Sandwich Generation - a term that most women born in the 40s and 50s are familiar with
" During my childhood, I was afraid of my parents. As I grew older my teachers bossed me. Once I got married, I was afraid of my in-laws and my husband. Then my children took over and again I was the subdued one. Now my daughter-in-law has arrived and even though she is a lovely person, I am afraid to say anything to her because she might get offended."
Does this refrain sound familiar? Does it touch a chord somewhere - or do you mock it and wonder which spineless woman is talking in this fashion?
You will be surprised at how many women feel that life has somehow passed them by. Somewhere their individuality has been submerged in the sea of family and obligations. This is the generation of women who we have termed as "the sandwiched generation."
Most of these women were born between 1945 and 1960. They were children when Freedom was achieved and were among the first few who were a part of the education system of Free India.
They grew up in the heady days of Jawaharlal Nehru, Dev Anand, Rajendra Kumar and of course the Beatles. Salwar kameezs were tight fitting, and the dress code was mainly dresses when you were in school and sarees as you grew older.
Many of them studied in colleges and completed their Bachelor's Degrees.
Few sought careers - and those who did found themselves limited to Medicine, Teaching or maybe Law. Marriage was the ultimate goal of the majority of these women, and by the time college had been completed - the process of arranged marriages had begun.
Social life before marriage was limited to films, an occasional group outing and very few mixed parties
There was a sea-change in their lives after marriage.
Suddenly they were asked to play the roles of housewives, daughter-in-laws, sister-in-laws and wives. Most of them were completely unprepared and definitely unqualified for this. But soon the majority of them learnt how to excel in all the roles they played. Their homes were immaculate, their children were nurtured and cherished, and their husbands were given unflinching devotion and support.
But, as they grew older they watched while their children realise their mother's dreams.
'Be yourself' became the mantra of the next generation and 'sacrifice yourself' remained the mantra of their own generation.
Trousers and Designer Suits became the fashion statement of the day, and new and extensive career opportunities became available for all the younger women.
But what about their emotions, their ambitions and their dreams?
Education showed them what they could achieve but society set the parameters of their lives. They went through college and an occasional professional course mechanically, knowing that marriage was the ultimate goal of their lives. The few who considered following a career found that their goals were limited. Any ambitions to do anything different were nipped in the bud by anxious parents and by traditional in-laws.
Today as these women reach their 60s and their children grow up and move out of their homes - the aimlessness of their lives becomes a sore point. Their mothers lived within the confines of their homes and families, quite happily, with few sounds of protests. Their daughters (with some encouragement from their mothers) had moved into careers or professional courses and were beginning to seek out lives of their own.
But sandwiched between them were these ladies - educated, savvy, and intelligent with no place to use their knowledge and expertise.
Where do they stand today?
"Aimless and drifting between family and home."
There will be many who will disagree with this statement - but look around you in the metropolises of
Where do we ( since I am one of them also) go from here? Today, we are entering the evenings of our lives - some contented and happy, some wondering about their faint sense of unease - of unfulfilled dreams and lost ambitions. Some have begun to seek fulfillment in avenues such as social work and 'good causes'; others have sought refuge in active social lives. Trim waistlines have been replaced by expanding girths, hair colour is something you generate from a bottle, and diets are something your children should adhere to.
But do not mistake this sense of disquietude for despondency.. We have realized that we are the bulwark of our families. We take credit for their successes - form their backbones when they need support - and provide experienced shoulders when they need something to cry on. We stand proudly and elegantly in society, respected and loved by our families; but with a faint sense of unease and unfulfilled dreams