Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Dear Mandy...

Hi Mandy,

I just found your blog Childfreedom and your Top 100 list not to have kids and I agree with your points. My husband and I decided not to have kids for many of those same reasons. And most of the time, we are happy and have no regrets of our decision...I'm 35 and he is 42.

Our only concern is the dreaded old age. Who'll help us when we need help? We have a few nieces and nephews who are at least a few hours away by car. Do you have any insights on that topic? Or can you write about that topic? We know having someone to take care of us when we get older is not a good enough reason to have kids...and there's no guarantee that they will.

Thanks for your blog!



Hi Angie,

Thanks for writing.

The "who will take care of you in old age?" question comes up a lot and as you said, although it is an understandable concern, it is really not a compelling reason to have children.

If you've ever visited a nursing home, you have probably seen that most people in nursing homes have children, and many of said children do not visit their parents. In fact, some of the saddest people in nursing homes are the people with kids, because many of them have been dumped there by their kids and left to rot. What could be more hurtful and disappointing than that?

But let's imagine for a moment that you have wonderful children who are willing to take care of you in old age. Do you really want to saddle your children - who have their own families, jobs and responsibilities - with that burden? Isn't that a very selfish thing to do? I can't imagine wanting to dump that kind of burden on someone I love.

Who will take care of the childfree when they get old? I have a few ideas.

1. Our friends (since we've hopefully developed and sustained many more deep, lasting friendships because our lives have not been consumed with childrearing).

2. Ourselves (since we've hopefully taken a good chunk of the money we have saved by not having kids, estimated to be at least $250,000 per child - and saved it for retirement and quality long-term care).

3. Other childfree folks (imagine a "Golden Girls" scenario where a group of elderly friends live together, share a home and look out for each other. Is that type of scenario so far-fetched?)

A little creative thinking on issues like this can really go a long way!



Hilary said...

To your point #3--An article recently came out about this exact thing. Sounds great to me! My friends and I joke all the time that we'll be old biddies, drinking on the porch and whistling at the young, hot whipper-snappers who walk by and causing a ruckus at Bingo!

Bee said...

As someone who used to work in long-term nursing, I wholeheartedly agree with a lot of what you've said. Taking care of someone who has dementia or is incapable of mobility or any other number of problems can be extremely difficult and time consuming. A lot of residents do feel as if they were dumped by their families, but, more often than not, the families are just incapable of giving these people the care and attention they need. In cases where a resident is more lucid, however, they usually understand that their children have jobs, lives, and just aren't able to provide the care that they need.

Spectra said...

My husband and I plan on just going into a home if we get really ill. We figure we'll get long-term care insurance and let the skilled people who get paid to take care of us do it. Who wants a whiny, resentful little kid or son/daughter-in-law taking care of them? Not me!

Temujin said...

A wise person told me a few years ago, "you have to plan for old age whether you have children or not."

Having children is, by itself, a terrible retirement plan. Even if you can expect children who will want to take care of you, you would still need other financial planning anyway.

I would also add an even more negative possibility -- you could have kids that YOU have to take care of when you're elderly, not the other way around. They could actually drain your retirement, not support it. I know a 90 year old man who is still paying all the bills for his 60 year old son, with no end in sight. Another son helps take care of the dad, so the dad more or less comes out even, at best.

LadyTyger said...

Out of curiosity, was this letter from a real CF person? It sounds a bit troll-ish to me. Or I may just be super cynical this evening. LOL!

Harvey Requiem said...


I completely understand how problematic that can be and that some old-age issues simply can't be undertaken by anything other than specialists. My mom, who was forced to take care of her grandmother-in-law who had Alzheimer (due to my father threatening to leave her if she didn't, because he refused to put her in professional care), has already told us that if we don't feel up to it or if we even don't want to that we shouldn't feel bad putting her in professional care. In fact, given the hell she was put through, she prefers it and told us she'd totally haunt us if we took care of her personally because we felt obliged! And given what I saw of that hell she went through, I don't blame her.

But to those in my family, what turns it from "This is where you'll get the help you need" into "This is where I'm dumping you to die because you're in my way" is when someone is committed to professional care and never visited and hardly communicated with. I couldn't imagine leaving any member of my family in professional care for any kind of problem without going out of my way to visit at least once a week--if only to be sure that they are being taken care of properly, since for every good establishment there is a neglectful and/or abusive one. My sister worked in one of those places (she did laundry) and she was broken-hearted at how many people just dumped their parents there and never showed up until it was time to rake in some dough post-mortem. Neither one of us could imagine doing anything like that. I know that if it came to Alzheimer or dementia I'd have to put them in professional care, but I'd also be visiting them at least once a week regularly--it would be a priority.

And yes, perhaps these people are just avoiding an unpleasant situation, but again, that's not how we understand "family" in my house. When my paternal grandmother was dying (before I was born), my uncles kept avoiding any visits to her--my mother and my father were the only ones really coming to see her or comfort her, and her other, younger sons and husband were willing to abandon her to avoid pain to themselves. My mother read them the riot act about that--you don't just avoid or abandon family because the situation is upsetting, and if you find it upsetting how much more must your mother, who is dying of cancer with none of her loved ones showing up to see her, feel? Believe me, I know how tempting it is to run away from that, but your loved one can't run away from it like you can and they need you. It's not just some petulant elderly delusion to feel dumped or abandoned when that happens.

Of course, I've been told by many people that the level of tightness in our family (think Freaks-level "gooble gobble one of us") is some kind of freakish aberration or something and "totally not normal", so maybe we're just really strange. *eyeroll* I'm not making that up either. I've really been told that. That's not to slight other families out there who are actually just as tightly knit.

Valerie said...

Julia Child picked out her own assisted living facility and lived there until her death a few years ago. You can plan for yourself, especially if you have bought long-term care insurance and set aside money for a decent living arrangement!

shell said...

mandy is right it's selfish to expect your adult children to take care of you
when you are old. do you actually even KNOW anyone these days who is doing such a thing?
a have a teacher friend whose father is 89 and he's been in the nursing home
for almost 3 years. he has alzheimers. he can't walk now or speak. my friend and
her husband both work full time and they did try to take care of
"dad" for awhile --beginning about 6 years ago - but when he began wandering the neighborhood and falling down while
they were at work, for his own safety they had to place him in a home.
my friend visits her dad every single day. she loves him but it's impossible
for him to be taken care of by her in her home.

some people live to be old and have no health problems. but most older people-over age 85 - have something wrong with them and need some sort of help...beyond what just adult children can give. if you are childfree you must remember that you are saving $$$ that would otherwise go to raising a kid. SO SAVE it. if it costs
$220 K in today's $$ to raise one kid to age 18 - do the math. that's about
$12,220 a year savings...per year! so you should be saving at least that much into
a special account that can help fund your old age care.

i have another teacher friend who lost her only child
2 years ago. he was 25 and he died in a car accident.
she of course is heartbroken and will never be the same. so even if you have a child and are able to raise him to adulthood, there are no guarantees that he will outlive YOU.

Zazzu said...

I live in an area with mostly elderly folks. Every one of them that I know, EVERY ONE, is supporting their kids/grandkids financially. They could spend that money on long-term care insurance and get MUCH better results.

At 35, Angie should already have some LTC insurance lined up. It's only going to get more expensive as you age. Also, you may need it before you're elderly.

Artemis said...

I am sorry if this is not directly related to the post, but I think it is interesting to check this and think "why no one has ever spoken about this kind of things before?"

Jin's Blog said...

I had the same question that Angie did. You answered it beautifully. Thanks Mandy!!

Ire said...

I'm 31 and never ever in my life wanted children, I've never seen the point of it, it's such a waste of time, money and life! I have a long-time friend from when we were 9 and she doesn't want children either. We've always been friends and we've promised ourselves we'll keep each other company in our old years. At least we reciprocate without having to make other people feel we are a burden to them.

Ire said...

Has anyone seen the movie "Gran Torino"? The protagonist is an old man with an awful son and daughter-in-law and a spoilt selfish granddaughter who want to get him into an assylum. He ignores them, becomes friends with the neighbours (spoiler) and when he dies he gives his dear car to his teenage neighbour boy. Very recommendable.

angela said...

I've always thought that a Golden Girls scenario would be perfect! My only real worry is that I hope to always have dogs and I know I'll have to have plans for them when I can no longer care for them or pass away. Ideally maybe I could own a home, rent some rooms to other people (maybe others who don't want to live in an assisted living because they have pets) and we could share hiring helpers to take care of us, the house, and the dog(s).

Wen said...

I take care of my elderly Mom, but don't feel "saddled" by it. She's my's an honor. Is it hard...yes! Do I wish I didn't have too. YES! But I do it, because I want to. I love her!

I could never see her in a nursing home. My husband and I have no children and my niece said she'll take care of me if need be.

I guess I never thought that children should take care of me, but I hope that someone will. So far it is my niece.

Kassandra Reinhardt said...

I don't want to say that money is everything, but I think in this case it really will make the difference.
Investing in your retirement as well as in long term care is the smartest thing anyone could do and unfortunately when you have children, it's much more difficult. I don't plan on having kids, but I plan on saving up as much as I can to ensure I will have a good quality of life in a very good residence when the time comes. It's all about planning ahead!

Kei said...

I'm only 19. lol. I kinda don't really get well with kids... I thought that I shouldn't be having my own in the future too. But obviously, I was also concern of my old age in the future (which has a long time to go). This post REALLY did solve the questions in my head. Btw... Like shell's comment very much. it's so true! especially the last sentence...

indian.childfree said...

This is the one thought which scares everyone...who will take care of us in our old age. And I so agree with you Mandy that I would never leave that burden on anyone, especially loved ones. I have a nephew but I dont think he will grow up with the idea that someday you will have to take care of your aunt and uncle. It would be unfair to even have the expectation. Even people with children should not have that expectation (but I guess all do and hence they are sad in the later half of their lives)

indian.childfree said...

I agree that you cannot saddle your loved ones with the responsibility of taking care of you during your old age. That would be really selfish. I have a nephew but I would never expect him to take care of me..moreover I am sure he is not going to grow up with thoughts of taking care of me and my hubby.
The idea of friends cohabiting (my friends 'with children' are already planning this with me) is great...have a nice home with all the facilities and all pitch in. People who have kids can have them visit whenever they want.

Adventures Along The Way said...

I just would like to see to be careful about what kind of long-term care insurance you choose.

My grandparents had nursing home insurance that was supposed to cover nursing home care or *any* care that they needed. Only the state law changed and they now longer paid for what they said they would pay for in the brochure. So my grandmother's assisted living care was not covered. My dad tried to fight it, but finally just gave up because suing them would cost a lot in lawyer fees too.

So my dad tells me (and he is also doing this for my mom and him) just to save money for long-term care and retirement, but not to use a sort of insurance program. I guess there are reputable ones out there, but after my grandparents' experience, I also plan to just save my money myself.