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?

  • http://katchin05.tumblr.com Katchin05

    I don’t find this at all whiny, and I think it’s justifiably selfish. You have no responsibility to care for adults who are able-bodied, and frankly haven’t contributed to you that much. Although they were talking about a different aspect of parenting, someone once told me that raising a child is an investment, and at some point you expect a return on that. If your mom wasn’t a primary investor, why does she deserve a return?
    I understand the concept of an allowance, but I wouldn’t do it. I’ve seen close family in a situation like this, and including them in your budget doesn’t work out well. She will most likely begin to expect your allowance like she would a paycheck. What if, God forbid, something happens and you can’t continue to give her that? There will be resentment on both sides. Her budget shouldn’t be set around what you give.
    Long story short, you’ve just gotta learn to say no. If you feel like giving,for something you feel is worthwhile, do so. But don’t feel like you have to. And don’t make it an ongoing commitment for yourself.

  • http://katchin05.tumblr.com Katchin05

    I don’t find this at all whiny, and I think it’s justifiably selfish. You have no responsibility to care for adults who are able-bodied, and frankly haven’t contributed to you that much. Although they were talking about a different aspect of parenting, someone once told me that raising a child is an investment, and at some point you expect a return on that. If your mom wasn’t a primary investor, why does she deserve a return?
    I understand the concept of an allowance, but I wouldn’t do it. I’ve seen close family in a situation like this, and including them in your budget doesn’t work out well. She will most likely begin to expect your allowance like she would a paycheck. What if, God forbid, something happens and you can’t continue to give her that? There will be resentment on both sides. Her budget shouldn’t be set around what you give.
    Long story short, you’ve just gotta learn to say no. If you feel like giving,for something you feel is worthwhile, do so. But don’t feel like you have to. And don’t make it an ongoing commitment for yourself.

  • http://buppietheblog.com DCBuppie

    Slightly different, but I had a huge falling out with my Moms over “money”. She feels like I should support her expensive habits, over taking care of me. I feel she is really out of line. So yea I feel you on the resentment.

  • http://buppietheblog.com DCBuppie

    Slightly different, but I had a huge falling out with my Moms over “money”. She feels like I should support her expensive habits, over taking care of me. I feel she is really out of line. So yea I feel you on the resentment.

  • http://pinkflame1983.blogspot.com/ Pinkflame1983

    My mom asks for money all the time too! I feel like she asks so much that when she really NEEDS it, I’m like NO! She’s a divorcee and when my parents were married she didn’t work or drive, two handicaps. When she got divorced I graduated from school so we were both at square one and she still hasn’t improved. I’m so over it.

  • http://pinkflame1983.blogspot.com/ Pinkflame1983

    My mom asks for money all the time too! I feel like she asks so much that when she really NEEDS it, I’m like NO! She’s a divorcee and when my parents were married she didn’t work or drive, two handicaps. When she got divorced I graduated from school so we were both at square one and she still hasn’t improved. I’m so over it.

  • Nola Darling

    My husband has the same problem. His mother consantly begs him for money. She also goes “shopping” at our house which is a shame because we are a young couple. We have given her our brand new couch, a blow up matress, vaccum, space heater and etc. One day I noticed that she only came over to visit when she wanted to take/borrow something from our household. I asked her “what else are you going to take”? She got the message.

    When you choose to get married you are going to have to put your foot down. Only help her when she is in absolute need. That’s the agreement I have with my husband. I don’t feel bad because my inlaw is able-bodied. After I put my foot down with her she has been working to support herself as an adult should.

  • Blkrose84

    My relationship is better with my mom but I have the EXACT same problem. Anytime I hear from her mid-week (Sunday is our day to talk) I know it’s because she needs money. I live in NYC too and work on Wall St. and so my fam (all of whom are in NC) all think I’m Ms. Moneybags. And although I am doing well, it does frustrate me that my mom has only herself to support (she works) and can’t manage to do that b/c she is (and always has been) financially irresponsible. I love my mother and she worked really hard to raise me and my sister alone and b/c of that my sister and I both worked hard to make sure she didn’t have to pay for our education – we both got full merit scholarships. I was fully financially independent by my junior year in college thanks to well paying internships (i.e., I paid for my own everything – my food, my mobile bill, my books – everything – this was also the point at which I started helping my mom w/ money…), so my mom hasn’t had a soul to support other than herself in about 7 years. My sister now has a husband and two kids so she has no $ to spare. I actually have a co-worker in the same situation, only it’s both her mom and sister who constantly need money. I think this is actually a very common problem for first-generation affluent blk ppl. While my white colleagues’ parents are paying the rent on their 1 bedroom lofts in Tribeca, in any given month I’m paying my rent and possibly my mom’s mortgage… I HEAR YOU GIRL, you are certainly not alone…