#caregiving #lists #sandwichgeneration
I am a firm believer in lists – those lengthy, or short, notes that keep you on track even if you don’t want to be kept on track. I don’t know when this began. I certainly don’t remember making a lot of lists when I was younger, but now almost every evening I make a list for the next day. They usually begin with “Sierra Lodestar story” and go from there.
The funny thing about lists is that even if you don’t write one down, you probably carry one around in your head all the time. Without even realizing it you’re mentally keeping track of items that are on the top of your list, with those being the most important items to you, while those at the bottom are sort of to-do items with the tag-along thought of, “They’ll get done when they get down.” Just because something’s on the top of your list doesn’t mean it will get done quickly. That being said, the odds are good that the items at the top will get done in a timely manner, while the ones at the bottom of the list, well, not so much.
There’s also another twist in the list arena, especially if you’re a caregiver of any type. Those are lists you keep for other people in our minds. So, caregivers can have more than one list in their heads at any given time, and depending on how many people they are taking care of, the lists multiply. I always think of it as actually carrying around other people’s brains for them. I’m not so sure if that’s helpful or not, but there you go.
Not only am I a firm believer in lists, but I’m also a firm believer of the inevitable time when lists collide. Having experienced this many times, I have found that there is no other more-fertile ground for this to take place than in a multigenerational family structure. My immediate family’s generational structure encompasses a Boomer, an Xer and a Yer (also known as a Millennial, because it seems that generation is so large it actually warrants having two interchangeable names just to confuse us all).
In my household, this clash of lists can happen at any moment and can take on the appearance of a mathematical equation if you’re not careful, because the clash of lists can take place between Yer and Xer, Xer and Boomer, or Boomer and Yer.
First example, my list for my son and his list for himself are extremely different. I think the top priority on his list should be to get great grades, while the top spot on his list is whether or he can build the perfect winning team on Madden. Since our lists dictate where we focus our time and energy, you can see how he and I can have a clash of lists with his focus being on football and mine being on him improving his schoolwork.
Now my mom’s list and mine are a totally different story having nothing to do with schoolwork and football games. These lists revolve around medical appointments and necessities as opposed to going out, two words that seem innocent enough until you consider that the definition of going out can be as different to two people as the lists in their heads. In my mom’s and my case, the difference of what those words mean to an extrovert and an introvert also plays into the mix, with my mom being the extrovert and me being the introvert.
At the top of my mom’s list is always the desire to go out and do something, which she defines as shopping, seeing friends or just, “Getting out into the land of the living.” Going out for her means doing those types of things, while going to medical appointments of any type doesn’t fit into her definition, but those do fit into my definition of going out. You’re probably beginning to see the possible conflict in our lists, which is that anytime we leave the house to go anywhere including medical appointments, which can be as many as two or three a week, I count it as going out, but she does not. So, for her one of the top slots on her mental list of important things to do isn’t happening, while I feel like we go out a lot – maybe not to do anything social, but there you go.
The upshot of competing lists in the family dynamic, is to deal with it in much the same way communication in a family works – or at least the attempt – and that is to figure out which items on everybody’s lists are important, then making a valiant attempt to honor other family members’ top slots. With my son, this involves a fair amount of wrangling about football games and schoolwork, while with my mom it means encouraging her to go out with her friends more. To make this work, it takes a whole lot of compromise and getting creative, words that top the list of anyone who’s part of the Sandwich Generation.
This column was first published in the Calaveras Enterprise