Help with asking my father for financial support
September 17, 2014 2:29 PM   Subscribe

My dad will be making his last child support payment to my mother next month for my brother who is 19 and no longer in full time education (he’s going to university). After then he will no longer financially support my brother - he hasn't financially supported me since I was 18 when he made his last support payment. I am now thinking of asking him directly to make a monthly payment to me and my brother since he isn’t supporting us in any other way.

I live at home with my mother who I do pay rent to (I have a minimum wage full time job) but she nevertheless still houses and provides for me which my dad doesn’t in any way.

Earlier this year my mum helped my brother send a legal letter to my dad requesting financial support during his time at university, my dad responded with an emotional cutting letter that put my brother off pursuing it further - in it he said he can't because he needs to pay a tax bill and basically telling him to get a job and support himself like everyone else. Recently he slightly changed his tune and told my brother that he might be able to financially help him in the future – if things get better (from past experience this is an empty promise).

Do you think I am justified to ask for this? If so, what would be the best way to do this when the person is full of excuses and self-justification?

Let me give you an overview of the relationship:

My parents divorced over 14 years ago, my dad has since remarried and had two children (one with special needs). He’s a workaholic (loves his job) and spends hardly any time with his second family and it feels like he places me and my brother very low on his priority list.

Since the divorce, he was made to pay child support to my mother by the government child support agency instead of just paying her directly. He has always resented this as he sees it as giving child support to my mum (even though it went to us) even though she pretty much raised us entirely herself (other than an ex-partner) who is no longer on the scene any more.

We used to see him every other weekend and he would take us out places and/or have us to stay. These visits gradually grew less and less leading to a period of no contact with him (around six months) when his income was reassessed and he was told that he had to pay no support at all - he deliberately went self-employed so as to reduce how much his income was looked at. He then chose not to make any voluntary payments to my mum or directly to us (he did have to start paying again eventually). He also stopped sending us birthday or Christmas presents for a few years even after we reinitiated contact – I didn’t get anything for my 18th or 21st birthday (this really hurt).

Don’t really see him much anymore, other than for lifts to the airport (me and my brother don’t drive) and university. Which while appreciated is the absolute bare minimum that a father should do to help their children. He also promised my brother financial help with driving lessons but never did.

His personality is as follows. He’s financially irresponsible, doesn’t have any savings, has lots of debts and things like tax bills because he doesn’t pay his taxes properly. He then always complains about how he never has any money, his parents (my grandparents) are well-off so they bail him out if they get in trouble so he’s never learned to be financially responsible. He’s selfish and emotionally distant, it never really feels like he’s listening or cares when I have a conversation with him on the phone. He hates responsibility and resents my mother because she represents responsibility. He always makes excuses - he’s an excuse machine especially if it is anything to do with money.

Both me and my brother find him intimidating to confront (we tend to clam up around him), he has an explosive temper which is really frightening although he doesn’t get angry often. He has never got help with this anger. This is why it’s been hard to ask him for money directly before. Any time we’ve even brought it up, he has a massive line up of excuses and self-justifications prepared so you can’t even get through to him.

He's not a bad person and I know that I'm focussing on his negative qualities but I've been wanting to get this off my chest for a long time and I'm afraid to tell him how I feel.
posted by fallingleaves to Human Relations (38 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Absolutely not. Get therapy. Get a better paying job. Support yourself like the adult you are.
posted by banannafish at 2:31 PM on September 17, 2014 [78 favorites]

Your Dad's a bum, and that sucks, but he's been pretty clear about his feelings on the matter, and obviously has the law on his side. I'm sorry, but no, don't ask this, it will only have negative effects for you.
posted by brainmouse at 2:38 PM on September 17, 2014 [14 favorites]

You can ask him for anything you want, you just have to be emotionally prepared to not get the emotional or financial support you're looking for. The second part of your question makes me think that you are just setting yourself up to be hurt again. I think you'll be better off in the long run concentrating your efforts on your emotional health and well-being. Reaching out to him and being ignored or placated again isn't going to help you in that regard, and it's highly unlikely that he's actually going to come through monetarily.

I would say therapy, but that might be difficult for you in the UK. If you can't do that, then concentrate on being good to yourself, cutting bad people out of your life (like your dad), getting fresh air and having fun whenever possible, finding work you enjoy, connecting with other people, and studying Buddhism.
posted by bleep at 2:39 PM on September 17, 2014 [5 favorites]

It sounds like you already know the answer is no or a bunch of empty promises so yea, get some therapy and realize that you never want to become the man he is. Even if he does give you money, do you really want to entangle yourself to this man like that? You say you want to get it off your chest, fine - go scream, write a letter, punch a heavy bag but what good would confronting him over his assholish and being a shitty dad do?

Then get yourself to the student loan office and see what they can do to help. Not necessarily in this order.
posted by lpcxa0 at 2:40 PM on September 17, 2014 [5 favorites]

I don't think there's any point. He's not in any way obligated to, and he's made it clear he's not doing anything more than what he has to. Getting money post high school from parents isn't a given. I have a great relationship with my parents and have recieved little financial support from them since I moved out at 18.
posted by geegollygosh at 2:40 PM on September 17, 2014 [2 favorites]

Your dad sounds like my dad. I think that you are justified in asking for some help once in a while. It isn't as if you are some free loader that is just waiting around for cash. Obviously, you work hard and if your parents can help out, they should. I don't think parenting ends the moment we are 18 and I think if it doesn't hurt your parents, they should help out once in a while.

However, if your dad is truly like my dad, don't expect anything. My dad likes to help when he feels like it but it comes with strings. The best thing to do is to be independent, even if it is hard, and to be free of the drama and emotions associated with getting help from your father.
posted by cyml at 2:40 PM on September 17, 2014 [3 favorites]

Yeah, it's pretty clear that what you'd like most is for your dad to have been a good dad. And he totally should have been! But everything you've described makes it sound like nothing you say will make him a good dad, or fiscally responsible. Instead you'll be even more hurt, and nothing else will change.

Change what you Can change: your reactions (therapy) and your family financials (by looking for better work). Sorry that there isn't a happier answer.
posted by ldthomps at 2:42 PM on September 17, 2014 [8 favorites]

Nthing everyone above.

I kept this dad type in my life for years. I don't miss him at all now that we've stopped talking! It's been years and I am very very happy without him.


Your dad doesn't sound like he has $$, but his parents do. You kinda sound like you will be turning into him with his parents if you ask him to start making you payments - know what I mean?


Sometimes, I fantasize about writing my Dad a letter and telling him what a phony piece of shit he is... Then I remember he doesn't care what kind of person he is. Then I laugh at him, and also myself. I have better things to do, after all!!

I agree therapy is in order here.
posted by jbenben at 2:51 PM on September 17, 2014 [9 favorites]

He's not in good financial straits, he has two minor children that he is obligated to support, and the two of you are legal adults. Emotions aside, just looking at this logistically, you don't have much hope here.

It's tragic he wasn't a better father, but you have to stop hoping for a better past. Please start putting your efforts toward what comes next: You becoming a successful adult. It is time to stop thinking of yourself as a child in need of support.
posted by sageleaf at 2:51 PM on September 17, 2014 [27 favorites]

You're justified in asking. But since he isn't minding his money even enough to break even for himself, it's unrealistic to believe he'll actually give you any financial help. This isn't about what he ought to do, or what you and your brother deserve. You need to accept that his financial incompetence includes the inability to contribute to your education and living expenses.

I agree with cmyl that any money that might come from him would have stings attached. If you want him to be back in your life, work toward that without any money help from your father -- you can't be truly independent from someone who's giving financial assistance.

Try to separate the money from your emotional losses and anger.
posted by wryly at 2:52 PM on September 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

Do you think I am justified to ask for this?

Sure. You're not going to get it, though. You might as well tell him the rest of it -- you feel like he places you low on his priority list, you are scared of his anger, you feel like he resents you and doesn't love you. But money now, though helpful, won't change any of this.
posted by jeather at 2:52 PM on September 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

Parents do not owe adult children any type of support whatsoever. Not legally, morally or ethically. Do parents help adult children? All the time, but they aren't compelled to do it.

I am sorry that your Dad is not this kind of parent. It sounds like you want him to acknowledge that he was absent in your life and that he feels that he owes you in a big way. Money is as good a way as any for him to pay you for years of neglect and absenteeism.

I would say, just leave it alone. Get some therapy to help you forgive him for being a shitty Dad. You don't forgive him for him, you forgive him for you, so you don't have a hole in your heart that you try to fill with inappropriate things like bad partners, bad friendships, dysfunctional job situations, and addictions.

It hurts so much to be rejected and/or neglected by a parent, but continuing to run after him, asking for things he can't or won't give is just reinforcing the pain.

Step back and plan for how you can be on your own and achieve the things you want in your life. What are the steps to your next job, to moving out on your own, to becoming the person you want to be in your life.

You are lucky to have your Mom, so be sure to tell her how much you love and appreciate her. Whenever you feel the pain of the abandonment of your father, turn to your mom and shower her with love and attention. This will help you channel good, healthy feelings to a person who will appreciate you, and not direct energy towards someone who doesn't deserve it.

I wish you love and peace.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 2:56 PM on September 17, 2014 [33 favorites]

So I wrote a whole long answer that basically boiled down to "Look dude you need to stop leeching off your mom."

And then I thought about something.

A big part of my own reaction to your question is because I have parents who are reminiscent of your dad. I haven't lived with my parents since I was sixteen. I haven't had a room at my parents' houses (they are divorced, and like your situation, I'm pretty sure that had a lot to do with how hands-off they were with me), or considered either of those houses "home", since I was eighteen. It was explained to me from a very early age that I was not welcome to live at home past high school, or be financially supported after that in any way beyond college tuition. The message from them was basically "fuck off and we don't really care beyond just get a job or whatever I guess". They wanted me to go to college and were willing to pay the fees for me to attend college, but beyond that I was on my own.

So, yeah. Like ldthomps, I think the answer you're really looking for is not so much how to bleed a rock but for permission to think your dad is a shithead.

Your dad is a shithead. Rest assured. But, yeah, you can't bleed a rock.
posted by Sara C. at 3:03 PM on September 17, 2014 [19 favorites]

Have your brother or your mom talked to a lawyer? In some jurisdictions, your father would be liable for support and education costs while your brother is in university, even if he is over 18. It sounds like you are out of university, so this wouldn't apply to you. My father had to pay support and half my tuition costs. It's true (and interesting) that were your parents together your father would have no legal obligation to pay for education (your mother has no such obligation), but in some jurisdictions the non-custodial parent actually does have a legal obligation to do this.

That said, the hassle, cost, and emotional turmoil of pursuing this, even if it is legally viable, are probably more trouble than it is worth unless your brother is really struggling to pay his education costs to the point where it will result in dropping out or heaps of debt.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 3:07 PM on September 17, 2014 [5 favorites]

You have a younger sibling with special needs. I don't know what the situation is, but you do--and you know that your dad is having a hard time staying afloat to start with. You might be struggling, this brother in college might be struggling, but whatever you have going on, you aren't kids. Your brother can get financial aid. Your brother can get a job. This younger sibling with special needs is not an adult and cannot do these things. If you know that your dad has absolutely no spare cash, then every penny that you get from him is a penny that is going to be making your younger siblings worse off.

It is hard to not have the same parental support that others your age are getting, believe me, I get it, I went through the same thing. But you're adults and you're capable of handling this. If your mom's willing and able to offer you support, great. Your dad isn't in the same position, and even if you aren't close to these kids from his second marriage, they're still kids and they don't have other options, while you do. It's not like his second family is living in the lap of luxury while you starve. Move on. It might well be that he's not worth maintaining a relationship with--my dad hasn't been--but getting money from him isn't going to make you feel better about that.
posted by Sequence at 3:09 PM on September 17, 2014 [7 favorites]

He then always complains about how he never has any money, his parents (my grandparents) are well-off so they bail him out if they get in trouble so he’s never learned to be financially responsible.

And you kind of want to follow in his footsteps here by asking him for money even though you are an adult?

Work on taking responsibility for your own life. If you want to get a bit more out of dad, it might help to ask for specific birthday and Christmas presents. Be careful to not ask more than he is realistically likely to provide. Things will go better if you ask for something you are reasonably likely to actually get. If it still applies, you could also consider going "um, dad, maybe you kinda forgot but you did promise to pay for driving lessons" and see if he will make good on that. But if you do that, be super careful to be very emotionally neutral and not engage with his explosive temper. And absolutely don't needle him or provoke him in any way.

Beyond that, let this go. It's not worth it. Invest your time and energy in things that will pay off someday. This is not it.
posted by Michele in California at 3:13 PM on September 17, 2014 [5 favorites]

I think asking might set yourself up for more resentment, so I agree with everyone above. I think you may feel way better about your relationship down the road if you can let go of the idea that he's ever going to come through.
posted by xingcat at 3:20 PM on September 17, 2014

There are two issues here:

1) Emotional - Your father has not been a good parent, and you are entitled to feel bad about that and seek therapy if necessary.

2) Financial - I left home at 19, and it has never occurred to me to ask my parents for financial help. It surprises me that you would expect him to give financial support to an adult child.
posted by LauraJ at 3:20 PM on September 17, 2014 [6 favorites]

OP, i'm sorry your dad sucks and that you and your brother did not get the kind of relationship with him that you needed. your lives and mental well being will be much better if you just let go, and realize that the past 18 years of how things have been are all that your dad is willing to give you, and if you really, really lower your expectations if you decide that continuing to try and have some kind of contact with him is what you want.

your dad has no real impetus to be a better person. this is how things work for him. get some therapy and be okay with yourself. you're an adult, as is your brother. be happy that your mom seems pretty stable and level, and do what you can on your own. your brother can get a job and loans.

but trust me when i say that your dad will not change. he won't suddenly become the rainbows, hearts and flowers dad that other people seem to have. perfect dads only exist on tv. make your own way.
posted by koroshiya at 3:30 PM on September 17, 2014

You father has said no, over and over, to providing you any support not pried out of him by government force.

Why do you think he would say yes now?

There's a fantasy underneath this, and it's probably something along the lines of he finally sees the error of his ways and loves you and is sorry. I'm so sorry, I know that's a terrifying fragile ache, and in a way there's a part of you that's frozen in that first moment you wanted his love and support and realized it wasn't there. That's not going to change, even if you ask for money one more time or a thousand more times. He will just hurt you on purpose every time to make you go away and leave him alone.

Don't let this destroy your adult life. It will, if you remain in the mindset you are in now. Shitty parents leave you with a gaping void that you have to learn how to close yourself or you will suck all the good that ever comes your way straight into nothingness. Let this be your rock bottom, and find some help (and encourage your brother to do the same). Unfortunately, therapists are super-experienced with this kind of thing, but it means you shouldn't have much trouble finding someone you have a good dynamic with who knows good tools to teach you.
posted by Lyn Never at 3:33 PM on September 17, 2014 [9 favorites]

I think it is sad that there are so many objections here to any degree of financial interdependence among different generations of a family. I think that sucks that kicking kids out at 18 is a norm, ditto with not expecting them to help you when you are old. Ideally one would not have a family along the same lines that one has farm animals.

I also kind of doubt OP is working for minimum wage because that seemed like a great idea to work for minimum wage. It seems unlikely that "get a better job" is useful advice here.

Anyway -- not that I have much better, advice-wise. I do think you should feel free to ask if you are comfortable with potential fall-out. I (at your age) would probably want to remind him about your little brother's driving lessons and snark on him for his failure to bother with presents, but the latter only if I had been giving him birthday/Xmas recognition appropriate to my age/income. Because those are a little different from "write a monthly cheque because you're supposed to have been my parent and have been failing there." And you might feel a little better down the road for not asking, especially if you do not need it.
posted by kmennie at 3:36 PM on September 17, 2014 [13 favorites]

I had a sucky dad, too, who actually never paid any sort of child support. I think in the course of say, 18 years, he gave me a total of about $500. In 18 years. Instead of asking him to help me through undergrad and law school, I found a way to do this on my own, with the help of scholarships and loans. This way, I could unequivocally and without any hint of guilt tell him to kiss my ass when he, himself, is old and looking for support. I am his only child. I do not recommend you take the bitter path that I have but I do think you should consider how much better you will feel when you are taking care of yourself rather than asking someone who clearly isn't interested in doing it for you.
posted by nubianinthedesert at 3:48 PM on September 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

As the child of a father who abandoned our family when I was an infant, I came in here to, basically, write this:

There's a fantasy underneath this, and it's probably something along the lines of he finally sees the error of his ways and loves you and is sorry. I'm so sorry, I know that's a terrifying fragile ache, and in a way there's a part of you that's frozen in that first moment you wanted his love and support and realized it wasn't there. That's not going to change, even if you ask for money one more time or a thousand more times. He will just hurt you on purpose every time to make you go away and leave him alone.

You might need the money, but that's not what you're asking him for. You're asking for him to prove he loves you. And, sad to say, he might love you, but in his own way. He's never going to give you the proof you need.

Don't ask. Find a way to accept him as he is, and move on.
posted by anastasiav at 3:51 PM on September 17, 2014 [12 favorites]

First; Is your brother with special needs eligible for disability benefits? Adults with special needs are often eligible for subsidized housing, food stamps and other helpful programs.

Not all parents give their adult children money, and as it sounds--your father might not be able to afford to do so. He probably will not admit it, if it's true. Are you in contact with your grandparents? If they are bailing him out--he probably will not be able to support you or your brother. Adults asking for non-needed money is viewed as inappropriate or superfluous by some people, however, I think that if they're open to it--they are your best bet; beyond inquiring into govt assistance.

Your father:
I suggest that you hint at your financial circumstances while sharing positive changes that you've made for your own finances/career/life etc. while talking with your father. He will want to help more if you bring it up as more of a gift than an obligatory duty. If you plan on going to college with the money--bring it up when he does give it to you! Do not directly ask him for money, as part of financial support--bring it up as money for paying bills and living expenses. Do not guilt him into it--this might trigger his anger.

I do hope that both of you can find a situation where you can both be financially independent--because your father is unreliable in this instance. I do wonder how you'll both get by if you already work full-time as it is. Your grandparents might be interested in sending you to college, and there's also income based financial aid available for you. Good luck, let us know what steps you decide to make in the future.
posted by bibliophilia at 3:51 PM on September 17, 2014

The way I dealt with a very similar situation (minus the anger issues and the special-needs sibling) was to assume that my younger half-siblings would need financial assistance when the time came, and to save accordingly starting before I finished college. And now I'm helping them out with school because my dad hasn't gotten better with money in the intervening decade.

It sucks that I had to grow up faster than most of my peers but I'm glad I didn't give him further chances to hurt my feelings, and could soften that pain for my siblings.
posted by tchemgrrl at 4:21 PM on September 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

I think it is sad that there are so many objections here to any degree of financial interdependence among different generations of a family. I think that sucks that kicking kids out at 18 is a norm, ditto with not expecting them to help you when you are old. Ideally one would not have a family along the same lines that one has farm animals.

This is all very true, but this guy isn't a member of the OP's family and it's a huge error to think of him that way. OP's family is their mom and brother. OP's "father"'s family is his new one, with his new wife and children, but he's shitty even to them. This guy is a sperm and money donor who stuck around for longer than usual because of legal obligation, not a family member.
posted by The Master and Margarita Mix at 4:23 PM on September 17, 2014 [3 favorites]

You might want to ask yourself what motivates you to ask him, given that you already know what the answer is going to be.

I had a similar experience with my father and I've come to realize that asking him for something he was not going to provide gave me pain and heartache and that I actually kind of wanted that. Because feeling *something* from him seemed preferable to feeling nothing from him.

I'm convinced this is one reason why abused people sometimes go back to their abuser - because a negative connection is still a connection. And feeling NO connection at all is so scary. It feels like it means you're alone in the world and no one cares.

I think you might be feeling indifference from your father, and that's awful. It may be that someday you'll come to a point where you realize that he actually did feel some measure of love towards you. Or maybe you'll realize that it actually doesn't matter what he feels - it's what *you* feel about yourself that's important.

You might need to consider what it would be like to grieve the loss of your hopes for some kind of caring from him. This is something that you could probably use help with. I haven't personally read the book Necessary Losses, but I've heard a number of people say they felt helped by it.
posted by jasper411 at 4:44 PM on September 17, 2014 [3 favorites]

Other folks have pretty much addressed this, but I just wanted to note: let's say you do ask your dad to send you some kind of support payment - what's the end point? You're a couple of years out of college now (guessing) and you have a job. Is this just an income supplement because your job doesn't pay well? It just doesn't seem like you have a lot of rationale behind the request except the fact that he hasn't done a good job as a dad and you want to make him pay to make up for that. I can totally understand being bitter about that, it seems very normal, but it doesn't give you grounds to ask him to pay you an income supplement stipend. As noted by someone else above, it makes your comment about being upset that your dad asks his own parents for money (and gets bailed out by them, which you see as being irresponsible) seem kind of ironic. Your ask history says you majored in film production…. I don't mean to be harsh but that's probably a factor in your financial situation, and that isn't your dad's fault, it was your choice. If you have something concrete you want to ask for specific help with, you could try, but he will not be obligated to help you, and it sounds like he probably won't.

Your brother's in a different boat because he is still in university, which presents an obstacle to holding down a full-time job as well as a lot of financial obligations, and gives him more ground to stand on regarding a request for help, unfortunately I think the outcome would be the same. In a lot of cases, one might say "it doesn't hurt to ask", but in this case I'm not so sure - it seems like it could indeed hurt to ask, because it will be painful when he says no. You know he doesn't have money so asking him just comes off as a guilt trip (perhaps a well deserved guilt trip, but all the same). I'm sorry you've had to deal with this guy and wish you and your brother the best.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 4:46 PM on September 17, 2014 [3 favorites]

I do agree that your father is not compelled to aid you or your brother financially. Your relationship with your father sounds dysfunctional, so I doubt involving money in it would help. Better to right the relationship first (which requires both participants to display a good deal of maturity) and not view money as a priority relative to it. If fixing the relationship isn't possible, then I think it's best to leave money out of the equation entirely.
posted by halp at 4:58 PM on September 17, 2014

I will add that I personally know someone who felt like the parents owed them and spent a lot of their adult life trying to get what they felt was their fair share or something from the parents. And, so far, kind of has not gotten much of a life for themselves. This individual is now old enough to have grown offspring of their own and ...trying to get what they felt "owed" basically ate most of their life.

Just walk away. Living well is the best revenge.
posted by Michele in California at 5:08 PM on September 17, 2014 [6 favorites]

This is a man who rearranged his professional life in order to hide money from the government so that he didn't have to pay child support. This is not the behavior of an upstanding man who takes his responsibilities seriously. He's not a good man. He will disappoint you and be a bottom-feeder for the rest of his days.

Cut him off and do your best to move forward. There are no words or letters that can make him a better person. Leave him in your past. It sounds like you have a lovely mother. That's more than a lot of people have. Good luck!
posted by quince at 5:13 PM on September 17, 2014 [10 favorites]

I can say from experience that financial support will never fill the void left by a lack of emotional support. Even if you got the money for your brother, it would come with so much guilt and angst and drama that it's ultimately not even worth it.

As hard as it is, what made the difference for me was accepting the fact that my parent was not and might never be the parent that I wanted or needed. It was (and still is) harder to deal with on the emotional end, but disentangling myself financially from my parents felt so good. I have oodles of student loan debt but I'd take that any day over the emotional mindfuckery that came with asking for money, whether I got it or not.
posted by fox problems at 5:28 PM on September 17, 2014 [3 favorites]

I think it is sad that there are so many objections here to any degree of financial interdependence among different generations of a family. I think that sucks that kicking kids out at 18 is a norm, ditto with not expecting them to help you when you are old. Ideally one would not have a family along the same lines that one has farm animals.

I'm a little surprised at all the answers chiding you for not being "an adult" for expecting parental assistance, or otherwise telling you to boss up because nobody should be getting financial support from their families once they are legal adults. In every family I know barring major estrangements, from 98%ers to people living below the poverty line, financial interdependence is major and normal, although not often discussed in polite company.

Telling someone whose family can't afford a college education to just "get a better job" is a kind of cruelty I'm pretty shocked to see on the green.


it sounds like your father has been conflating money and love for so long that you've started to accept that. You say, "His personality as as follows. He's financially irresponsible..." and give more description given to your father's finances than to how he interacts with his two families. He resents your mother for being a symbol of "responsibility" and he has not just been trying to weasel out of his financial responsibilities to you and your brother, he's been making the excuse of financial insolvency to run away from his emotional responsibilities to you.
When he no longer wanted to pay for your upbringing, he withdrew his time and his emotional support as well, going so far as to become estranged from you and your brother for half a year. Of course you think his money is a symbol of his love.

Unfortunately, if his finances are as much of a mess as you say they are, and he has two minor children one of whom is disabled, he might actually, really and truly, not be able to offer help to you and your brother in the form of money, even though the ways you've talked about him declining that help have been hurtful and inappropriate.

It would probably have hurt less if his letter to your brother had said, "I'm sorry, I love you very much, and I want to be a good father to you in whatever way I can, but given my debts and your half-siblings' expenses I cannot afford to help you out financially". It would also probably soften the blow if he gave real reasons for his lack of $$$ help, like "I am terrified that your special-needs sibling will never be able to live independently and I am already in debt" rather than bullshit, excuses, and outbursts of rage. It sounds like a big part of your pain is that his refusal to support you is always something he's explicitly framed as a personal rejection of you and your mother and brother.

And I am so sorry you've had to grow up that way. But like Michele in California said, please don't stall in starting your life, don't get stuck because you are waiting for the stamp of approval and love, in the form of having your back through monetary support, that you desperately want from your father but which he seems incapable of giving to you. It can be so, so hard to know that the people responsible for bringing you into the world aren't cheering you along, but try not to let it destroy you, because you (and your brother, and your mom) are worth so much more than the opinion of the man who hasn't cherished you the way he should have. Good luck. Please take care.

PS-- if your brother is having trouble affording college, maybe hit up your apparently monied grandparents before getting tied to a predatory student loan company; this is the kind of healthy and normal financial interdependence among generations other posters are talking about.
posted by moonlight on vermont at 5:50 PM on September 17, 2014 [29 favorites]

Do you want to be the kind of person that takes money from someone you don't respect? Think seriously here. Your father has shown himself to be someone you can't trust or rely on, someone you speak with disdain for, and you want to take money from him? Do you really want to enlist the help of someone like that? Forget the tally from the last few decades, is this the person you want yourself to be?

It sounds like what you want from him isn't so much money, it's recognition. Recognition for the ways his irresponsible and selfish behavior has short-changed you and your brother. If you haven't gotten that so far in this lifetime, it isn't coming. I'll place a bet on him telling you something to the effect of "I'm sorry you feel that way" if you were to bring up all the broken promises he made.

It is a sad fact of life that some parents do not fulfill their role as a mother or father. It's kind of like how some people are bad at their jobs -- except with a hell of a lot more emotional fallout. You can go ahead and say your dad did not live up to his responsibilities as a dad, because you know what, from everything you wrote here, he didn't.

He's not a bad person and I know that I'm focussing on his negative qualities but I've been wanting to get this off my chest for a long time and I'm afraid to tell him how I feel.

I think not only are you afraid to tell him how you feel, you are afraid to be honest with yourself.

I think you only have two choices here: 1) accept your father for the way he is and accept whatever relationship and financial support that he deigns to give you or 2) walk away from the situation and stop letting his absence have such presence in your life.

It is hard to see when you're in the thick of it, but I will tell your from experience, there is nothing he could do at this point to repair the hurt you suffered in your childhood. Thinking that there is is a fallacy. It's just a loss you'll have to cope with, a loss you'll have to mourn. If he sends you the money, so what? What does it change? And from what you said, it is very unlikely this would actually happen anyway, no matter what kind of emotional plea you attached to it, perhaps no matter the state of his finances either.

My advice is to not ask him for anything from now on. Be the responsible adult that he never could be -- if you have to take out loans, so be it. You may be struggling financially but at least you will still have your integrity, and that is a very valuable thing.
posted by sevenofspades at 7:09 PM on September 17, 2014 [2 favorites]

I think there are two questions here, and by conflating them, you might not be getting the most helpful answers.

Question one is how to get a bit of supplemental income so you can survive on a minimum wage job.

Question two is how to get your dad to step up and act like a caring father, or failing that, how to come to terms with his shortcomings.

The background you give makes it pretty clear that asking him to solve #2 by fixing #1 is only a recipe for more emotional pain.

I think you should come back next week and ask either question one or two without connecting the two issues in this way.
posted by lollusc at 8:44 PM on September 17, 2014 [6 favorites]

Based on what you have written, asking your father for money to help you through university seems likely to fail. You have nothing to lose, financially, by asking him. But you may be setting yourself up for more heartbreak if he says 'no', or says 'yes' but doesn't follow through.

He has disappointed you all your life. Why give him another chance to do so? Be kind to yourself.

He's not a bad person

You don't have to be a bad person to be a bad father. It sounds like he has let you down time and time again. You are entitled to be angry about that.

I know that I'm focussing on his negative qualities but I've been wanting to get this off my chest for a long time and I'm afraid to tell him how I feel.

This seems like a totally different issue to the matter of the money. I think you need to separate them. If you want to tell your father how angry you are at him, and that he has hurt you through his actions or inactions, then do that if you think it will make you feel better. Or ask him for financial assistance. But I think they are mutually exclusive - if you tell him he's a terrible father, and then turn around and ask for money, I can't see that going well.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 9:02 PM on September 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

I like to take road trips, and I don't know really how far I'll want to take it on whatever day, maybe because of weather or just whatever; some days I'll want to drive further than other days. To me that's part of the fun -- it's A Road Trip. Hurray! So anyways, when I feel myself starting to fade some, I'll get out the cell phone and call ahead to the next town, make a reservation, a place to lay my head.

I told you that to tell you this: having any expectations on a man like your father is like calling ahead, making reservations for resentments. You'll be setting it all up.


I'm thinking you've got to let it all go, get all "let it be" w/r/t your father. Easier for me to write than for you to do, I know. I'm thinking to never expect anything from him, and anything that should come, hey, it's a bonus.

You already know not to expect holiday bonuses, or any yearly bonus, or any merit-based bonus.


Though I understand the sentiment expressed upthread, I do not think it's healthy for you to get yourself worked up thinking "Just wait until he needs me -- I'm gonna give him sixteen different kinds of fuck you." Life doesn't always work that way, he might live to be 97 years old and having a great life, and you might end up crippled, step off a curb and get hit by a bus tomorrow, esp being as how everyone drives on the wrong side over there.
Which is a ray of sunshine in your story I think -- at least you and your brother don't have to be on the road with all those lunatics.


Okay, so serious now. Chances of him changing are slim to non-existent. You've got your life stretching ahead of you, you and your brother and your mother have a good family. You might -- or might not -- end up extending to your half-siblings, though I don't see it happening anytime soon; you can bet that your father has poisoned the well, they'll see you, your brother, and your mother as outsiders, marauders who took bread from their mouths, destroyed your fathers life for those long, grievous years, blah blah blah.

Find your center, know that he's nowhere near it, let go that he ever will be near it. You've got to find your center on your own. It's not *fair* or whatever but it is what it is. It's what you've got to work with. Do you remember that post on the Blue, that artist who made those amazing portraits using just blue Bic pens? It was outstanding, it was spectacular. That artist used what was right there, created true Beauty.

Mind, I'm *not* suggesting that you and your brother and your mother start writing on each other with Bic pens, though I'd certainly rather you doing that than being on those roads. What I *am* saying is that -- as far as we know, as far as can be determined -- this life is the only one you're going to get, it's damn sure the only one you have right now. Grab what's at hand, begin on your own to create good things in your life, of your life.


We're all with you. We're all for you.

Good luck.
posted by dancestoblue at 9:05 PM on September 17, 2014 [2 favorites]

I have a father very similar to what you describe, and a financially incapable mother as well. I really get the feeling of bitterness that you have it harder than many of your peers, financially. It sounds like you're a few years younger than me, so from someone who's been there, I want to emphasize that the best way to deal with this is to accept that your parents will not change - you can't make him be financially responsible, or make him willing or even able to give you any financial support whatsoever. Or emotional support, for that matter.

Feel bitter all you want (I still do, sometimes), but accept that you're on your own and learn how to take care of yourself, financially and otherwise. Worrying about what he "should" be giving you will not get you anything but more bitterness. You're over 21 and absolutely have the ability (and obligation!) to support yourself. It's OK that you're not there yet - it'll get easier as you work on it. It sucks that not everyone in the world starts from the same position, but that doesn't mean it'll stop you from getting to where you want to go - you might just need to run a little harder or a little longer than people who had more of a head start (and vice versa compared to people who started off in a rougher spot). And along the way you'll end up passing a lot of people who had an easy start but slacked off afterwards.
posted by randomnity at 1:32 PM on September 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

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