Background of my Family Guilt
I have been writing on this blog about money issues with my father since 2010. That was the first time he directly asked me for money.
I’ve been giving him money and helping him out since graduating high school. Sending him phone cards and small amounts of money every now and then. You know, what parents are usually doing for their children, but it was the other way around.
He never asked and was grateful. I could afford to help him and did it because I loved him. I knew that he had his basic needs covered and could pay for them himself (an apartment, food, etc).
Three years ago, his ancient car needed car repairs. He directly asked me for money for the car as soon as possible. He needed a car. His was not reliable. He was quoted at $600 for repairs.
After writing about this here and with a lot of deliberation, I gave him the money. I had credit card debt, student loans (still do) and barely $2K in my emergency fund at the time – so $600 was a considerable amount of money for me. But I was working full time and really felt I was obligated as a “good daughter” to help my father. It was a non-essential expense but I wanted him to be safe and have a reliable vehicle.
He thanked me and got the car fixed. Soon after, he came to me complaining that the mechanics did a terrible job and he needed more money to have it repaired correctly.
I told him no which he accepted and I never did hear again about additional car repairs. I can guess that they were made-up but I don’t really know.
A Weight on the Relationship
From then on our relationship was a bit more strained. We still talked but I felt like he was using me. He was now quick to ask me for money all the time. Usually it was $50-$100. Money that wouldn’t hurt me so much to lose. I felt that it was helping and eventually he would stop asking.
Sometimes I wouldn’t give him money when he asked and it was never important enough for him to keep asking. He would ask for $100, I would say not right now, then he’d drop it. Clearly it was money that he did not need at all. Sure, I’d love to have a free $100 too!
On top of this, money became something I was aware of when talking to my father. I didn’t want to tell him about trips I took or events I did because he would immediately assume I have tons of money for these things. He always asks me about visiting him. Which I would love to do except plane tickets from NY to WY are $3-400. I just don’t have it.
Over the years, that car died and he did go some time without a car. He lives in town and this is possible. Sometimes he gets rides form neighbors. Or a shuttle. It’s not too much of a problem. He can walk to places as well.
Saying “No” in a Loving Way
Over the summer, dad asked me directly to send him $300 immediately. He bought a car and needs $300 more to purchase it. He already put all the money he has down on the car. I have no idea where he got the money ($1500). He said he is tired of being dependent on people (lololol) for rides and wants his own vehicle.
I was upset being asked again. I was upset that he bought something under the assumption I would give him money to cover it. I was frustrated that this was happening again.
I thought about this long and hard. I foresaw that this old car for under $2K would need repairs soon. Who was he going to ask for repair money? Me, of course. I even saw that the car wouldn’t last long and he would expect me to buy him another car. For the record, this wasn’t he first time he asked me to buy him a car. He asked for $3000 a few years ago for a car but I laughed over the phone (I did not have $3K in my savings at the time). He dropped it.
After gearing up some courage, I told him over the phone “I’m sorry, I love you, I am not giving you this money.” He said some hurtful things. Threw a tantrum and was mad. Then he got over it. And I felt a lot better.
Fast forward to a few months later. We are talking on the phone and he says that he got a ride to the store. I asked why, since he had a car now. And under his breath he said that he was disappointed in the car. I implored some details. The car made a strange knocking sound and he didn’t trust driving it far. The power windows stopped working. He wished he knew it was such a dud or he wouldn’t have bought it. Of course.
When hearing this from him, I was relieved! I was relieved that how the car turned out did not affect me! Because I know that if I had given him money for the car then heard this news, I would be pissed. I would be mad that he spent my money on a piece of shit car that I knew. I would be mad that he didn’t listen to me in not buying the car. I would be mad thinking he would ask me to give him more money for repairs.
But I didn’t have to get mad at all. He did not ask for money on this phone call. And I was relieved that I did not have to get upset about this.
Think About Context
I learned that, historically, my father has always asked people for money. And burned many bridges that way. Growing up, I would hear him say “so-and-so turned out to be a piece of work” or that someone “was being a bitch.” I now know that in some cases it was because he was wearing out his welcome. Because someone got tired of giving him things.
While it was extremely difficult to say no to my father, feeling family guilt, and I feared being a bad daughter. I knew that continuing to give him money was actually hurting him. It was not helping him in any way. Enabling this behavior and eschewing all responsibility from him was certainly more hurtful than helpful.
Talk About It
I’ve been asked to speak twice now on HuffPost Live about this issue. In the past it was something I never wanted to talk about. It’s embarrassing. And feels “wrong”. I still have friends borrowing money from their parents. It’s not supposed to happen the other way around. By writing about it here, I’ve realized many more people than I thought are dealing with similar issues. Being able to talk about it, while still a bit embarrassing, has really helped a lot.
Here is the most recent HuffPost Live segment I participated in on lending family members money: