What open-ended questions will help pregnant daughter mull her options?
August 19, 2013 2:25 PM   Subscribe

Our daughter, "Mimi," is a divorced single 38 year-old mother of three who lives about 4 hours away. Over the past two years we've become quasi-surrogate parents to "Kato," a 26-year old guy who we like very much. Kato recently moved into our guest house and so six weeks ago he and Mimi met when she and her kids were visiting: obvious sparks. We promptly left on a four week trip and surmised that they were hooking up. But no one said anything after we returned and we kept mum, thinking that perhaps it had run its course. Last night Kato dropped the big bomb: Mimi's pregnant and they want to keep the baby and "make it work."

From the way Kato described how they reached this decision, we question whether they've really and truly thought about it deeply. It sounded like a lot of reflexive posturing about "doing the right thing." But Kato looks like he's been hit by a train and was close to tears numerous times, especially when talking about the future and its challenges, e.g., moving to Mimi's city, abandoning his local job/ties, putting his plans for further education on hold, trading his compact car for a mini-van, etc. They've clearly been thinking about how all six of them will live in Mimi's house and related practical and logistical matters.

We don't yet know Mimi's thoughts about any of this; although we spoke several times over the weekend, she didn't drop any hints and abdicated the heavy lifting to Kato. However, tonight we'll be talking to Mimi and we have long-standing plans to see her this coming weekend.

On the one hand, it's none of our business. On the other hand, we'd like to help them reach a deeper understanding of their options and their choices, which we hope would make all four of us feel better about whatever decision they reach/reached. What non-judgmental, open-ended questions might we pose to her/them? Or should we STFU and MOOB?

As noted in this previous question, most "how to decide" resources presume that the expectant mother is young and has no other children. If you faced this dilemma as an older mother, what was helpful to you? What ways can we provide both decision-support (if, in fact, there is more thinking to do) and practical support?

Possibly relevant details:
  • In case it needs to be said, we will completely respect and accept Mimi's choice and offer her whatever emotional and practical support we can. We also trust her to know whether either abortion or adoption would lead to long-term regret for her.
  • Our relationship with Mimi is strong and we've [mostly] transitioned to dealing with each other as independent adults (with one big exception--financial independence-- discussed below) although the parent-child dynamic will always be in play. She has sought our counsel on many other important life issues, but none this significant. However, she has plenty of evidence that our love for her does not vary based on whether she follows our advice.
  • Kato presented the pregnancy as an unexpected outcome faced by two people who don't know each other well yet, so there's no fog of limerence /love here. Similarly, he characterized the pregnancy an undesirable situation that offered no easy choices... there doesn't seem to be any magic baby expectations.
  • We think it would be best for both Mimi and Kato if this pregnancy went away somehow, whether via voluntary termination, miscarriage or adoption. Here, my intuition--keep that to ourselves to avoid any whiff of putting pressure on them--differ from my husband's desire to articulate all the reasons why. Thoughts?
  • If Mimi placed her baby with an adoptive family, would that have lasting harm on the other three kids (now 6, 10 and 13), e.g., wondering if they will be booted from the family too, or are they old enough to understand it as a generous way to help others?
  • During college relationships that predated our meeting, both Husband and I experienced pregnancy/abortion crises. We've never shared these stories with Mimi. Appropriate now or not?
  • We provide Mimi with substantial financial support, usually in the form of allegedly one-time financing help with real estate or cars plus annual IRS-allowed gifts and 526 funds for the kids' college tuition. We are not thrilled that her family's dependence on us is likely to increase.
  • Neither Mimi nor Kato have siblings. According to Kato, his relationship with his parents, who have yet to be informed, is loving but inherently unsupportive due to alcoholism.
  • Kato's parents are devout Catholics and are expected to flip out. Consequently, we made a big deal last night that we are not pushing marriage, recommend taking all the time needed to sort out their future relationship, hold no judgmental attitudes about bearing children out of wedlock, etc.
  • Obviously the odds of Kato and Mimi forming an enduring bond, child or no child, are low. Still, we see an inherent power imbalance here just because Mimi's got so much more life experience under her belt than does Kato. Kato is young for his age and has few tools to work with beyond inchoate ideas about what it means to "do the right thing." They're good people, but we question whether they can be effective co-parents especially if their relationship deteriorates.
  • I hesitate to bring up Mimi's ex, who shouldn't be relevant but will be a factor. He has been a controlling and abusive asshole since their days as high school sweethearts (we never liked him). Ex will be livid and, past experience demonstrates, will mount an all out war using their kids as pawns (vs his usual practice of ignoring them). The "past experience" includes filing nuisance suits in court, stalking/threatening Mimi's past boyfriends, vandalizing their cars, etc. until police intervention ensued. It will be ugly.
So far, all we've done is a) express our willingness to take care of the 3 kids at Mimi's house so that she and Kato can get away for a few days; b) take care of the 3 kids at our house so Mimi and Kato can visit his parents (who live nearby) unencumbered; and/or c) flip next week's visit around so Mimi and kids come to our place where we would host a dinner with Kato's parents (who would be told the situation beforehand).

Thanks, everyone! Feel free to MeMail me if you prefer anonymity!
posted by MySockyWocky to Human Relations (45 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
If Mimi placed her baby with an adoptive family, would that have lasting harm on the other three kids (now 6, 10 and 13), e.g., wondering if they will be booted from the family too, or are they old enough to understand it as a generous way to help others?

There's a lot here that I'm not sure I know how to deal with: but this I do. I think adopting the baby out is really unlikely to work well with regards to kids. All of hers are old enough to know how babies work, and also not to really understand why she would want to "get rid" of the new one.

One possible question: is it necessary to stay together if you choose to keep the baby?
posted by corb at 2:32 PM on August 19, 2013 [5 favorites]

On the one hand, it's none of our business. On the other hand

There is no other hand. It's none of your business. Your daughter is a grown woman (with children!). I imagine she will ask for and value your support, but do not engage too strongly in this latest drama. As my aunt (who's had some adult child trouble lately) said just this week, "our childrens' lives are not our lives". Listen and be supportive of whatever she decides.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 2:36 PM on August 19, 2013 [18 favorites]

Or should we STFU and MOOB?

Yes, if you want your relationship with both of these people to continue to be good and close--yes. You should. If you were genuinely wanting to help them explore their options, that would be one thing, but it's going to be clear that you don't want this baby in your lives. If they do add a child to their family, the feeling that you don't want that child around is going to hurt and hurt. It's not really worth it.

A quiet, "you know, if you consider abortion or adoption we're here for you and think they're both fine options" is probably the limit to what you can say without becoming inappropriate and hurtful.
posted by the young rope-rider at 2:37 PM on August 19, 2013 [3 favorites]

In case it needs to be said, we will completely respect and accept Mimi's choice and offer her whatever emotional and practical support we can. We also trust her to know whether either abortion or adoption would lead to long-term regret for her.

Then you have you answer. You need to let your fully grown daughter and her lover decide what is best for them without pressure or judgment.

None of your business.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 2:37 PM on August 19, 2013 [2 favorites]

And oh my word, do not breathe a whiff of hoping the pregnancy "goes away" to either Mimi or Kato! Do you really think a child given up for adoption would just "go away" like that? Or that the miscarriage of a wanted pregnancy would be a happy thing? If you said that and she ended up miscarrying, she might never forgive you and some people wouldn't blame her.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 2:39 PM on August 19, 2013 [6 favorites]

If Mimi placed her baby with an adoptive family, would that have lasting harm on the other three kids (now 6, 10 and 13), e.g., wondering if they will be booted from the family too, or are they old enough to understand it as a generous way to help others?

Also, please consider that it might cause lasting harm to your daughter. Her potential emotional reaction to losing an (apparently) wanted pregnancy is important, and you seem to be ignoring it. That will come through in any discussion you have, which, again, is why it's not a great idea to push this discussion on her.
posted by the young rope-rider at 2:39 PM on August 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

During college relationships that predated our meeting, both Husband and I experienced pregnancy/abortion crises. We've never shared these stories with Mimi. Appropriate now or not?

Not. I mean, not inappropriate, just completely and totally irrelevant.

We provide Mimi with substantial financial support, usually in the form of allegedly one-time financing help with real estate or cars plus annual IRS-allowed gifts and 526 funds for the kids' college tuition. We are not thrilled that her family's dependence on us is likely to increase.

Figure out exactly what you are willing to do and make that 100% clear. If "allegedly one-time" means you're supporting a 38-year-old woman regularly, then those are some long-term habits that I wish you luck in breaking. Why does a 26-year-old man have new quasi-surrogate parents to whom he's crying about having to get a minivan?

These two are adults. Let them make their decisions as adults, and suffer consequences as adults.
posted by headnsouth at 2:40 PM on August 19, 2013 [18 favorites]

"We think it would be best for both Mimi and Kato if this pregnancy went away somehow, whether via voluntary termination, miscarriage or adoption. Here, my intuition--keep that to ourselves to avoid any whiff of putting pressure on them--differ from my husband's desire to articulate all the reasons why. Thoughts?"

I definitely, definitely agree with you. If they go ahead with having and keeping the baby, knowing that you and husband questioned whether they should could be incredibly difficult to deal with.

I think it's also important, as you said you have become surrogate parents to Kato, that you show that you will support them either together or separately whatever decision is made.
posted by Dorothea_in_Rome at 2:40 PM on August 19, 2013

I think you get to offer your opinion or advice on anything they specifically ask your opinion or advice on, and that's it.
posted by rtha at 2:41 PM on August 19, 2013 [9 favorites]

She's 38 years old. She has three children already. She completely understands the situation she's in and what the future entails. There are no open-ended questions you need to ask in order to help her mull her options. She is 38 years old.
posted by incessant at 2:43 PM on August 19, 2013 [26 favorites]

... my husband's desire to articulate all the reasons why
You want to make sure she has the information she needs. She needs to have the information, in some kind of format that lets her digest it, but not framed as "these are the reasons we think you should do X". Instead, just try to help her plan everything out, for the next N years (1? 5? 10? 18?), and help her imagination a little. Imagine good things, too (your imagination might need help with this one).
posted by amtho at 2:46 PM on August 19, 2013 [2 favorites]

On the one hand, it's none of our business. On the other hand, we'd like to help them reach a deeper understanding of their options and their choices, which we hope would make all four of us feel better about whatever decision they reach/reached.

The way you couch this is very troublesome, and telling, to me. My mother is someone who is fond of asking these supposedly "open-ended, non-judgmental" questions, but that is actually a farce -- the fact that the questions are being asked is an implicit judgment; she tips her hand by asking them at all. It is distinctly maddening and infuriating to be dealing with an issue, something one is perfectly capable of dealing with as an independent adult, and have your parent come with a very calm, measured series of questions that show they don't really trust you to have considered all your options.

Your question here suggests a certain infantilizing of your daughter, from your noting that you want to "help them reach a deeper understanding of their options and their choices" (why do you presume they need help?) and "make all four of us feel better about whatever decision they reach/reached" (why do YOU need to feel better about her reproductive choice?) and then the resentful tone you take in talking about "allegedly one-time financing help" (actually things were different for your generation, the gravy train the Baby Boomers were riding on has stopped for your daughter's generation).

There's just a very icky condescending tone here that I'm afraid will be present if you try to follow through with your plan here. You give the impression of thinking that you, as Mimi's parents, are the REAL adults and she's just a child. She's not. She's thirty-eight.

Just stay out of it.
posted by Unified Theory at 2:51 PM on August 19, 2013 [57 favorites]

I would be supportive of whatever decisions your daughter decides to make and supportive of her children. That's pretty much all you can do.
posted by heyjude at 2:55 PM on August 19, 2013 [2 favorites]

They're both adults and this isn't the place for parental supervision. If they ask you for your opinion, you can carefully give it. Otherwise, don't offer up unsolicited advice or leading questions.

The one area where you can offer information is how much you and your husband plan on financially supporting both of these adults and the children involved. It sounds like you contribute a substantial amount of money to your daughter and it's unclear whether you charge Kato market rent for living on your property. Having a frank discussion about what financial contributions (if any) you plan on making going forward might help them when they start to budget for what a new baby and a shared life will require.

How they live their lives is up to them, how much you'll tolerate being a financial sponsor to people who are well into adulthood is up to you.
posted by quince at 2:59 PM on August 19, 2013 [12 favorites]

My grandmother once congratulated my mom on having had some miscarriages. Grandma might have had reasons for thinking my mom would be better off with kids, but that act of congratulation caused a great deal of pain and anger. My mom still gets pissed decades later if the subject comes up, which it does sometimes. Do not let your daughter have any sense that you are hoping she will have a miscarriage! It could poison things for generations.

Generally, I think you need to back off. Your daughter is old enough to know about adoption and abortion.
posted by Area Man at 2:59 PM on August 19, 2013 [2 favorites]

Would you have reacted kindly if your parents had come to you when you were in your late 30s offering this level of analysis of a difficult life situation you were facing? I'm guessing not. You absolutely, definitely, and under all circumstances need to stay 100% completely out of this.
posted by something something at 3:00 PM on August 19, 2013

There's going to be a lot of pile-on here of people telling you to STFU/MOOB, and I want to recognize that while that's a valid opinion, I have some other thoughts to share about your position.

Namely, it's really great that you and your husband have had an opportunity - and a lifetime of experience - to consider these important topics. You should, together, consider the mere fact that you are thinking about them to be a huge benefit to your relationship, your role as parents and caretakers and grandparents, and as thinking feeling people generally. Your anxiety over this situation, which is one you cannot control, is normal! It's normal to be anxious about situations that are outside our control, especially if we have been controlling for many years.

It's your role as a parent to help your child grow. Your child is 38, and most of the growing has already happened, but I know that I will never be too old to benefit from my mother's advice and wisdom, and her work in preparing me to be an adult means that I have the added benefit of being able to take her advice with a grain of salt today. Truly a gift!

So your original question, about asking your daughter open-ended questions, is not misplaced. It's true that you should not assert your will in your daughter's affairs, but the Socratic method of teaching, where you ask questions that help her tease out what she already thinks and feels and knows, is a great thing for you to do if you can separate out and avoid putting your own opinions into it. However, you said explicitly that you don't know your daughter's thoughts on this! The only open-ended question you really need to ask is, "What are your thoughts on this?"

It's okay, and probably preferable, to not ask her what she's going to do and how she's going to do it. You can repeat to yourself, "SOMETHING is going to get done, and my daughter is going to do it." It is literally impossible that nothing is going to get done, so just let it happen as an observer. Let her ask you for specific help if she wants to, but help her aim her requests towards specificity if you have some reservations. If she says, "Mom, can you help me out?", you can respond by saying, "Do you mean that you need me to take the kids on Tuesday night?" This is the kind of teaching/learning that parents and their adult children can take part in forever.

You might benefit from some thought, either alone with a therapist or together also with your husband, about the concept of being controlling. Losing Control, Finding Serenity is a book you might consider picking up. I enjoyed it very much.
posted by juniperesque at 3:02 PM on August 19, 2013 [11 favorites]

Going against the grain here, but I think it's perfectly legit for a mom (or a sister, or a best friend) to encourage an unmarried pregnant woman, whose lover is likely not an ideal co-parent, and who doesn't have the financial resources to take care of her three existing children without still relying on her parents for help, to consider abortion.

And yes, I said encourage. Encourage to consider the option of abortion, not to have one. Having a baby is a choice. All indicators point to it potentially being not the wisest choice in this situation.

And by all means share your own experiences with abortion.
posted by amaire at 3:03 PM on August 19, 2013 [27 favorites]

I should also point out that as someone who has recently had to make many difficult decisions, being asked to replay the painful and unhappy decision-making process in response to these oh-so-helpful "open-ended questions" so that the querent can judge not just the decision, but also the thinking behind that decision, is extraordinarily unpleasant. You already required that of one person--and the person who can't even make the final decision at that--despite his tears, and sure enough you've decided that his decision-making isn't good enough. Planning to put your daughter through a similar process is unwise and will cause her to avoid you in the future. Guess what--she already is avoiding you. There's a reason she didn't bring this to you immediately, and I'm going to bet it's because she knows that you'll disapprove and that you'll want to drag out that disapproval in the guise of supportive questioning. Don't do it.
posted by the young rope-rider at 3:09 PM on August 19, 2013 [7 favorites]

They are both adults, and this isn't your choice to make; just stay out of it unless your daughter asks for your opinion. If you don't want to give her more money than you already do, don't. She'll find a way to deal.
posted by ktkt at 3:09 PM on August 19, 2013

I don't think this is a clear cut "none of your business" but I really think you need to listen to your daughter first, before you do all this presuming, assuming, strategizing, catastrophizing.
posted by sm1tten at 3:10 PM on August 19, 2013 [12 favorites]

You're her mother. It's perfectly ok for you to quietly ask her if this is what she really wants and let her know you are there for her if she changes her mind about anything. Forget the open ended questions or hints, just let her know that you support her but aren't pushing her into anything and won't be mad if she changes her mind. Hell let the young man know that too. They both know abortion is an option already.

People on mefi seem to assume a very adversarial and basically horrible relationship between parents and children and that does not appear to be the case here. You have a good relationship and have helped her through many other issues and you see her heading for another potentially disastrous relationship. It's natural you'd be concerned. And it's natural that as her mother you could have a quiet word.
posted by fshgrl at 3:21 PM on August 19, 2013 [8 favorites]

I think anything you do other than offer your unconditional (emotional not financial) help is likely to be counter productive. I have to imagine the subject of abortion has already been considered and rejected. All you can really say is that there is no right or wrong decision here. There are just different decisions and they both have your support no matter which one they choose on the off chance they think you would disapprove of abortion or adoption in this situation. Really all you can do is give them total nonjudgmental support in the hopes that this gives them the space to really think about the whole pictures as opposed to what appears to be a reactionary attempt to do "the right thing." When you very wisely realize "the right thing" is a very complex and multi faceted proposition.
posted by whoaali at 3:24 PM on August 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

I completely understand why you feel a part of this decision making process- you're financially supporting your daughter and her three children. I also understand why everyone is saying MYOB, but I think they are wrong. It's reasonable to be concerned and involved as you are likely to be on the hook for this baby too.

While ultimately the outcome of this pregnancy is up to your daughter, I don't think it would be out of line at all to set up a financial plan for her/them. Perhaps it's time for a sit down with a financial planner or an accountant and really help her get a handle on her finances? Because if you're not willing to support yet another mouth (and seriously, I don't blame you for not wanting to) then she needs to know that as it will surely factor into her decision making.
posted by PorcineWithMe at 3:52 PM on August 19, 2013 [3 favorites]

I agree with the above respondent in that as you're financially supporting your daughter and her children, you do indeed have the right to add your opinion to her decision making process, particularly in light of the fact her decision may further impact you and your finances. Ultimately, for whatever reason and despite her age, she's not an independent adult, and as such, is not in the position to expect to be treated as such. You've, understandably, expressed concern at having to support another child of hers, and I feel, as discussed above, you should make this very clear to her; quite frankly, I would take the assumption of additional financial support out of the equation and allow her to make the decision on the basis of having to accept full responsibility for her actions. It's time for her to grow up.
posted by Nibiru at 4:10 PM on August 19, 2013 [2 favorites]

By the way, the same applies to Kato. Whilst the picture you paint sounds sympathetic, the consequences of his actions may necessitate a dramatic change to his current plans and ambitions. He's an adult; that's life.
posted by Nibiru at 4:28 PM on August 19, 2013 [2 favorites]

I agree with PorcineWithMe and Nibiru. Under ordinary circumstances, I'd definitely be on the side of STFU and MOOB with an independent adult child. But "Mimi" is still dependent on her parents, and that does give OP a right to add her opinion to the decision making process (not to dictate what her daughter will do, but have input). I do not think it's fair for the OP to be saddled with another dependent without some say in the process.

If Mimi and Kato are making their decision thinking that "We'll keep the baby, Mom and Dad will be happy to support us" that's hardly fair to the OP. I would suggest raising the subject of "How do you plan to support your family? What would you do if we weren't in a position to help you out any longer?" PorcineWithMe's suggestion about sitting down with a financial planner is a good one. (Baby or no baby, Stuff Happens and you may not always be in a position to help Mimi out. She needs a Plan B for supporting herself no matter what.)
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 4:39 PM on August 19, 2013 [5 favorites]

I don't see why many people in this thread think it's odd for parents of adult children to want to talk to them about what's going in their lives. I think the concern and problem-solving response you are showing in your post is appropriate. I do think you should hold off on advice-giving, but I think it's perfectly okay to discuss options if Mimi wants to talk about them. She might be feeling embarrassed about the whole situation, or upset or excited. She might be anticipating certain judgments from you, depending on your existing family dynamic. Approach this from a place of curiosity: what are you feeling, what are you thinking, what are your worries, what sort of involvement do you want us to have? Families are different. As a 38 year-old woman myself, I can say that I still feel "parented" by my parents in a good way -- they are interested in my life but don't pry; they offer perspective and suggestions, but understand that they can't control my decisions; and they show me affection and a willingness to listen to my struggles. I hope, in return, that I provide them with the same consideration and appreciation for their whole selves.

It's early days. I would suggest approaching this from an information-gathering perspective, instead of thinking everything needs to be resolved and decided on immediately.
posted by megancita at 4:59 PM on August 19, 2013 [7 favorites]

Don't tell the other kids and don't talk to Kato alone about this. You need to have her back first, because financial support or not, she is the person who needs to make these decisions and who is the mom and main parent. Tell her you'll listen and support her, and mean it.

A couple of small things: whatever she decides - and this may be her last chance to have another child, and be something she sees as a wonderful gift, not another burden. Or think both, depending on the hour. Don't expect or demand a single clear answer to such a complicated situation.

She's probably physically exhausted with first trimester symptoms that she's keeping hidden from her kids until she makes a decision. If you can, offer to take the kids out more or help its housework so she can rest.

Open adoptions with older siblings is not uncommon. Do not bring this up unless she does or asks for options, but adoption doesn't have to mean the baby vanishes any more. She and the siblings could continue to be part of the baby's life with another family. Still incredibly difficult for everyone, but it can work out, and is less confusing for the older siblings to understand.

Are you giving her financial support for her or the grand kids? I feel strongly about this, partly from an Asian background but also in my family, significant financial support has gone to one child with kids, while other grandchildren get zip because of family politics, rather than actual need. It is really hard to have massive hospital and school bills while the rich grandparents go on another vacation, knowing just how far that vacation money would have gone for the grand kids. I expect to and do pitch in financially for less well-off relatives, especially children, and I see that as a basic responsibility, not a gift. If you see this as a gift, then her financial security for her kids is precarious and built on pleasing you. I don't mean gifts like trips and nice new laptops, I mean for rent and school fees basic stuff. This is a good chance for you and her to figure out what the money means emotionally and practically. In my family of origin, money belongs entirely to one person and is given out at their approval, not by need or in equal amounts. Any discussion of pregnancy would be under pressure then.
posted by viggorlijah at 5:28 PM on August 19, 2013 [2 favorites]

In my opinion, in a world where you were not financially responsible for any of her questionable life choices, this would definitely be a 'mind your own business' situation. However, since you are not living in that world, I think it's fine for you to ask her privately (not a Big Family Discussion, just a one-on-one conversation) how she feels about the situation, and for you to offer your opinion that an abortion would be the best option for everyone involved.
posted by crankylex at 5:45 PM on August 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

Hi, 38yo single mother here who would like to offer you some calm reasoned insight. And I got nothin' there. Holy balls these are two grown-ups! They have heard of abortion.
posted by kmennie at 5:50 PM on August 19, 2013 [6 favorites]

I would be apoplectic if my parents felt that it was appropriate to try to have some kind of say in my pregnancy, my relationship, or who I chose to make a family of my own with.

This is not OK.

But the hell out. Please.
posted by Sara C. at 6:18 PM on August 19, 2013 [4 favorites]

You know I wouldn't get too caught up in whether you have a "right" to an opinion or whether this is any of your business. I think it is, especially since realistically you are going to likely be footing part of the bill. But that's really neither here nor there. The question isn't whether or not you should have a say. The fact simply is you do not have a say and no one is asking for your opinion. In fact they've already made extensive plans before even telling you. Your daughter sounds like she can barely face you, which is why she hasn't told you herself. This is no criticism of you, anyone would have trouble facing their parents in this situation given you've already been supporting her three other children financially and undoubtedly emotionally for years.

All you can do is be cognizant of the fact that anything you do at this point to try and talk them out of said plan is likely to backfire and damage your relationship. The last thing you want is them doubling down and backing themselves into a corner in reaction to your disapproval and withdrawing from you. You never want to be in a position there they change their mind and you're sitting there telling them I told you so (not literally just in their minds). You want to be in a position were they can change their mind and they can tell you expecting your reaction to be "you seem to have really thought this through and you know we'll support you no matter what."

This is a very difficult situation. You have my sympathies and no good choices only neutral and bad ones. So between neutral and bad, I'd pick neutral.
posted by whoaali at 6:27 PM on August 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

The one question I think you can and should ask your daughter: how do you think this is going to impact your children now and in the future? One more child will severely affect the options the other three have in life--it's the difference between music lessons, a substantial chance at further education. or simple things like purchasing new school clothes or going to the movies together as a family.

Yah, maybe the great wonder of having a sibling in a poor, but loving family will outweigh all that, but at this point, there is no sibling and the kids are slightly better off because of it.

If Mimi's financial situation is that precarious that at 38 she's still leaning on you, what if something happens to her job, or there's a medical issue with her or one of the kids? Or if your situation degrades to the point you can't help her financially, emotionally, or physically? Sounds like Kato is barely able to pull his own weight in terms of supporting himself, let alone supporting a child. If he marries Mimi, he could conceivable become responsible for all four if something happens to her. Maybe he's got the potential to be a great dad to four, and maybe the kids get split up and the oldest three get cut off from you and go back to their sperm donor. Are you willing to continue the financial aid to give the kids the lifestyle you want them to have if they're with their father?

I'm going to be generous an assume that Mimi has plenty of time, energy, and love to go around with three kids. Will it help them to have that focus cut by 25%? If she's a single working mother of three and still needing financial help, I'd bet her life can be pretty rough in patches--I know my own daughter's is that way. She's pretty much the same situation--slightly older, working single mom, three kids, ex doesn't contribute much of anything. It's HARD.

I don't think your daughter is thinking this through. If they're serious about "making it work" there needs to be a relationship in place and they really need to make a family of five before they put another child into the mix.

I vote for talking to them both, lovingly with the emphasis that you want what's best for ALL of them. You're going to have to feel your way gently through this conversation. If you think there's going to be fireworks, then get together with a family counselor (with no pro-life agendas) or a clergyman. If they decide to keep this baby, then you're going to have to have another sit-down, and you need to be very up front about what financial support you will be giving them. I'm sorry, but I truly believe Mimi and Kato are expecting you to subsidize their poor decision making.
posted by BlueHorse at 6:44 PM on August 19, 2013 [6 favorites]

I would be apoplectic if my parents felt that it was appropriate to try to have some kind of say in my pregnancy, my relationship, or who I chose to make a family of my own with.

In reality, this doesn't apply to me (my family is either dead or completely estranged), but, if it did, I too would be utterly appalled and furious, unless, of course, I expected or needed my family to financially support the consequences of my decisions. You're either an independent adult or you're not - you can't have it both ways.

To be frank, these reactions astound me - pure entitlement.
posted by Nibiru at 6:46 PM on August 19, 2013 [6 favorites]

If the real question is whether the OP should continue to financially support their daughter, that is a TOTALLY different question from the question they asked.

The answer to the question they actually asked is Hell No, None Of Your Business.
posted by Sara C. at 6:57 PM on August 19, 2013 [3 favorites]

I really think reproductive decisions are the province of the parents, period. The OP here CHOOSES to support his or her daughter, but to my way of thinking that STILL gives this person no say over his or her daughter's reproductive decisions. There will be consequences that are the responsibility of Mimi to consider. The OP might withdraw his/her support for any number of reasons. It still doesn't give the OP any say.

I'm disturbed by the suggestions that providing financial support gives a person any say over whether another person reproduces or not.

To the OP: this approach you are contemplating seems a bit hovering and patronizing, however well intended, and seems very likely to be unwelcome, because your daughter is an adult verging on middle age. Your choice to support her is your choice, obviously. But I don't see that providing financial support gives a person ANY say over what a 38 year old woman does with her uterus.
posted by Unified Theory at 7:06 PM on August 19, 2013 [4 favorites]

it is not uncommon when parents are financially helping out their adult children to then think they get a say in their adult child's life decisions. i think a better route to take is to decide how much you can contribute financially to your daughter and communicate this clearly and then let her make her own decisions so she'll take full responsibility for them. if your daughter asks for your opinion as to what to do regarding either the relationship or baby first tell her how much you love her and will be there for her whatever she decides. then, choose your words carefully and let her know what you think all the while realizing it is her life and her decisions. personally, i would not bring up your and your H's past experiences with unwanted pregnancies as the situations are so vastly different. also, any mention of a miscarriage being beneficial would be ridiculously insensitive, so you are right to keep that thought to yourself. be available to listen to your daughter and this young man and their reasons for doing what they think is best. really listen to them with the aim of understanding where they are coming from.

personally, i think the best thing you can do is to let your daughter and this man make their own decisions and own the consequences of those decisions. by showing some faith in your daughter's ability to make adult decisions you will effectively empower her to make good decisions. even if she doesn't make wise decisions she will be able to learn from those decisions because they were her own. if you approach your daughter as if she doesn't have the wisdom to make good decisions then you effectively undermine her confidence and ability to make adult decisions and enable her to act like a child rather than a responsible adult. your job is to decide how much you can contribute financially to your daughter. your daughter's job is to decide what to do about her relationship with this man and the pregnancy. try to keep those separate as they truly are separate.
posted by wildflower at 7:12 PM on August 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

A gentle observation: you already had an adult daughter whom you were financially supporting, and then you "adopted" an adult man--to the extent of taking him in to live with you. The positive side of this is that you seem to have kind hearts and compassion for people who are struggling. The negative side of this is that, as your impulse to intervene here indicates, you don't seem to view these people as fully grown adults. But they are, even if you're supporting them.

It's not appropriate to "help" a pregnant woman to "mull her options" unless she's explicitly asked you to. The only open-ended questions you should be asking are, "How do you feel about this?" or "What do you plan to do?"

That said, I know it must be frustrating to financially (and emotionally) support your daughter well into adulthood, and see her make what you see as unwise decisions. You get to decide what to offer her in terms of support, and if you feel that she doesn't use your financial support wisely, you can change what you offer, or how you offer it. It may make sense to have a serious conversation with her about finances when you see her--not from a perspective of, "This pregnancy means your family's dependence on us will increase," but rather, "We see a pattern in how you come to us for financial help, and we'd like to talk to you about how we're going to help you going forward."
posted by Meg_Murry at 7:15 PM on August 19, 2013 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks, all, for your insights. There's much useful advice here, especially surrounding the role money is playing in these dynamics and how to go forward on that front. I have a lot to chew on, but this post is an effort to avoid further erroneous conclusions about our intent and/or our relationship with Mimi and/or Kato. Some clarifications...

First, we were anticipating a conversation (for which I sought open-ended questions) ONLY because Mimi consults us on so many important matters, NOT because we're planning to butt in. Further, we do not, in any way, think we have a right to any input beyond whatever she requests, regardless of the financial support we provide. Why does she consult us? Because we treat her like an adult, never infantalize her, and respect her decisions. And because we don't blackmail her regarding the financial support.

Speaking of that, note that the background bullets were an honest attempt to report our biases and the little info we had when I wrote the question. None of that would ever become part of a conversation with either Mimi or Kato. And obviously Mimi and Kato are aware of both abortion and adoption options. The point is that this decision would be difficult for many many people at any age/stage of life; if they seek our help, we want to do a good job and avoid any of the pitfalls so many of you pointed out, including coming across as (or actually being) fake open-minded. And if I faced this situation at age 38, I'd seek counsel from people who love me who had proven trustworthy/helpful before.

Next, regarding Kato... we only expressed support for him and Mimi: nothing else. We also stressed that we needed to talk to Mimi, even though he was telling us the news at her request; he knows she comes first. And for people interested in that relationship, it started because we are involved in the same sport, yes he pays market rent, his tenancy in the guest house is temporary (mismatch on lease end/start dates) but explains why Kato/Mimi spent so much time together during her recent visit, and I described us as quasi-surrogate parents because we've been providing a lot of life advice. Other than taking him out for dinner now and then we provide zero financial support.

Last, we had a brief, loving conversation with Mimi earlier this evening during which it was clear that she and Kato have made a decision. We expressed our unwavering desire to provide emotional and practical support to her and nothing else. The financial stuff will keep for awhile.

I'm grateful to you all, including the people who mischaracterized our motivations and intent... it underscores the need to be especially careful in fraught matters like these.
posted by MySockyWocky at 7:40 PM on August 19, 2013 [5 favorites]

Mod note: One comment deleted; I know it's a touchy set of circumstances but please don't get into a debate with the poster, thanks.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 8:20 PM on August 19, 2013

Here's the thing, clearly you have two adults here with shitty judgement and decision-making skills. But they are adults. More than likely before the pregnancy comes to term Kato and Mimi will not be together.

As for the monitary support, I wouldn't change the amount. I'd just spread whatever the amount is four ways instead of three. Or you can decide to withdraw the financial support. You don't owe your adult daughter this money.

Grown people make bad decisions everyday, you don't have to rescue Mimi from this one. I'm sure that if she chooses to have this baby that you'll love him or her just as you love your other grandchildren.

Don't take on so much. Let Mimi make her decisions and deal with the consequences.

As for Kato, don't be surprised if he ends up being a long distance parent, or an absentee parent.

Either way, DNA testing is called for once the baby is born. Because I have watched too much Maury.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 7:30 AM on August 20, 2013 [2 favorites]

You appear to be building from the idea that since you are helping your daughter and her children financially, you should have greater input on her reproductive choices.

As a private citizen you can choose to offer or deny aid according to your whim. You can mention that since the family is not solvent you are worried how they will afford it, because you're a loved one and this is bothering you- but that will be asking her for emotional support, not really giving advice. But it's generally not a conversation that will go well. If you threaten to withdraw support you might even push her into abortion/adoption but... it will put immense strain on your relationship.

And if I faced this situation at age 38, I'd seek counsel from people who love me who had proven trustworthy/helpful before.

Okay, but did she look for this support? That's the relevant point here. I think, unless your daughter grew up in a box or has an intellectual delay, she knows abortion and adoption are both options for an unwanted or poorly timed pregnancy. Until she asks you for advice, you providing the options to her as "wise counsel" is tipping your hand that you want there to be no extra baby, even if it's conveyed as a gentle reminder.
posted by Phalene at 8:26 AM on August 20, 2013 [1 favorite]

Also, as nasty as the ex is and even pending the risk, including his views in whether or not to keep a baby is essentially rewarding his criminal and abusive behaviour. If he stalks Kato or ignores his children that's on the ex, not on your daughter's uterus or her choices.
posted by Phalene at 8:29 AM on August 20, 2013 [1 favorite]

OP, you are way cooler than I would be!

The only open-ended question I can think of is asking Mimi to imagine how this pregnancy and relationship with this man will effect her children. Even the new baby's experience gets considered.

Kato might be able to step up and be a great co-parent, but that sounds unlikely. This is stressful and we don't know yet how Kato handles adversity. Or being targeted by an abusive ex. Or how he will be with her current children.

Your daughter has a HUGE responsibility to make the right choices for her children. Permanently hitching their lives to a 26 year old man none of you knows well needs to be carefully carefully considered.

That's pretty much all you can help Mimi think through.

I have no script for you, but maybe someone else will pipe in with some suggestions around this topic.
posted by jbenben at 8:34 PM on August 20, 2013 [1 favorite]

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