Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Mothers, Daughters & Money

Is there any relationship more fraught with drama than that of mothers and their daughters?

I say this as the mother of five daughters. Of course, if I'd had any male children, I might have a different story. Then again, maybe not.

Two of my favorite bloggers have been grappling with the intersection between finances and adult daughters. Morrison, at All Doors Considered, is in the mood to cut her daughter off. Terry, at A Little Bit About Everything is more conflicted.

Grace? She can relate to both of these mothers.

On one hand, my daughters do need financial help from me. On the other hand, they expect me to step in entirely too often. And on the third hand (something every mother has!) I am acutely aware that saving for my retirement has to be my highest priority.

All of the above leaves out the most important issue--the emotional one.

When I provide money to my daughters, I try to make it without strings. But the emotional binds are still there. Don't they owe me something, at least respect, for getting them through their tough times?

From their point of view, am I trying to buy that respect from them? If they need what I freely give, do they then owe me?

If I don't get the level of respect and financial understanding that I want or expect, should I then cut them off entirely?

I don't have any answers. Like Morrison and Terry, I'm just now learning to ask the questions.


Anonymous said...

Before I say anything else I want to say this: "And on the third hand (something every mother has!)" is awesome.

At this stage in my life, I'm probably more valuable contributing my perspective as the Daughter instead of the mother since my daughter's not nearly old enough for these situations. I, am.

I absolutely *hate* going to my parents for money. I mean, it makes me sick to my stomach. And not being able to pay it back instantly really sucks too and makes me feel awful.

That being said, I only go when it's absolutely critical-- like to pay or not to pay rent critical.

And honestly, my parents have actually offered me money more times than I've asked for it. Sometimes I stubbornly refuse it and sometimes I accept it totally ashamed.

The thing is, while my parents can afford to LEND it to me, they can't afford to GIVE it to me. My mother makes this crystal clear to me when she loans it to me and she will often remind me I owe her when I talk about my financial situation improving.

Case in point, I happily shared the news with my parents the State cut my first child support check and she instantly asked if her money was in that amount. Which totally made me feel like crap because no, not really.

I appreciate their help very much. I can't imagine what my life would be like without it. But it does make me feel like crap.

Mr. ToughMoneyLove said...

These are the ongoing stories of three money exploitation enablers, one of whom finally said "enough." The other two still haven't learned that the problem is not their daughters, it's them.

Been there, done that myself. It's a constant struggle to avoid relapse.

Grace. said...

TML--enabling is one issue. But the other is the relationship issue--how to disconnect the giving of money with the expectation of reciprocity. I work hard to avoid the enabling by picking and choosing which expenses I will cover (car insurance, college tuition, etc). But it's the latter issue that always gives me the most trouble.

I don't think Morrison has avoided it either--to completely cut off a child from both money and contact is to impose both a necessary financial limit with a more uncomfortable emotional limit. This is hard, especially if grandchildren are involved. Or if, like my adopted children, the adult kids have abandonment issues.

Terry said...

Hi Grace, yes enabling would definitely be the word, at least with me. Tough to cut your kids off ( and in your case especially since some have special needs).

I will say for myself that since the incident last week I am much more assured that I will NOT be going back to my old ways. I'm that fed up.

Sometimes you need a plank to hit you over the head to make you see the light. That, and the comments from the readers were very helpful to me...

I'm slightly younger than you but retirement IS an issue, so I totally get where you're coming from.

Boomgono said...

This is a tough issue. I know a few younger adults who actually feel mildly insulted when their parents offer them money. They appreciate the help, but they feel like they're being told they can't take care of themselves, and that hurts.

Taking care of yourself is your first responsibility, of course. I'm glad you see that. Only after you've done that can you take care of other people.

Anonymous said...

You nailed it with the grandchildren. That's exactly the angle my oldest daughter is planning to lay on me. Should I not give her what she wants, and should that be buying clothes for the grandchildren or their educations, she has every intention of keeping me from seeing her yet unborn children.

It's enough to make me shutter with fear. So, for me, I nipped this in it's bud and have come to realize, a bit sadly, that I must detach myself from my daughter before I go broke. We can still have a pleasant mother/daughter relationship but we don't have to speak each and every day. And I do not have to bend over backwards anymore to make her happy.

This is my and my husbands time now. Enough. I want to enjoy the rest of my life free from the financial stresses of raising children. Either my own or my daughters.

I give my daughter MY schedule and budget, and if she can fit into MY plans, all well and good. If my daughter is only nice to me because she thinks she's getting some financial revelation, who needs it? What do you think my future would look like when my money ran out?

lita1857 said...

Wow I am extremely lucky my daughter and I have navigated financial issues well so far.She is an adult and married 6yrs(love the son-in-law too)I see my money as a resource, I offer it- they mostly refuse it.I do little things like get goodies at the public market and drop them off, generous at Christmas-birthdays.I did pay for college and wedding.I would rather share now so I get the enjoyment then leave a lump sum upon my death.Now my own relationship with my parents is what taught me what NOT to do.

MEG said...

This is really fascinating to me! I am the oldest of four adult daughters, and I have long observed the interesting financial dynamic between my grandmother and my mother, and now between my mother and me and my sisters. Mothers are givers, almost by definition. They learn to give continually, selflessly, and sacrificially of all their resources - time, love, advice and money - from the day a child is born. I can imagine it would be quite difficult to shut off a portion of that firehose (the financial one) at any given point.

I think I'll do a post on this myself, but it seems to me that first of all you need to define what "need" really means. If one of your kids is unemployed and can't afford their own food or medication right now, then they truly might need your assistance. If they are spending money on cable TV and manicures and entertainment but can't afford to make their rent payment on time this month, then they do not need your help - and giving it would be enabling them to continue not to plan and budget wisely.

If they don't "need" your help, then you can dole out your money in controlled ways as you see fit. Invite them over for Sunday dinner and buy all the fixins yourself; donate to your grandkids' college funds; offer to buy any medications they require yourself or pay some other specific bill that is important to you to ease their cash flow crunch. All of this is better - financially and emotionally - than just doling out cash.