• The burden of caregiving (for both children and aging parents) tends to fall to women
  • Right now, we’re seeing Gen X and Millennial women stuck in a tug-of-war between their careers, their day-to-day family obligations, and their caregiving duties.
  • Planning ahead is one of the best tools to help women avoid caregiver burnout.

I have six parents. Yes, you heard that right: six. And I’m probably going to spend the next 10–20 years of my life being responsible for all of them in their old age. 👪

Let me explain. I come from a blended family: after my parents had me and my sister, they divorced and got remarried. So if we’re doing the math, that’s two biological parents, two step-parents, and finally two parents-in-law through my marriage to my husband. 💍

Here’s the thing: I’m the oldest of four children in my family, and the eldest daughter. My husband is one of two boys. Statistically speaking, female + oldest = caregiver. All else being equal, it’s most likely that the responsibility of caregiving—for all SIX parents—will fall to me by default.

And I can’t say I’m really looking forward to that.

The Tug-of-War That is Womanhood 

Did you ever go to one of those family picnics where they had summertime outdoor games? I often find myself thinking back to these events as a metaphor for life as a woman in today’s society. Specifically, I think about the dreaded tug-of-war

Today, overwhelming numbers of Gen X and Millennial women are being forced into a tug-of-war they didn’t sign up for. They’re caught between their careers, their children, and their aging parents, and all of these things are vying for their attention all at once. 🪢

Now, don’t get me wrong. I want my parents to live incredibly long, happy lives. Most people want that for their parents! 

But unlike most people, I’ve been working in Aging & End of Life Planning for more than a decade now. That means I have a concrete understanding of what it takes to give somebody a long, happy life. And let me tell you: those things don’t just grow on trees! 🌴

Elder care is expensive. Caregiving is hard work (even though it can also be really rewarding). And here’s the thing: life doesn’t stop moving when you have an aging parent who needs support. Most often, women are the ones who get caught in the middle of all these demands, with their busy working lives on one side and their families on the other. And that, frankly, is exhausting.

Why Gen X and Millennial Women are Stuck

March is Women’s History Month. And as a woman myself, I’m all for celebrating how completely awesome we are! It also makes me reflect on what my daughter is going to look back on when she’s my age and celebrating Women’s History Month herself. How is she going to look at the women of our generation?

I think that what she will see and reflect on is how incredibly difficult it was for Millennial and Gen X women to manage:

🟣 Their wishes and desires

🟣 Their familial obligations

🟣 Their blossoming careers

🟣 Their caregiving responsibilities to their parents and children

I don’t know about you, but when I read back that list, I feel tired already! Even though I still have a few more years left before that last item gets added onto my plate, I have a very clear idea of what’s coming down the pipe, and I’m already starting to feel the pressure. 

We see this happening all over Canada right now with Gen X women. They were the first generation to really delay having children (whether by choice or due to medical issues out of their control). They had their kids later, which means that they are now “older parents.” They’re in their mid-to-late 40s and still raising young children. Now they’ve got their own parents in their early 70s and older, who are starting to require care and attention. 

We’ve got a generation of brilliant, strong and accomplished women being spread too thin. It’s not sustainable to ask women to care for children AND aging parents, all while attempting to maintain their careers and support their families. 

Planning for Women’s Futures 

How do we fix this? In a word, planning

I don’t want to sugarcoat things here: this isn’t going to be the easiest thing in the world. To really address this problem, we need more publicly funded eldercare and assisted-living facilities. We need affordable childcare. We need big, long-term policy change

But while we’re waiting on those things, we can all take steps to make things better for ourselves and our families. That starts with Aging & End of Life Planning

Families need to be sitting down with each other and having some realistic conversations about what’s coming. What happens when mom and dad can’t navigate their multi-storey house anymore? Who’s going to help parents take their meds every day? Do we have enough money in the coffers to pay for a retirement home? And does everybody in this equation have their Last Will & Testament drafted & updated?

It might sound like a lot—but really, the hardest part is getting the ball rolling. Working with a Legacy Coordinator is the best way to kickstart things: as professionals in Aging & End of Life Planning, they know all the ins and outs of the whole process, including which questions to ask you and how to guide you and your families through tough conversations

And finally, we need to learn from the experiences of Gen X women. Yes, we should do all our best to support them in the future that they have ahead of them for the next 10 to 20 years, but we should also learn from what they’re going through. Millennial and Gen Z women need to be thinking about what their lives are going to look like when they are in their 40s, 50s, 60s and caring for their own aging parents. We need to start setting ourselves up for success and learn from our female predecessors. 

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About the Author

Mallory McGrath is the Founder & CEO of Viive Planning. Mallory is a wife, daughter, mother, sister, and friend. She advocates for Aging & End of Life Planning to help families to create open lines of communication and avoid tensions as they all continue on their journeys through life.

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