Money issues with family
May 7, 2012 3:46 PM Subscribe
Can you shed some light on this situation with my mom and her hints about her financial situation?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (33 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I had a good childhood. The only blip was hearing my parents fight about money. My mom had a terrible childhood - poor, abused, bounced around foster care. She was struggling terribly with a small child (my half-sister) when she married my dad, who wasn't wealthy but was doing well in his career.
My mom stayed at home while I was growing up and there were constant fights: I heard from my dad how my mom wiped out the checking account on shopping sprees. I heard from my mom how my dad was stingy with the everyday money and never gave her enough for groceries/bills/etc. I know this was inappropriate for them to be discussing with me. I don't know what the accurate money situation was and as I got older, recognized that this wasn't my business, even if they both tried to make it my business. Knowing both of my parents as I do (who have been nothing but loving to me, but less than loving to each other), I imagine there's a little truth in both sides.
I was on and off ill during my 20s. I worked when I could, but often couldn't and my parents supported me well into my late 20s. They did so generously, willingly and without restrictions or rules. They took care of me completely and supported me. I'm well now, and I survived that period of my life because my parents were so helpful and supportive. I was lucky.
My dad is retired, but receives a generous pension from his job. My mom now works full-time at a job that pays just OK (more than enough to live on, but not enough for what she does). A lot of my mom's money has gone to support my half-sister, who is much older than me and went through a long period of drug abuse and jail time. My sister is also doing well, but is living at home and my mom's bank account is still recovering from all the money she poured into helping my sister get out of trouble. (My dad was the one who foot the bill for me when I was sick - all checks came from him.)
My mom has hinted that my dad did not help with my sister, as he doesn't consider my half-sister to be his "real" child (there's a long backstory on this).
My mom has also said that she and my dad have separate accounts now, and don't share money. (My mom is the talker; my dad is not and is uncomfortable with conversations beyond simple niceties, so I only have my mom's info to go on.)
After years of struggling, I'm finally employed at a job that pays me well. I don't make a ton of money (though it seems like a ton to me) and make just slightly more than my mom does.
Ever since I landed this job, my mom has started hinting that she's broke. I gladly paid for her plane ticket to visit me last year (my parents live across the country) and other things here and there. However, she's now hinting very passive-aggressively that she's very broke and hates her job and would like to retire, but she can't because she has no money. (She's a few years from retirement age.) She once again said she would like to visit me, but has no money. I am happy to pay for tickets to visit me, and all the other treats involved, but I don't have enough money to pay for a retirement.
I don't know what to do with this information. My parents live a nice, middle-class lifestyle with nice cars and a nice house. I know my dad has a lot of money from his pension and lives comfortably.
However, I also know that my mom is low on money because of my sisters' troubles. I don't make enough to help my mom the way she's asking, but I feel guilty and confused about this situation. My parents selflessly helped me when I was sick, beyond what parents should probably do for adult children.
I feel like it's time for me to help my mom in the same way she helped me, but I can't really figure out what's going on. Any questions I've asked about my dad's money have been shut down with, "He won't help me," and the conversation ends there. So what I see is my mom hinting that she needs money and I understand that she doesn't want to ask my dad because that would start a fight, but I also feel uncomfortable that I'm barely back on my feet, just beginning to support myself and that it seems like my mom is expecting me to give her money so she can avoid a fight with my dad.
I love my parents. They're in their mid-60s (mom) and late '70s (dad), and I plan to move closer in the next few years to be near them in their old age. I feel indebted to them and want to help. But I have the nagging feeling my mom is just using me to avoid a fight with my dad about money, and once again, I'm that 8-year-old in the middle of their money fights.
How would you handle this, Metafilter? Am I being a selfish kid that just needs to help a mom who helped me so much? Am I being manipulated?
Other relavent info: I'm now in my 30s. My parents are still married and live in the same house together. I understand that their money/relationship issues are not my problem, but my mom is my mom and I need to make sure she's taken care of.
Did I make a therapy appointment? Oh god, you bet I did. I'm looking for some strategies/clarity in the meantime. Thanks.