by Ann Rickard
WHETHER you are familiar with the expression 'sandwich generation' or not, you could well be part of it.
The sandwich generation is made up of people, usually in their 30s or 40s who are caring for their parents as well as their own children.
In the case of seniors, it is people in their 60s and 70s caring for elderly parents while juggling the needs of their adult children and trying to help out as much as they can with their grandchildren.
"I am one of those families very typical of the sandwich generation," author Glenna Thomson said. "I am 62, my mother has moved into aged care, my father has passed away, I have step-children, children and grandchildren. To look after them all at the same time seems to be the work (in families) done mostly by the daughters."
Glenna has written a novel, Stella and Margie, about a sandwich generation family, and although it is fiction, it is drawn from her own experience.
"It's a new phenomenon," she said. "People are living longer. They take their tablets, and medical intervention keeps people alive longer. It's a fact of life. I am 62 and a physically active and fit woman. In previous days I would have been considered an old lady. Now I have grandchildren and a career and I am dealing with a parent still alive."
Glenna is experiencing what countless other baby boomers are going through: visiting her elderly mother in an aged-care facility as well as taking her on outings, in between running her own busy life and forging a career, often trying to balance concern and care for her mother with the needs of a two-year-old toddler grandson at the same time.
"Having your (elderly) mother and your grandson with you at the same time is like having two toddlers," she said. "I have to get my mother's walker into the boot and then you can't fit anything else in, and then get her in to the car and at the same time buckle in the grandson. It's complicated."
In Australia approximately one in 10 elderly parents live with their adult children, becoming reliant on the very people they once cared for.
This shift in relationship from carer to dependent can be a difficult one to navigate and Glenna has portrayed it in her book Stella and Margie, showing all the trials and difficulties of managing multiple needs while trying to keep herself mentally and physically well.
She has written in an honest manner about the expectations put on a woman in today's modern world, being caught between the demands of parents and children and grandchildren.
"In the book I have an 80-year-old woman, Margie and then Stella who is 40," Glenna said. "They are mother and daughter-in-law living in a big old run-down cattle property in country Victoria. I have old Margie just having surgery and needing to be looked after, and the daughter-in-law who despises her.
"They have to learn about each other's lives and soften towards each other.
"It's honest but not sentimental, touching on subjects of old age, loneliness, issues between parents and their adult children, real life issues. What transpires is not depressing, it is uplifting and a poignant reminder of women's friendship."
Stella and Margie, by Glenna Thomson, Bantam Australia - $32.99.