For the second time in about a year, I didn’t write a blog post for a while. A lack of drama partially caused this; inspiration is difficult to mine from flawless visits to a parent who is healthy and mentally sharp, or family vacations taken without incident. Some of it stemmed from focusing on some of my own issues that had nothing to do – well, almost nothing – with being a Sandwich Generation father.
Specifically, my career took a weird left turn last summer. I went from frantically busy to idle almost overnight. Actually, it wasn’t overnight. It was even faster than that.
First, I treated myself to about 6 weeks of not really thinking about it; after all, it was August, a time when much of Boston basically shuts down. And I hadn’t enjoyed a month off in the summer since I finished business school and been married sixteen years ago. Later, this particular hiatus was filled with soul-searching about the sudden feeling that the developing career narrative I’d built for myself had been an illusion. At 25 this is a fine discovery, maybe even at 35. But at 45 it came as quite a shock.
Of course I am a Sandwich Generation father, which colors everything, including this particular bout of introspection. What I remembered as the shock passed is that while family commitment and career achievement aren’t locked in a tug of war, it’s certainly a delicate balance. Most people – men especially – feel like this is the age where they have to hit the gas on career because they are in their prime earning years. That’s probably true. It’s the first time I’ve noticed the lower energy level in most people 10 years older than I am. And the moments do come when I find myself jealous of the many people who surround me who have (or, spend) more than I do.
What’s also true for me is that my father is almost 92 and lucid, and maybe not for much longer. My kids are 12, and still like me and still need me. Maybe not for much longer. My marriage, my community, my spirituality – all of these both demand and give me energy. They all define me.
I know from more than 2 years of balancing them that at any given time I need to be able to hit the gas on either the personal or the professional. Which means — I have to set myself to be able to do that. I can’t floor it on either for very long in a row because the other always intervenes.
Fortunately – it’s January now, so the lure of unemployment is less strong – I’ve found something that works. More on that in another post.
As for the blog hiatus – they say with writing that the hardest thing is to start. So it was for this next round of blog writing; it took me weeks and several false starts. Now that I am into my new (flexible) routine, I have a sense of when I’ll have pockets of time to think and to write, so will be more consistent. One thing I know is that real-life hiatuses are hard to come by in the reality of a Sandwich Generation father.