You’ve consciously coupled. You and your spouse discussed everything from money to sex to children to in-laws to household chores. Maybe you even read The New I Do (hey, an author can dream, right?). I applaud you and support you. Still, I’ll bet there’s something you didn’t discuss, and it’s not because you’re oblivious. You’re not. Even my co-author and I neglected to address it in The New I Do — who will care for your elderly parents and stepparents and how?
Parental caregiving is huge, especially since people are living longer nowadays, most of us don’t live close to our families — or in multi-generational homes, as in days past — and because most women are working outside the home. It didn’t happen to me until I was divorced so it wasn’t a big part of my romantic reality, even though I had a romantic partner at the time. He and I lived apart and he’d barely met my parents, who lived 3,000 miles from me, so who was going to take care of whom wasn’t part of our discussion; it did, however, impact my relationship with my sister, my only sibling, and let’s just say it wasn’t pretty.
Honey, we need to talk
My “aha” moment about it came when I stumbled upon a post (and the heartbreaking comments) in the wonderful wedding planning website A Practical Wedding. In it, author Stephanie Kaloi wonders if she and her husband will become the caregivers for their families; it’s something they never discussed when they wed years ago even though they have six aging parents and stepparents between them. As she writes:
In our house, we didn’t start having this conversation until two years ago, when my husband started working at a home for patients who have Alzheimer’s and/or dementia. It’s worth noting that his home was one of the “good” ones, and in a state that has far better laws and regulations about elder care than others. But even still, he quickly, and firmly, made a decision that none of our parents would ever end up in a facility like that. Since I have always assumed I would offer my mother a space in our home at any point in her life if she needed it, I agreed. At the time neither of us was thinking about our ever-pressing student loan debt and what that might mean for our financial future (to be honest, we still have no idea) — we just felt like this was the only clear option before us. tweet