Ten years ago, we moved within four kilometers of my in-law’s house, and at the time the proximity was a huge benefit to Rob and me. As two working parents with young children, we needed a little help with childcare from time to time, and gratefully we were able to rely on his retired parents to assist us in shuttling the boys to and from school while the two of us were stuck in an office.
Over the past few years, the relationship has shifted somewhat and we no longer require their help with the kids. The older ones are old enough to get themselves wherever they need to go, and I work from home now so Matthew spends his days with me. However, living near Rob’s parents continues to be essential to our day to day life, only now it’s because they need our assistance more than we need theirs.
I remember first learning about the sandwich generation in a high school social science class. The term referred to a time in one’s life – usually in their 30s or 40s – where they would be ‘sandwiched’ between caring for their aging parents while simultaneously supporting their own children. With a toddler, two teenagers and one set of parents in need of physical, emotional and medical assistance, Rob and I (and our siblings) are indeed filling the sandwich these days.
I’m sure many of you are in the same boat, so I won’t bore you with the details of our specific story, and to be honest I want to preserve the privacy of the people involved. However, I’d love to share a bit about my role in our new family situation. I’m sure it doesn’t come as much of surprise to learn that I’ve taken active measures to make sure my in-laws remain well fed during this time in their life, and it’s a job I’m truly happy to have.
Truth be told, it’s one of the easiest tasks as well. Rob and his brothers do much more of the emotional heavy lifting, in turn leaving him (and them?) weary with worry. It also leads me to wonder: why there is so little information readily available to prepare us for the days when we need to be caregivers to those who used to take care of us?
Back to my role in all of this. Essentially it equates to a dinner delivery a few times a week. Initially, I started off ensuring my in-laws were invited for a meal at least once a week, but since their needs have changed over the past few months, I now make it a priority to pack up a dinner and deliver it to them. Sometimes I take a few meals at a time, while other days I drop off something when I have it, making one or two trips a week to their place.
The meals aren’t always fancy and can be as simple as roasting some sausages and potatoes and steaming a bunch of broccoli or green beans. Here’s a look at a few of the things I’ve dropped off this month:
- Baked risotto with chicken, leeks, and lemon
- Turkey and apple meatloaf, Yukon gold and sweet potato mash, roasted Brussels sprouts
- Pasta with Bolognese and green salad
- Sloppy Joe mix, buns, salad
- Roast chicken, twice-baked potatoes, and green beans
If the meal can be reheated easily, it’s good to go. I also try to give them a few things for the freezer – like chilis, soups and casseroles – for when I can’t make it over, or they’re in a pinch. Paired with a meal delivery service designed for seniors and my father-in-law’s cooking I like to think they’re being well nourished, at least from a food and nutrition perspective.
My mission here has always been to show just how much our lives can be enhanced through the sharing of a good meal. It would be negligent to pretend that this transpires only when happy and celebratory occasions occur. In fact, I’m convinced that those who are going through troubling times benefit from a good meal even more than those of us just moving amid the mundanity of everyday life. Never underestimate the power of a homemade meal; it’s possible to bless people from your kitchen, even if it comes in the form of a sandwich.
Take Them a Meal: simplifying meal coordination if more than one person wants to take food to someone.
Food Tidings: Organize meal support for family and friends in a time of need.
Cookie Dough Balls: An essential freezer food for anyone in need of love and comfort.