Juggling the responsibilities of family life can be a strain at the best of times. With the added pressures of caring physically or financially for loved ones, it’s easy for your own to-do list and important self-care routines to take a back seat while you’re looking after those around you - this is a common issue for many today who are in a ‘sandwich generation’.
Who are the sandwich generation?
As we’re seeing more people starting families in their 30’s and 40’s, we’re seeing an increase in people becoming sandwiched between caring for their own children and grandchildren, as well as their elderly parents.
People in this sandwich generation are usually aged between 40 and 70 with elderly parents needing regular care, and school-aged children or young adults that still need financial support. A study in the USA found that 48% of adults provide some sort of financial support to their adult children, and 25% support their own parents at the same time.
Family dynamics around the world
In some cultures, looking after both your parents and your children is a normal part of life. China, Korea and Japan all follow the Confucian tradition of "filial piety." This puts the family before everything else and teaches that elders must be respected. It’s accepted that as parents grow old, their children will look after them, unlike western cultures where carers and care homes are often used to provide round-the-clock care to elderly parents when their children can’t be there.
Traditionally, in India and Nepal, once a couple marry, they live with the husband’s parents and look after them as they grow old. This is known as a patrilocal living arrangement. This style of living is also common in the Mediterranean, and multiple generations live together under one roof, which allows for a form of care to be available almost all of the time.
As the global population ages, many countries are looking at how to manage the care of their oldest citizens. France and China have both recently passed legislation that means grown-up children must visit or stay in contact with their parents or face charges or a fine.
If you’re balancing roles as a parent and a carer to your parents, you’ll know how stressful it can be; potentially more so if you’re all living under one roof. But, what if you have the opposite problem? What if you live on the other side of the world?
As more and more of us move to live overseas, we’re seeing a rise in sandwich generation ‘cross-border carers.’ Whether you moved away to chase a career, or your parents retired to their dream destination, many of us are living with family spread around the world.
It’s an issue many expats are thinking about. Research conducted earlier this year by Vitreous World, based on expats living and working abroad, showed that aging parents needing support was one of the top reasons expats would consider moving back to their home country, selected by 24% of respondents.
So how do you manage when parents in another country start needing more of your time and care? We’ve put together some tips to help.