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Yet another mother issue...

post #1 of 4
Thread Starter 
I feel guilty for mom's issues. Okay I'm going to try to keep this short. My mom has financial issues. I'm not sure how since her house and cars are paid for so its only normal bills (utilities, car ins, etc). My brother and sister (he's a senior and she's in sophomore yr of college) are still at home but both have a job too and cover a lot of their extra stuff. Her gas getting to/from school, his senior stuff, etc. Still mom's bills are behind. I guess it is poor financial planning but I feel guilty about it. She has no child support/help from our POS father and when I was at home still I worked 2-3 jobs to help pay bills (she was having surgery/on disability & unable to work them). That started the debt spiral. I was 16 and obviously couldn't make enough to care for a family of 4. She got a settlement though from the disability that allowed a chance to catch up and get the houses/cars paid for. Now she's behind again???

My main issue right now is: I have a phone on her plan. She got it for me about 3 mos ago so I'd have a better phone. I paid for it all, just under her name. Each phone (of the 4 including mine) should run about $60 mo each. I've paid $600 in 3 mos on the phone bill though including the $100 I just paid this morning. It's still $400 past due. It was past due when I got mine and I didn't know it. I want to help her but I don't have the money to do that. I have 2 littles and a 3rd on the way. DH makes good money but we have our own finances to take care of. I feel bad that she has financial issues but I'm angry that I feel guilty about it. I hate knowing that she has problems and I don't know what to do.

To make it worse... part of the financial issue right now is my grandmother is sick. She's dying from pancreatic cancer right now (docs have given her a month and time is ticking). Mom and my aunts are trying to go see her as much as possible right now (she's an 1 1/2 hr away) so I know this is where a good bit of her money is going. When my grandmother passes there will be expenses for the funeral and all. Two of my aunts are worthless? unconcerned? selfish? Choose your word but they won't be any help. My mom and one aunt will be left with the bill. None of my large family of cousins will help either. It will all be on mom, nice aunt, and me. I have no problem helping as much as I can but I feel cheated too that we'll have to do it all. I feel like I'm being punished for working hard to try to have extra money. Like I should be in the same position they are in or give them any extra I have so they aren't in the bind. Ugh. Okay I think I lost the point here and I'm just venting so bless you if you even read all this and if you responded... well you're a saint!
post #2 of 4
I too have a mother with BAD financial abilities. (disabilities?) (Strangely enough she's a bookkeeper? What's up with that?) For YEARS there has been this spirit of her and I are in this together. Her favorite saying is "we're family".

I have an urge to rush in and tell you how to solve this problem. Which is crazy, only you can do this. But it was so hard for me that I wish I could save some one else from going through it.

I had to start slowly. First, disentangle yourself from her financial situation. Don't ask her about her bills and only talk to her if she asks for specific help with something - ie "how do I contact these people to set up a payment plan?" Regarding the phone, it's in her name she'll have to take the consequences for not paying her bills. You pay her your share. Eventually they will cut off the service, but you can take your phone and start service under your own name.

As the oldest of a single mother, I understand how easy it is for mothers to lean on their children - mostly the oldest. But you have to remember, it is not your job to fix your mother. She needs to have healthy boundaries with friends her own age to lean on. If she can't do that, you need to have boundaries for yourself. Your mother has no obligation to pay for her mother's funeral. Her estate will and if she doesn't have any money the state will bury her. Now before anyone starts in on me about how cold that is. Please understand I'm not saying that is the way to go. I'm only saying that she really does have a choice in this matter. If she CHOOSES to bury her mother, than she needs to do it within the financial situation she's able. But sitting around saying she has to do this and being pissed because other people don't hold up their end of life's "has to", she's digging herself a hole and making herself crazy.

You're mother has many choices, by doing what "she has to" "because it HAS to be done" she's choosing to act like a victim. Looking at the choices in life and choosing your path is part of active living. Doing something because it has to be done makes a person feel like a victim.

This really isn't about your mother, it's about you. But the things I mention were something I had to understand before I could set my own boundaries. I always felt bad for my Mom, life always seemed to "have it out for her". Because of this I was always there. (I can't even tell you how much money I've loaned her "until Friday" and never seen again.) Once I was able to understand she had choices - whether or not she could see them - it was easier for me to say "this is what I can and can not provide".

Once I understood this about life in general - and my mother in particular - it was easiest for me to start with little boundaries and work up to the big ones. For example, she's always volunteering her kids - me included - to do things for people. I was always going along, no matter what was going on in my own life, because I felt like people were counting on me. I started saying no on days it wasn't convenient for me. It was hard at first, she was mad and would go on and on about these poor people that needed our help. But eventually she stopped volunteering me for things. (Keep in mind, I was an adult, living on my own at this point.) I slowly worked my way up to saying no when she asked for money. I also don't ask her about things that irritate the crap out of me. (She likes to complain about the same thing over and over, but she never does anything about it. I always thought it was my job to fix it.) Honestly, while I'm not proud of it, initially when I would say no to lending her money, I would tell her I had no money to give. Lying is not the best thing, but it was what I could manage. I've now worked myself into being about to say no with no explanation or excuse. She asked, that was my answer. (I tell you this not as a way of saying, this is the best way to handle something. Just as an example of how I really had to work myself into the boundaries I needed.)

These are really hard issues. We love our mom's. We don't want bad things to happen to them. But when they are the bad things happening to them, what are we supposed to do? Healthy boundaries are good for everyone. (Even the people that don't want them. ;-) )

I think the dynamic is especially hard for children of single mom's. They do so much for us, most of the time without any fatherly support. We want them not to feel alone or have to shoulder so much burden because they are so good to us. But we can't be a partner to our mom's and we can't be their therapists.

It's not unlike kids really, they make their own choices and we have to let them live with the consequences of them. (Not a pleasant experience, but important ones.)
post #3 of 4
Thread Starter 
I think that is a lot of my problem. I was the oldest of a single mom. I spent all of my teenage years helping to support the family and it's hard now to separate myself from it. I guess I feel like I'm still responsible for helping to support them. I thought at one time that it would get easier when my younger brother and sister could work and help but instead I find myself wanting to fix it more now because I don't want them going through what I went through kwim? I know I need to not worry so much about it. This really is my problem, not hers. She has the financial issues but she really doesn't bother me about it much. She asks to loan money sometimes but she does always pay me back. She does think of me as her 'friend' to an extent now though and like I'm another woman to talk to so she tells me things she won't tell my brother or sister (the 'kids'). I'm the one that lets it get to me and feels that it's my responsibility to fix though. I really need to work on that I guess. It makes me feel better though to see someone else has dealt with it and actually managed to reach that point.
post #4 of 4
You're blessed to have a mother that has boundaries around issues she shouldn't be talking to "kids" about.

I think part of this is a product of habitual responses. You and I were so used to "stepping up to the plate" and our mothers were so used to having a built in support system that trying to break those habits are harder than the uncomfortable position of continuing on in those patterns.

It's pretty cool that you can see your part in the relationship dynamic. It took me FOREVER to figure out that I was a separate person that had choices of my own. Only after that was I able to start establishing boundaries.

As much as you want to save your siblings, there is truly nothing you can do to shield them. You're mother's poor financial choices aren't going to get better by an influx of cash - you've already seen that. So any money you're adding to the pot isn't solving the root problem, just adding to the available surplus of cash she has to spend. (Although I think it's very cool that she pays you back!)

Of course you want to help your siblings! It's only natural. (And a bit expected as the oldest. ;-) ) I think the best way you can help your siblings is to teach them good financial decision making. About credit and the hole is digs, about checking accounts and the stock market and how credit people aren't looking out for your best interests - just their own. (I have a friend that truly believes that companies won't lend him money if he can't afford it. The last time they refinanced their house - right before the housing crash - they refinanced it for 110% of it's value.) If this is a weak point for you, why don't you all take a class together? If it's a strong suit, sit them down over a period of time and really work with them. They can start their lives ahead of the curve. (Doesn't mean they won't make financial mistakes. Just that they won't have to learn EVERYTHING the hard way.) There are some truly unscrupulous credit people in the world - can anyone say ARM's? By helping them be prepared they have a better chance of not being taken advantage of.
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