Role Reversal: paying mom an allowance
My momma keeps asking me for money and I’m pissed. For the past several months, my mother has called me up and asked me to send her some money for various things ranging from minutes for her pre-paid cell phone to cash for cigarettes. It’s gotten to the point where I see her name pop up on my phone and I sigh loudly, my shoulders slump, and I get upset. “What you want now?” That’s my standard greeting for my mother these days. This is stress that I really don’t need in my life right now.
I know some folks are going to think that I’m being selfish. Why not just help my mother out? She DID give birth to me, right? Yeah yeah. I get that line of thought but I can’t quite clap to it. Your mom was probably the one person who was always there for you, always reliable, strong, showered you with love and would do anything for you. Your mother is your best friend. You want to be a woman like your mother or for guys, you want to marry a woman like her. You would fight anyone who had something bad to say about her. People love their mothers. My relationship with my mom is not like that though. My mother was often NOT there when I needed her, she was very hands off when it came to showing emotion after I reached a certain age, and was not my primary caretaker. In the soap opera of my life, my mother is a supporting character who is featured in several episodes but one the audience wouldn’t miss if she was thrown down a well by her evil twin. So no, I don’t have this inherent, feeling of charity to my mother to repay her for all she’s done. She hasn’t done all that much, frankly.
Still, I don’t hate my mother. I want to help her out but I think I’m just upset with the assumption that 1) I should just give her what I earn and 2) that I have it to give. The problem here is that my family doesn’t really understand what I do. Furthermore, they don’t have a good grasp of how certain jobs work and what salaries come with those jobs. The simple fact that I’ve gone to college and law school means that I make big bucks in their mind (um, I don’t even practice law). I live in New York City, so I must be ballin’, right (wrong)? I work for an organization with a recognizable name (but it’s still a nonprofit). I have an iPhone (yeah, they think this means something). No, I’m not struggling and I have extra money sometimes to do things that *I* want to do but my bank account is far from what my family imagines it to be.
The other problem is that I’ve made it too easy for my mom to get money from me. When she first called, she asked me for money for a prescription and asked me to send it via Western Union. “When can you get to one?” she asked. “Oh, I can send it right now from the computer,” I replied. And I did. I sent her money that was ready for her to pick up about 5 minutes after we got off of the phone. INSTANT TRANSFER. Too quick and too easy. Now if she needs money she calls me knowing that by the time she ties her shoes, it’ll be waiting.
So if I don’t want to give my mom money whenever she asks, how come I just don’t tell her no? I don’t know. Maybe it’s because I know that she doesn’t really have a lot. She’s not working. Her husband works, but his hours are few and they barely cover rent. So I don’t want her to go without but then again, if it’s cigarettes that she has to go without, why should I care about THAT? Just last week, the New York State Legislature upped the tax on cigarettes across the state. I don’t know how much it is where my mom is, but in NYC, cigarettes can run you $11/pack! Fuck outta here if I’m paying for that shit. Eleven dollars a pack means time to quit. Cell phone, food, light bill – I can put something on that. Cigs? No.
I was talking to a girlfriend of mine about it and she suggested that for a little while, I give my mom an “allowance” at the start of the month and let her know that that is it until the next month. Putting the responsibility on her for making the money stretch all month might be better and force her to spend it on necessities. I would also benefit from being able to budget around it instead of getting surprised by random phone calls for a little here and a little there. We’ll see. I’m tossing that idea around and deciding how much that allowance would be.
I realize that I sound whiny and perhaps ungrateful. There’s some resentment here, I’ll admit. I don’t think I ought to be taking care of grown adults. I don’t want them relying on me to carry them from month to month. It’s not as though my mom or other family members who hit me up are elderly. I do think there’s a responsibility to care for elderly family. Able-bodied family of working age though? Ugh. I am unmarried with no children, both by chance and by design. I want to be selfish right now which is sort of my prerogative as a young person. I wake up every day for a full day of work then I attend lectures until about 11pm studying for the bar. I’m working on another degree, a masters. Every day I am doing stuff to improve myself and set up the life I’ve always wanted. WHY, then, must I now shoulder this additional burden? What happened to parents taking care of their children?
I know that I am not alone. I can easily think of friends who are burdened by their parents in some way. I think they feel worse about it than I do because they have better relationships with their parents. I feel bad only because I feel like I SHOULD want to help out. What do you say? Is it our responsibility to give our parents what they ask for simply because we were born? Or is there some expectation that certain parental duties must be fulfilled before that duty to repay kicks in?