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Living the dream of the sandwich generation

Baby Jack

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The past few weeks, jayhawkr and I have been dealing with family "stuff". It will all work itself out in the end, and as I repeatedly tell myself, every time I feel like I have Life under control, He/She kicks me in the rear just to remind me I don't.

I read with envy all you folks who go on long rides and travel the country. While I certainly don't wish my life away, I wonder if I will EVER have the freedom that many of you enjoy. Maybe its choices?

Realistically, this is what I am facing:

- I'm 42, and I have at least 20 more years of work life left. The retirement ages creep up - by the time I'm ready, it will probably be 75! :(

- My sons are 16 and 13, so I have a few more years left as Mom Taxi, taking them to sports and managing the teenage years. Lets count that as 8 more years til the youngest ones are out of the house.

- My parents are 65, and in pretty good health, all things considered. My Mom will be storming the Grand Bend countryside for years to come! Lets count 20 more years for them, at which point, it will be necessary for me and my siblings to help them out a lot more. I owe them - they did a lot for me, and I wouldn't have it any other way.

- My youngest brother has a lot of health challenges, and at 30, he still lives with my parents. When they get to an age when they can't look after him anymore, it will be up to my brothers and I. He certainly didn't ask for the hand he got dealt by Life - what the next 20 years brings for him, is anyone's guess.

So, if we do some simple subtraction - realistically, I have 20 - 8 years = 12 years before family responsibilities keeps me at home once again. I have a lot of riding planned for those 12 years!!!! B)

Jayhawkr and I talk about the challenges for the "Sandwich generation" - Generation Xers predominantly, who are balancing care for children and senior parents at the same time. I attend retirement parties for my colleagues who have had the same job for 30 years, and are retiring at 60.

I feel like I'm whining, because I am sure that there have been generations before me with these same responsibilities. Is it a misplaced sense of entitlement that permits me to think that I should be any different?

Some of my colleagues are reluctantly retiring. They love their job, love the people they work with, and only financial incentives are coaxing them out the door. Me? I LOVE my job and the people I work with, but I have 1000 other things I would love to do then spend my days at WORK. Maybe that's naive of me - maybe I will feel differently about it when my time comes (but I really really doubt it).

I worry about the availability of the social safety net for people like my brother - although my parents have done their best to save money for his long-term care, it is also based on the availability of social health benefit programs. His medication alone costs a fortune - if those programs are not available in the future, or even if I have to contribute a greater percentage, it may mean working for much longer to afford it.

I read a lot about the economy, and work, and I wonder if my children will ever be able to afford the things we have. Maybe they will be living with us longer, moving back in after post-secondary, or after a job loss, or whatever Life Challenge they face. (That will be fine provided they don't turn into Couch Turds - at which point, I WILL be on my motorcycle so I don't hurt anyone). I think of how hard it might be for them - and I realize how lucky I really am.



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