How to cope with added family responsibility

How to cope with added family responsibility

Raising your own family may prove to be a strain but having added responsibility of taking care of your parenting too is an entirely different story.

How to handle added family responsibility

Are you beginning to experience the strain of the increasing needs of your ageing parents or in-laws? Like it or not, contemplating what you might expect in your ‘sandwich years’ could help you survive the squeeze…

As if being married, raising children, running a household and holding down a job isn’t enough to give you grey hairs, along comes one of life’s toughest curve balls. It starts with the realisation that an undeniable shift is happening, where you’re becoming more like ‘the adult’ in your relationship with your parents.

To varying degrees, you’ll find yourself topped and tailed by an older and younger generation to care for. Having a sense of what the challenge might bring and being proactive early on can help save your sanity and protect your close relationships from the inevitable knocks. If there’s anything we’ve learned from motherhood, listening to the advice of women who’ve ‘been there and done that’ can be annoying. But when entering uncharted water it can also be invaluable.

On, writer Ruth Soukup shares her experience of being the carer of her mom-in-law. This is certainly one instance in life where facing your situation head-on, making plans and provisions – rather than hiding under a rock which is what you’ll really feel like doing – will help your parents, and save you and your family a lot of stress and pain…

6 things you should know about becoming ‘the adult’ with your parents and children:

  1. You’ll have to cope with tough choices. Brace yourself for the endless stream of medical, financial and quality-of-life decisions that will have to be made. Know that these will sometimes be at odds with what your parent wants, as well as everybody else in the extended family. If you land the overwhelming role of primary carer, stop stressing and start delegating – if your siblings are close by, lean on them – a social media group can keep them updated and be a lifeline when you need it yourself. While frustration and resentment is unavoidable, work to minimise it.
  1. It’s not like having another child. ‘My mother-in-law had lived a whole life before I was even born. She was set in her ways – and rightfully so.’ Your older parent has adult feelings and needs to be engaged. Caring for her will be time consuming and require lots of patience. Managing medications, arranging doctor’s visits, trying to convince her to try a hearing aid, walker or wheelchair etc., and helping her manoeuvre around the house, are all things you’ll need to accept and cope with yourself.
  1. It might be embarrassing and uncomfortable, and could compromise her dignity. Having someone live in your house sometimes means seeing and hearing more than you ever wanted to. It’s tricky trying to have a semblance of your normal life when your parent is always there. Calling on the help of other relatives so that you can have a break or entertain by having friends over like you usually would, is very necessary to limit feelings of resentment.
  1. Focus on your relationship with your partner. Discuss with your partner the inevitable strain your relationship will be put under, and do your best to prepare your children by talking about life and death with them. When you feel like lashing out, you need some space. Ask for help and take the break you need. Don’t be too proud to admit you can’t handle it all on your own.
  1. A doctor’s job is to worry about prolonging life, not quality of life’. Try to remember that prolonging your loved one’s life at all costs may be at the expense of her seeing out her final years, months and days as enjoyably and comfortably as possible. Don’t be afraid to step in, for your parent’s sake.
  1. Could a senior-care aide or assisted living and frail care be better for all involved? Shouldering all the responsibility because you feel you have to, could end up not doing anyone any favours. Don’t wait until it’s too late to hire help or look into moving your loved one into a facility that’s dedicated to catering to her needs. Making the decision early on with your parents is better than doing it with your siblings or all alone.

Explore the financial implications and make arrangements to afford it. Take your parents to visit assisted-living centres nearby and don’t wait to put their names down on the waiting list – it’s often difficult to find space.


While the pressure-cooker situation of caring for both parents and small children has its difficulties, some of us might experience kids in their twenties returning to the nest while we simultaneously support our parents.

Hands-on tips for handling opposing ends:

Voice your expectations

Know what everyone can bring to the table financially and work out a spending plan. While a contribution may not be possible initially, there are other things your child can do to compensate. Your role as parent doesn’t remove your adult child’s responsibility to do something to help the situation. Enabling your child to become so dependent that she can’t build her own life is the last thing she or you need. The same goes for your parents who need to feel like they’re contributing to the household, in one way or another.

Practice self-care

Don’t be afraid to ask for your siblings’ help and be selfish sometimes. The better you take care of yourself by keeping up your exercise goals or going to Art once a week will help you be a happier and better caregiver.

Savour the moment

While it’s easy to want to wish this time away, try to enjoy life as it can help take the edge off of your stress. Think about the future and know that when your parents are no longer with you and your family, you’ll appreciate the time that you did have together.

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