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How do I handle my family/personal situation?
February 22, 2010 9:34 AM   Subscribe

Playing Driving Miss Daisy with my mom for the past 4 years, and I'm now 23. It's time for me to move on, but how, when communication is dry? Details inside.

I apologize for the length.

My mother depended on my father for driving until his death in 2006, shortly after I graduated high school. I stayed in town to support her and my siblings while attending community college and working part-time. Since then I've been driving her, my siblings- who are now in middle and high school- and myself everywhere.

Needless to say, managing 5 schedules, and new man-of-the house responsibilities took it's toll and I have 9 credit hours and 4 academic suspensions to my name at 2 different colleges. Therapy helped somewhat- I stopped going to any useful sessions months ago. I haven't been to school in over a year, thankfully, and I recently got a management position in a retail chain (nothing prestigious, but it is what it is). I'm ready to move on.

My mother has had her license and lessons, but wont drive. We only have one car. She wont let me know my financial situation, and it's been like this for too long. It's not like my mom is stupid, she has a Master's and just landed a management position where she works as well.

Extended family isn't in the picture. For all intents and purposes, we have no extended family. I am the oldest of 4 children. I've held AT LEAST one part-time job at a time since age 16, and by my calculations should have at the very least $5k in a savings account, if not $18k, but recently found out I have much less than $1k.

To make things worse, it's a savings account that my mother controls- it is under my name, but only my mother can touch it. Money is taboo, and no matter how I try to confront my mother, she waves it off. Intervention with a family friend months ago resulted in nothing. I don't necessarily think she's being vindictive, but I'm 23 and this is LONG overdue. I feel like my mother still treats my like a child, when I'm not. If I walk away from her in a heated disagreement, she calls the police. It's happened twice, though not recently. I'm not crazy, not depressed, and not violent towards anyone. She's the type to over-react to EVERYTHING.

How do I approach this whole situation without feeling like I'm abandoning my family?
posted by Giggilituffin to Human Relations (23 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
If the account is in your name, go to the bank and withdraw the funds. Open an account for yourself at another bank. Stop giving your mother money. She's using it to control you.
posted by ocherdraco at 9:37 AM on February 22, 2010 [9 favorites]


I can't believe your mother controls your savings account at 23. You've been an adult for FIVE years. Walk into a bank, and open up an account under your own name. Taking charge of your own money is the first step in taking back your life.
posted by changeling at 9:38 AM on February 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


You can start by getting yourself your own bank account -- of course you're old enough to do that, and the $1k you have in the other account might just have to be a loss. Start over, start routing your paychecks where you want them to go, and deal with your money yourself. If your mother won't let you have the conversation, then don't have it.

As for the driving, it's time to start saying no. If you need a car to get around and you're worried you will be denied the 1 far, then perhaps first figure out how long you need to work and how much you need to save to buy a cheap used one, and buy it. Don't let anyone else have the keys (not for fear that they'll use them as much as for fear that they'll keep them from you), and start saying no to driving your family around.

And, hopefully, start moving out soon too. Your mother is functional and has a job. Your brothers and sisters will be ok, you're not abandoning them, you don't have to leave, you can still be on hand for emergencies, but you need to start being able to put your foot down when it's not an emergency. Also, if you're 23, presumably at least one of your younger siblings is old enough to drive now too?

Start taking control of your own life. I would recommend going back to therapy to work on the actual conversations you need to have and the actual steps you need to take, but I would open the new bank account TODAY. seriously.
posted by brainmouse at 9:40 AM on February 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


You're old enough to 1) start your own bank account, 2) deposit your paychecks into said checking account. If you have a steady income that is enough to pay for an apartment, withdraw the money from your savings and move out.
While you do get to live rent-free, you are paying more than this in the chores you do for the family, and letting your mom control all of your funds. 23 is WAY too old for your mom to still keep your own earnings from you. You are an adult, and you don't have to let her control you.
posted by ishotjr at 9:40 AM on February 22, 2010


Also, you may feel guilty, but plenty of single parents manage without making their children serve in a parental role. If your mom has a license and can drive, she has absolutely no excuse for making you do all the driving for five people. It's ridiculous. Your mom may need therapy, because she's clearly not coping well with change, and puts the burden on you. If you're 23, I'm guessing at least one of your siblings is old enough to get a drivers license and take on some of the driving.
posted by ishotjr at 9:42 AM on February 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


Also..I would be careful around her...if she is prone to calling the police over silly things...be careful you don't end up in cuffs with a domestic charge by default. Watch your back.
posted by ian1977 at 9:56 AM on February 22, 2010


There's already good advice here, but I just want to address this:

How do I approach this whole situation without feeling like I'm abandoning my family?

I had to make a decision once where I had the same feeling. I'll repeat what a wise counselor told me:

"You're afraid of abandoning someone else, so you'd rather abandon yourself?"
posted by The Deej at 10:01 AM on February 22, 2010 [4 favorites]


First, go to your bank as others have suggested and open a new account. You will have a new account and can move your money into it by writing a check from your old account to your new account in under an hour.

Second, go to the library and check out a few "for dummies" kinds of books on personal finance. You will feel SO AWESOME when you get a grip on how to handle your money and your future. You can totally do it. People are not born with this knowledge and it can be hard to get without a mentor or help. If your parents did not help you with these skills (seems not) and your schooling hasn't provided it (typical) then you can learn it yourself in a weekend. There's some books aimed specifically at personal finance in your 20s. Check them out and learn to be free!

Third, after you have done these things time to sit down with your mom and outline a schedule for when you can make yourself available. I suggest one weekend a month. Maybe two Sunday night dinners. Or whatever. This is a reasonable amount of time for a busy adult to spend with their parents and siblings. Also, once a boundary has been set and you all have successfully managed to work within those boundaries then things can get looser.

I'm sorry that you lost your Dad at such a young age. I know things are hard for your mother and your siblings. You can help them more by disassociating and becoming a responsible adult with adult resources and capabilities. Schooling is part of that. You need to focus on that and your job and your life goals. Good luck -- you can do it!
posted by amanda at 10:05 AM on February 22, 2010


Oh. My. God.

1. Yes. Open your own account. Kiss off the money that your mom controls. Consider it the price of getting the fuck out of this situation. There is no valid reason for your mother to know more about your financial situation than you do.

2. Take the family out to dinner. Your treat. Tell them that they have one month to arrange for the majority of their transportation, help around the house and whatever else is that you do for them. This is not negotiable. Do not debate. Do not explain. Simply inform them of what will happen.

3. If you feel like you can help them to some degree without sacrificing you own well-being, then tell them you will give them X number of hours per week. Keep this number in the single digits. Death, dismemberment or hospitalizations are the only acceptable exceptions for going over your limit. Inform them that they will have to use your time wisely, since it is all they will get. Again, do not debate. Do not argue.

4. Hold your ground. Remember, this is not a negotiation.


You will probably feel guilty. This kind of manipulation cannot happen without a fairly robust guilt economy at work. For now, just do it despite feeling like you are abandoning your family. Your mother does not have to treat you like an adult in order for you to act like one. Likewise, she does not have to act like a grown-up in order for you to treat her like one.

You're obviously a good son and you clearly care about your family. When the guilt pangs start to tug at you, remind yourself that pulling away from the man-of-the-house job is in their best interest too.
posted by space_cookie at 10:08 AM on February 22, 2010 [4 favorites]


And yes, of course, move out. Immediately.
posted by space_cookie at 10:11 AM on February 22, 2010


If the account is in your name, go to the bank and withdraw the funds. Open an account for yourself at another bank. Stop giving your mother money.

That was your money. Where did it go? Who spent it?
posted by KokuRyu at 10:23 AM on February 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


My mother has had her license and lessons, but wont drive. We only have one car. She wont let me know my financial situation, and it's been like this for too long. It's not like my mom is stupid, she has a Master's and just landed a management position where she works as well.

Extended family isn't in the picture. For all intents and purposes, we have no extended family. I am the oldest of 4 children. I've held AT LEAST one part-time job at a time since age 16, and by my calculations should have at the very least $5k in a savings account, if not $18k, but recently found out I have much less than $1k.

To make things worse, it's a savings account that my mother controls- it is under my name, but only my mother can touch it. Money is taboo, and no matter how I try to confront my mother, she waves it off. Intervention with a family friend months ago resulted in nothing. I don't necessarily think she's being vindictive, but I'm 23 and this is LONG overdue.


Assuming you have less than $1k in the bank, it's time to do the following:

- Write off the money you've lost as a bad investment
- Open your own bank account
- Start putting your money into your bank account yourself
- When your mother asks you why you're not giving her money to deposit, tell her you've decided to start living like an adult, which includes taking responsibility for your own finances, and isn't she glad you're taking the burden away from her
- If she threatens to kick you out, take away the car, and so so, then you know she was using money to control you, and now she's going to use housing and the car to control you, so it's a good thing you figured this out now, isn't it?

Meanwhile, regarding the car and your housing, I assume it is the "family" car (ie it was your father's) and so you should start looking for living arrangements that can be made close enough to your school and work (change jobs if you have to) so that you don't need to have a car -- and if that doesn't work for her, she can drive herself around.

You are, ultimately, an adult now, and you need to stop living like a child. Take responsibility for your life, and accept that they should be reaching out to you and asking when they need you, not demanding or taking you for granted for convenience.

Finally, as for guilt: you have no reason to feel guilty. You've acted in a pseudo-spousal role for your mom for four years now; that was more than enough time for your mother and siblings to adjust their lives to one without dad around. If anyone should feel guilty, it is them, for taking advantage of you for so long.
posted by davejay at 10:26 AM on February 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


Over the years, having watched a lot of people go through this, I can say for sure that when your mother can't use you, she'll find someone else to use. She will be okay. If you are not careful, she will guilt you into taking care of her for the rest of her life. She will not be grateful for the sacrifices you have already made or for any you make in the future.

$18K is a lot to write off. $1k is not. For so long as you live under her roof, you have to play by your mother's rules. Get out of there. Find an apartment. Find a roommate. Find a life.
posted by clarkstonian at 10:27 AM on February 22, 2010


You are not abandoning your family. These are not your responsibilities, they are your mother's. She has already abandoned her children in that role, and will continue to do so for as long as you are enabling her.
posted by blazingunicorn at 10:29 AM on February 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


You're not abandoning your family. Your mother has abandoned her responsibilities. She was able to get a master's and holds down a job? Unless she has a disability, she can drive her own goddamn self. Really. Sounds like the household lost both parents when your dad died, and you've been picking up the slack - which is horseshit.
posted by notsnot at 10:32 AM on February 22, 2010


If your name is on that account, you can also request all historical statements on it to see when and who was withdrawing money and for how much.

Also, who did your taxes? Are you still being claimed as a dependant?
posted by asockpuppet at 10:36 AM on February 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


Go to the bank and ask to see the withdrawal history. Once you see that your mother has been stealing your money, getting up the nerve to follow the other advice in this thread should be pretty easy.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 11:16 AM on February 22, 2010


In addition to all the excellent advice posted above... CHECK YOUR CREDIT! If your mother has taken advantage of your time, generosity, and money, who's to say she hasn't taken advantage of your social security number? Don't listen to the stupid commercial. The place to get free credit reports is AnnualCreditReport.com. Your credit rating is worth a lot more than a measly thousand bucks, and it is absolutely worth fighting for.
posted by SamanthaK at 11:56 AM on February 22, 2010 [3 favorites]


Your mom is a control freak. Agree with Ian that you need to watch your back.
Agree that you need your own bank account ASAP.
My concern, especially since your mom made the police phone calls, is that you may have to be totally passive aggressive to get out of there. Everything should be non-confrontational or it seems she may attack and try to get back control. I would tell her nothing until I had the money for a car, and ready to leave. When she freaks be kind, appeasing and withdraw to go on your own way.
Your siblings, who are older can drive or she can.
Your siblings may need support too.
Know these are not the best ways to deal with things in general but your mom is really off balance.
If you have an aunt/ uncle or anyone with sense that has clout with your mom it would be a great idea for them to visit for a few weeks.
Returning to counseling is a good idea too.
You have my prayers.
posted by srbrunson at 12:19 PM on February 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


I agree with srbrunson.

Your mom sounds abusive and controlling, and you should plot your escape. First, if at all possible tell a friend (or preferably a few friends) everything you've laid out here and what your plan is, and ask if it'd be okay to stay at their place if things get heated at home. Then, open the new account and route your money there. I say it in this order because I'm afraid your mom will flip out when she no longer has access to your money - she will see it as a sign of betrayal or abandonment (it is not), and things might go south immediately. If that happens, you'll be glad you have a safe and sane place to stay. If you have no friends in the area, see if you can find a really cheap motel in the area that you could afford, or youth hostel, and know how to get there w/o the car if necessary (any taxis in your town? Anything within bicycling distance?). You definitely don't want your mom to accuse you of stealing her car.

As for the account itself, make sure that's only in your name, and that your mom doesn't know about (she should not know the bank it is at, and you should talk to the bank and tell them that there's a security issue w/r/t your mother and ask if they can put any extra protection onto your account so that she won't be able to talk her way into accessing it).

In any event. After that, proceed with whatever plan you decide, and moving out should be part of it. When you do move out, to the extent possible, move stuff out of your room discreetly and slowly. Only move things that are clearly yours so that she cannot later claim you stole from her. If things get heated at any time (i.e. she figured out you're moving out) then you need a friend with you any time you go back to the house. If you need a car to live in your town, see if you can get a really cheap car, something that lasts well like an old Honda Civic.

I think the suggestion to read personal finances for dummies books is an excellent suggestion. I'm not sure you have a lot of time for that now (but you will once you're no longer under your mom's thumb). However, a banker can at least explain your options for opening a savings & checking account and getting your money into it each month - I'd just make sure to get accounts that don't have fees associated with them, and this is typically the case if you have your work make a direct deposit into the account and if you maintain a certain minimum balance. Try to make sure that minimum balance is low or nonexistent.

This will all be made easier and faster if you get a second job, or get more hours at your job. I'm assuming you aren't working full time right now, given all the household responsibilities. To the extent possible, get your younger siblings and mom carpooling, taking the bus, riding bikes, etc., and take on more hours or a second job. Do this after you talk to your friend or otherwise arrange for an alternate place to stay just in case, and do it after you set up a new account.
posted by lorrer at 1:04 PM on February 22, 2010


Finally, silly but it just struck me: make sure that your security password is NEVER your mother's maiden name.
posted by lorrer at 1:05 PM on February 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


I don't know about your relationship with your siblings, but I would make sure they can e-mail you and/or call your cell and know those contacts for themselves. It's possible your mother will cut you out of her life; try not to let her cut you out of theirs.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 1:22 PM on February 22, 2010


Thanks for the answers so far. I am taking initiative to get a new bank account, getting my finances in order, and possibly moving in with a friend, as well as going back to a good therapist and into school. The city I live in has a stagnant economy, but that isn't stopping me from trying to get a second job.

Believe me, if extended family were in the picture at all, this wouldn't be as big as an issue, but I have NONE.

Thanks again, and more comments are always welcome.
posted by Giggilituffin at 2:40 PM on February 22, 2010


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