According to government statistics, more than one million households are now trapped in what has been called the “Sandwich Generation”, supporting both debt laden adult children and caring for at least one elderly parent.
In a recent survey by insurance company LV, the average middle aged parents are forced to balance working full-time while spending an extra 19 hours every week caring for their older relatives. Meanwhile they are spending nearly £6,500 a year on children aged 22 and over the survey says.
£6,500 a year on children sounds almost like a bargain to me, but my children are still young and expensive. The thought of these sweet (ish) bundles of joy ever leaving home is abhorrent. Mind you as I am currently house hunting I am very much aware of the fact that my boys are unlikely to finish Uni and fly the nest as my generation did. Added to which, I am increasingly aware of the fact that my mother is very old now. I was, how do I put this delicately, a surprise baby, she is now almost 80. Thinking about it now, I must have been a huge shock.
My brother is 10 years older than me, his children are all doing A Levels, University or working and still very much living at home. So rather than thinking of buying a house which will suit me and my boys till they finish school/uni, and hit the working world with vengeance but one which won’t feel like an empty chasm in 10 years’ time, I am having to consider the fact that they are likely to be cluttering up the place for a lot longer. Added to which there is the Mother Issue! I adore her, don’t get me wrong. She is a wonderful lady, kind, caring and helpful. While I do love my mother dearly, having her under the same roof as me for more than 5 days turns me into a stroppy teenager. I’m not joking, I can feel it brewing by day 3!
So the survey makes grim reading indeed, and very pertinent to my circumstances. However, there is a solution and one my generation of soon to be sandwichers are talking about more and more often – the garden cabin! Unlike our children, who will struggle to get onto the property ladder until they are about 30, my generation managed to get our foothold onto the market in our mid-20s, and now have decent houses, with good gardens.
There are so many garden cabins to choose from, costing a lot less than you might imagine. Look at this one (click here), it’s virtually a bungalow in its own right. Technically you are not supposed to use them as a home, but if you need a space to retreat to, or to lodge guests for a while as your aging relatives and children have taken up all the available rooms in your house then they are ideal.
Then there is the “flat pack home” which has become increasingly popular since Amanda Lamb presented a TV show of the same name in 2010. These homes are made in panels and are shipped over from Sweden or Germany and bolted together like very posh lego. They are surprisingly inexpensive and, subject to planning permission of course, can house one or other end of the sandwich very comfortably.
Some people would talk about converting their garages into extra accommodation. It is a great idea. I don’t know about you, but my garage is not used as parking space for my car, it is full of stuff. Very useful stuff, like Christmas decorations, suit cases, camping things (virtually unused), tools, ladders, toys which I can’t bear to throw away, garden chairs and oh, just vast amounts of stuff. I’d have to build vast shed or cabin in my garden to accommodate this stuff if I converted my garage.
So while I am house hunting, I am making sure that whatever I buy has enough garden to build either a retreat for me in the form of a log cabin so that I can escape, or maybe a guest home or a permanent granny structure.