It is hard to believe that although I am technically a senior citizen I don’t feel like one, I don’t think I look like one or even act like one but nevertheless I am a senior. I belong to an extraordinary group of 78 million Americans demographically called “baby boomers” born between 1950 and the end of 1964. I also refer to my kindred spirits as the “sandwich” generation because many of us have the unique position of being intimately involved in the nurturing and caring of our parents, children and grandchildren. The term the “sandwich generation” was actually coined by Carol Abaya. The popularity and truth of this term was legitimized in 2006 when this term became part of the Oxford English and Merriam Webster Dictionaries.
Historically, parents raised independent and resourceful children who were willing and able to leave the nest once they finished their educational pursuits. They left their parents’ homes poised for success, eager to enter the workforce in order to begin their life journeys. Baby Boomers were able to acquire a reserve of wealth younger people have not been able to replicate. As Baby Boomer’s aged they looked forward to retiring from companies they worked for 30 plus years and longed for the day they could take their hard-earned pensions, move into a 55 and over community, and/or remain in their “mortgage free” homes or rent controlled apartments enjoying their golden years with family and friends.
I refer to this as a historical perspective because as we all can attest, times have certainly changed. The television show, Modern Family, is a bona fide hit. The talented cast and all too true scripts resonant with viewers. Yes, there’s a great deal of comic relief but the premise of the show rings all too true. It truly takes a village in today’s economy to not only raise young children but to offer our grown up children a soft place to fall. With staggering rents, a surplus of college educated men and women competing for the same jobs, astronomically high student loans rivaling mortgage payments, our kids cannot afford to move out on their own unless they are supplemented in some form or another by their baby boomer parents. Thousands of grandparents are raising grandchildren due to a myriad of reasons but for those baby boomers cast in this role, retirement is not an option. It is no longer unusual for senior citizens to live well into their ninth decade so as a result many baby boomers have become the facilitator, care taker, or overseer of their aging parents, hence the term “sandwich” generation. Juggling parents, children, grandchildren and of course work and/or finances to pay for it all is the “norm” for our generation. All of the lives we love and cherish are packaged and tied up in a nice neat bow for us to nurture, enjoy, resent, and envelope so that our loved ones can have a soft and safe place to fall and grow.
I understand the “why” so many of us find ourselves in this situation and the reasons we continue along our path. For many, like myself, I would not have had it any other way. I am truly blessed and eternally grateful for the joy and love I felt for my grandson when my husband and I raised him during a time of need. He enriched our lives in ways too countless to enumerate. Although the majority of my generation of baby boomers had children in our twenties and early thirties, many of our offspring delayed having children while they invested in their careers. Undeniably, these group of women and men wanted to have it all by firmly entrenching themselves in their careers and later transitioning to parenthood in their late thirties or forties or choosing not to have children altogether. To be perfectly honest, I used to make fun of these late stage mothers by asking “Can you imagine being 50 in the kiddy pool?” Much to my surprise and laughter, I found myself at age 50 in the kiddy pool with my beloved grandson, who I was then raising. Life has a way of laughing right back at you.
As I found myself living my own “Modern Family” I’ve come to realize that my family is not unique. There are many Modern Families in existence. Some are more Modern than others as we all fall within our own spectrum. There are single parents raising children, there are same-sex couples raising children, there are friends coming together in order to co-parent in a supportive household, there are grandparents raising grandchildren, there are great grandparents, grandparents, parents and their children living under one roof as families and there are aunts and uncles, raising nieces and nephews. However these “Modern Families” are configured they are families in every sense of the word. We all have several things in common. We all want to thrive, we want to love and be loved, and we want to provide a warm, loving and nurturing environment so that we can live our best lives.
Wouldn’t it be fantastic if we were able to surround ourselves with people who are walking similar paths or who can assist us with a blueprint for success? We may need respite care because we’re exhausted from the challenges of caring for our loved ones, we may want to take a vacation with other grandparent/grandchild families or with same-sex couples and their children. We may want to take a cooking course or an art course with other Modern Families or we might just want to blog about our own personal experiences as members of Modern Families.
http://www.RainbowKinect.com is a work in progress for whom I feel is today’s Modern Families. The website will consist of my blog as well as a forum for other members of the RainbowKinect.com community who have something to say. There will be a tab for social connections, meet and greets, a travel site catering to non-traditional families and much more to come.
Harnessing the collective voices of our Modern Families will be invigorating, inclusionary and freeing. I look forward to hearing from everyone. It does not matter where you fall within the spectrum. If you are a baby boomer, I’d love to hear your story, if you are the adult child of a baby boomer having to return to the nest, all the better. If you are a parent of a baby boomer and you need to vent about feelings of subjugation to your baby boomer child, I feel your pain and would love to hear your story. Rest assured that our journeys are not unique. Together and collaboratively we can accomplish wonderful things, feel supported and more importantly have fun.
I look forward to continuing this journey together.