Sunél's Blog | A squash and a squeeze

Sunél Veldtman, | 14 June 2024

Over the past week, I have found myself firmly sandwiched between the layers of needs of my parents and children. My independent, octogenarian parents suddenly needed care—one had a bad fall, while the other needed urgent surgery. The siblings caucused to decide whose diary and circumstances allowed them to pitch in as carers. 

This time, I took the first shift. My sister took the baton from me after two days. I made the trip over the mountain to their retirement home, where I proceeded with the physical and emotional work of caring: trips to the hospital, doctor, physio, and shops; preparing meals, and doing laundry. I had planned to fit caring around work, but there was little time.

At times like this, I am so grateful for my work and my team. I am grateful for the business we have built around our lives, so that we can support each other when we need to pitch in and meet the needs of our families. Nevertheless, it remains challenging to balance the needs of clients and the business with family responsibilities.

For example, while at my parents', my son was being treated for a sports injury that put his participation in an important tournament at risk. His dad kept me up to date in between doctors and physios, and despite not being there physically the burden of care is still there mentally and emotionally.

I love my family—my children and parents. I did not hesitate for a moment to help my parents. I want them to feel loved and supported. At the same time, I want my son to feel supported to make the right decision.

This week’s blog, despite telling my story, isn’t about me. It’s about the reality of so many friends, family, and clients of my generation who have stories just like mine. Our diaries, lives, and work are sometimes usurped by the simultaneous needs of our children or parents.

Practically, it means that we are asked to spend time, energy, and money on those needs. This often comes at the expense of our own needs—our own relationships, our financial position, or even our retirement funding. We don’t anticipate that we may need to offer concurrent support for ageing parents and teenage or young adult children while navigating demanding times in our own lives.

Our generation delayed having children, and our parents’ generation is living longer than previous generations. Young adults also need more support than before. They tend to live at home for longer and become financially independent much later.

And often, in between all are varying degrees of shame. The shame of relying on others while having the means to pay for help. Or the shame for parents who need help, whether it is financial, emotional, or physical. Sometimes, I see shame from the sandwiched because they are spending money on the immediate needs of their family, knowing that it will impact their own financial futures.

I don’t have answers for the challenges I mention, but I hope that by shining a light on these unexpected and unplanned demands of people in midlife, we can collectively find solutions as the sandwiched.

It always helps when we share our thoughts on our challenges. We have had many fruitful discussions with clients and helped to find solutions for these challenges, especially when it comes to money.

Perhaps all I can do is to remind those who feel squashed to also care for themselves, so that they can continue to care for others.

Ps. I am taking a break from blogging for a while. I’ll be at the side of the hockey field before just enjoying a quiet mid-winter break.

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Kind regards,