Break »
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