How the sandwich generation can stay sane - MoneySense

How the sandwich generation can stay sane

A multi-generational family can be tough but also be phenomenally satisfying.


Once upon a time, we could count on our moms and dads to be healthy and independent long enough for us to ship our own kids off to university and their first jobs. But with adult children boomeraging home, empty nesting has gone the way of the Dodo bird. Now our aging parents, boomerang kids, even grandchildren are all fighting for space and attention.

Don’t think yourself immune to heated moments as you redefine your role within the new family structure. Your children and elders may at once love you for being there to help and hate you for their need of your help. Or you may experience both compassion and resentment at being put back on duty as caregiver and financial supporter.

One of the first things you’ll need to talk about with your new roomie (whether a parent or child) is your spending plan. While a financial contribution may not be possible initially, there are other things they can do to compensate. Your role as parent doesn’t negate your adult child’s responsibility to do something to even out the situation. The last thing you need right now is to create a situation where a child becomes so dependent that he or she can’t get his or her own life back on track. You need to set expectations. Ditto for your elder who will need to feel like he/she is contributing to the household.

Speaking of expectations, set the rules right from the start. If your child gaily gads about while you’re off slaving to bring home the bacon, it’ll drive you nuts. And if your father-in-law sits, sits, sits, while you scurry back and forth, fetching and carrying, you’re going to get mad.

Space may not be a big deal for you have a home big enough to easily accommodate your loved one(s). But if you have to get a bigger place, you may find things get a little tight money-wise, particularly if your child/elder is unable to contribute financially in the short term. Make sure you both understand the ramifications of a change of address. This should be a long-term decision, not something done for only a few months.

Lots of families have to pull together to get through tough times. And if you are the peanut butter in your sandwich, you’ll often find yourself pressed from both ends and oozing out the sides. But being a part of a multi-generational family can also be phenomenally satisfying. Mutual respect and a financial plan will help you to forge a workable and healthy living environment.