I am not a native English speaker, so I want to apologize for any mistakes in advance.
A lot of posts here (rightfully) mention vetting for child-related issues and future problems like wanting kids or not, future childcare, not wanting to date men who already have kids etc.
A very important topic I have so far not seen mentioned here is – so to speak – the other end. Caring for elderly or disabled relatives. Women still put in most of the care work in these cases and are frequently expected to not just give birth and raise the next generation, but also to take in and take care of their own and their spouse’s elderly parents, grandparents, childless aunties and uncles and often also disabled or sick siblings.
This is especially important if you are childfree. Believe me: the sibling who doesn’t have their own children (yet) will be the first one to be guilted into becoming a caretaker, no matter what their own plans are.
As someone who has been the main caretaker of a terminally ill parent until their death in my late 20s, let me tell you, sisters: Do not underestimate this. I loved my parent with my whole heart and they were the most wonderful and cooperative “patient” you could imagine and caring for them until they passed was still the most grueling, terrible and exhausting thing I have ever done. I have legit, diagnosed PTSD from that time. I did it voluntarily and out of love. And it still took every bit of strength I had, even as a single person without kids.
For most of us the day will come when our parents are too old or sick to live alone. If you have grandparents, aunts, uncles or siblings who will need care in the future, plans need to be made accordingly. And that is just your side of the family. If you get married, you can double that.
It’s not a fun thing to talk about, but make absolutely sure to vet and talk about:
- Will elderly/disabled relatives live with you when the time comes? If so: Who will stop working and reduce their hours (negatively impacting their career and earnings) to take care of them? Can you even afford that? Do you WANT to afford that? How are you going to juggle caring for an elderly/disabled person and caring for your own kids (if you plan to have any)?
- Will you be expected to move in with relatives to care for them when the time comes? Are you both willing to do that and sacrifice your current living space and social networks?
- Are siblings and other relatives in the picture and if so: How exactly will they contribute?
- Do you plan to put them into a care facility or hire a nurse to come into their home as a caretaker? Decent facilities and nurses cost a fortune. Who is going to pay for that and how?
… I could continue for quite a while.
Most men have never given the actual reality of that serious thought. Many have already graciously promised their parents to never put them into a home or to take care of a disabled sibling/aunt/whoever after they pass. Guess who they think will do the actual caretaking? Correct: their wives.
Many people don’t want to think about the reality of taking care of an adult, even more romanticize it. It’s not just helping a sweet grandma brush her hair and button her blouse. It’s cleaning up pee and poop and vomit and blood. It’s helping them bathe and taking care of wounds, meds and other medical issues. It’s not being able to sleep at night because you worry so much. It’s lifting and turning a person who weighs as much as (or more than) you on a regular basis. And that’s not even including the hell that dementia or Alzheimer’s is. And there is no light at the end of the tunnel. With a baby, you will see them grow up and get more independent. With a sick person, you will see them recover. As the caretaker of an elderly person, the end of the tunnel is death and grief. Plain and simple.
Do not get roped into that without knowing exactly what it entails.
Do not be:
- My friend who got guilted into taking in her husband’s 40-year-old brother with Down Syndrome and is alone taking care of him and two toddlers all day while her husband works fulltime and doesn’t lift a finger
- My cousin whose husband moved in his mother with Alzheimer’s without even asking her because his he and his siblings decided that she was their job because they don’t have any kids yet. The mother wanders off, needs diapers and is frequently physically abusive towards her. Again: the husband doesn’t lift a finger in the actual, physical caretaking and expects her to only work part-time now, since he makes more money and couldn’t possibly cut back at work
- My colleague and her husband who had to bury their dream of ever buying a home because the care facility for his elderly father ate all of their savings
I’m sure you know more examples like this. Again: While vetting make sure to be on the same page and have actual plans for events like this. They will come. And they will have a huge impact on your lives.
I am not saying “put all old people in a nursing home”. I am saying: Know what you sign up for. And especially know what you spouse might be signing you up for without planning to lift a finger.