Single Baby Boomer as Members of the "Sandwich Generation": Childcare

Many single Baby Boomers are still raising children for a variety of reasons.  If they have parents or other elders depending on them too, they fall into the “sandwich generation”.  Some children were born late in a Boomer’s life and are now in their teens or early 20s and depend on a parent for care, room, food, transportation, and other expenses.  According to Debbie Pincus, MS LMHCA in the article “Adult Children Living at Home? How to Manage without Going Crazy” at https://www.empoweringparents.com/article/adult-children-living-at-home-how-to-manage-without-going-crazy/, “A recent study says that nearly 53 percent of 18-to-24-year-olds in the U.S. reside with their parents.”  Likewise, a Pew Research Center study reported, “Among those middle-aged adults who have a child age 18 or older, fully 73% have provided some assistance to at least one of their grown children. This compares with 49% among those ages 60 and older with at least one grown child.”  If your child is in college you think you can see the light at the end of the tunnel since they’ll soon get a job and be out on their own.  For others, their child may have physical, mental, or psychological handicaps or dependency problems which could never allow them to support themselves.  They might be able to get their own apartment or live in a group home, but the parent may still offer financial and emotional support.

boomers supporting children

 

First, we’ll focus on the usual reasons why you may still be caring for or supporting children.  As I mentioned before, most children will be able to make it on their own eventually.  You might not want to boot them out of the nest, but at some point, you must.  Here are several reasons why your adult child could need or prefer to stay in your home and/or need financial help.

  • They’re still in school and need a place to live since they’ve no income. You worked in college, but you don’t want your child to have to concentrate on anything other than school.  That’s your decision, but remember eventually they’ll have to balance work with other things and it’s never too early to start letting them learn to be independent.

 

  • They’ve children of their own they can’t afford or care for alone. This is a slippery slope.  There are many government programs that can help with daycare, food, and housing.  If you don’t want your son or daughter to access these programs, then you’re raising and caring for their child and them.  You’re retired or close to it and supporting another house full of children often as their live-in maid, babysitter, chauffeur, and support system.  This will be discussed further in my next blog.

 

  • They like living at home. You’ve made it so comfortable, why should they move?  You cook and do laundry for them.  Some parents still clean their rooms.  If they can have a job, they should pay some rent, buy food and personal products, take care of their own chores and other household maintenance.

 

  • They’ve moved back to their hometown or are saving for a home of their own. If you watch HGTV you’ll see adult children living with parents while working and saving.  They may come alone, with a spouse, or children.  You’ve heard the saying, “You can’t go home again.”  It’s more than just the title of a Thomas Wolf novel.  People do it every day, but it isn’t always pleasant for either party.  It can cause animosity from which both of you might never recover.  If you can create a situation where you both have your own physical space, it could help.  Even if they’re saving, it may be best for both parties if they contribute to the purchase of groceries and household products.

 

  • They’ve lost their job. This happens to everyone and often it’s not through any fault of their own.  Companies close, downsize, or are purchased by new owners.  Don’t blame your child if the economy or other uncontrollable factors keep them from living on their own.  In 2012 the jobless rate for Americans in their early 20s was 13.7%, compared with 6.3% for voters in their 40s and 50s, according to Labor Department figures as reported at http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2012-07-23/young-adults-hit-hardest-on-jobs-support-obama-bgov-barometer .  If your child can’t pay their rent or house payment, they might not need to move in, but need financial help.  You can loan them the money, but don’t expect they’ll pay it back.  If you accept that fact from the beginning and give it as a gift, you’ll be better able to live with the monetary loss and not hold it against your child.  Then if they do pay you back, it’s a bonus.

 

 

Middle age parents supporting

 

If any of the preceding reasons apply to your situation you should develop a plan of action with your child before allowing them to stay in or return to your home.

  • Set limits on the time period they plan to stay and on what they can expect from you and you from them. The length of the stay could change, but there should be a good reason.

 

  • They have a well-researched plan on how to get a job so they can eventually contribute to the household or get a place of their own. Make it clear you have expectations when it comes to cooking, cleaning, and other home maintenance.

 

  • Stay in charge of your own life and home. If your child, their children, or friends take advantage of your good nature with destructive behavior toward you or your belongings, make them leave.  You want your finances, car, and home to be in good shape when they move.  In certain instances you may not feel safe and that you’re being abused.   Then you’ll need to enlist the help of law enforcement.

 

 

Finally, if your child is incapable of living on their own or caring for themselves they may have to live in a residential facility.  Most group homes are located within a community and staffed 24 hours a day with trained caregivers who serve children or adults with chronic disabilities. They were developed in response to the deinstitutionalization movement of the 1960s and 1970s as psychiatric hospitals closed and discharged individuals who needed a place to live because their families could not care for them.  Group homes provide care in the least restrictive environment with the goal of being able to integrate individuals with disabilities into the community, reducing stigma, and improving quality of life. Their environment is intended to simulate typical family life as much as possible.  Daily living skills, which include meal preparation, laundry, housecleaning, home maintenance, money management, and appropriate social interactions plus self-care skills such as bathing, dressing, toileting, eating, and taking prescribed medications, are taught.  The passage of the Community Mental Health Centers Act in 1963 made grants available to group homes through state and federal funds such as the Medicaid Home and Community-Based Waiver.  These grants support the majority of group homes. However, most homes either operate on donations from private citizens or civic and religious organizations or are owned by private organizations and can be either non-profit or for-profit. Group homes are considered more cost effective compared to institutional care, but more are needed so when the residents are discharged they don’t have to be re-hospitalized, become homeless or fall into old patterns, break laws and end up in prison.  Read more at http://www.minddisorders.com/Flu-Inv/Group-homes.html#ixzz4HEn6BPZ3.

 

Right now you’re probably thinking, Whoa! That’s not my story.  If so, consider yourself lucky, because there are many parents who have to deal with these problems.  Parents of these offspring feel alone and like failures.  It’s important you know where to get help and when to save yourself and let your adult child, especially those with dependency and/or mental health issues, solve their own problems and make life changes if they’re intellectually able.

 

You may not consider yourself codependent, “… a person belonging to a dysfunctional, one-sided relationship where one person relies on the other for meeting nearly all of their emotional and self-esteem needs.  It also describes a relationship that enables another person to maintain their irresponsible, addictive, or underachieving behavior. ” However, if you look at the symptoms at “Symptoms of Codependency” by Darlene Lancer, JD, MFT at http://psychcentral.com/lib/symptoms-of-codependency/ you may find they fit caretakers of both children and elders and maybe you.  You need to take care of yourself emotionally if you want to help others.  A mental health professional or a codependency group can help.  Don’t be afraid to ask for help.  It’s a sign of strength, not a weakness when you get help from a medical professional.  With their support your child and you should end up with a positive, working relationship and they’ll gain their independence.

 

Even if you’ve prepared your offspring to survive on their own, they may not be able to without your help for a while.  Treat them like an adult and respect their decisions even if you don’t agree with them if they don’t negatively affect you.  Once they find their place in the world they’ll thank you for allowing them to do as much as they can on their own and will continue to thrive without your help.

 

Continue the adventure!

 

Linda Lea

 

 

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