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Hi all. Here is my situation that I could use a bit of advice with. I am 37 and am an only child. My husband and I live less than 10 minutes from my parents. My mother is almost 73 and my dad is 80. They struggle quite a bit financially as they live solely on monthly social security benefits. My husband and I have always helped them as much as we can, but it has been more and more frequent over the last 4-5 years.


In 2013 or 2014, their only vehicle died and they could not afford to buy a new one. My husband and I had 2 SUVs, but since I work from home full-time, we really only used one of them. One of them we had just finished paying off and the other one we were still making payments on. When their car died, my parents asked if they could borrow one of ours, to which we said yes. We gave them the one that was paid off. A few weeks later, my dad called me and asked if they could borrow it "indefinitely," meaning that it would stay at their house for them to use, but it would still be ours and we could use it anytime we wanted. My husband and I agreed to do this. Well, about 6 months later, while my dad was at a stop sign (it was snowing), when a truck came flying around the corner, hitting the front end of our vehicle, causing significant damage. Thankfully, my dad was not hurt, but the vehicle was a 100% loss. The other driver's insurance paid us what they deemed it was worth, but it was not enough to buy a new vehicle outright. My parents constantly hounded me about getting them a new vehicle, which would mean that we would have to take on a new payment. At one point, my father even said to me, "If your mother and I don't have a vehicle, we may as well just roll over and die."


That spring, my husband and I went out and bought ourselves a new vehicle (we financed it) and gave my parents our other vehicle, which we have been making payments on the entire time. Thankfully, we only have about 6-8 months worth of payments left on it. On top of that, we also pay for my parents' phone service and have them on our family plan. We help them with food also.


The issue now is with my mother and her incessant guilt trips. Last week, she was telling me about how their cable services were going to be shut off because they can't pay the bill until they get their SS checks on the 3rd. Later that day, my mother texted me and asked if we could lend them $50. She said if we could do that, then they could just overdraft their bank account to pay the cable bill. We gave them the $50. Well, a few days later, my mom texted me and said that the check they used to pay cable will actually NOT clear, so they will still be shut off. I said I would see if we could help pay some of it, to which she replied, "Oh, no! Don't you worry about it. We will be fine." A few days later, she texted me in the morning saying, "Hi. How are you? We are just sitting here waiting for our cable to be shut off. We went to the food pantry and all they gave us were noodles and black beans, but don't you worry. We are fine." I responded by saying, "Do you have any idea what it does to me when I wake up and see texts like this from you?" She then apologized all over the place. Then, this morning, I woke up to a text from her saying, "You won't believe what I did. I broke the new coffee maker you got us. I feel horrible. I lifted the top and it got stuck under the cabinet and snapped off. I'm so sorry. I know it was expensive. If you don't want to talk to me ever again, I understand." She then told me how she had been crying about it all morning and said they now have no way to make coffee. I said we couldn't replace it right now, but she said, "No! Don't worry about it." However, I KNOW she wants us to replace it.


She always does this pity party/guilt trip with me.


I can't take much more. She is getting worse and I feel guilty for being at my breaking point, but I am starting to feel resentment. I worry about them enough. Any advice?

Omg. They dont need cable. Sign up for Meals on Wheels and the SNAP program, if they qualify and I believe they do. They dont NEED a vehicle, they WANT one.
Sounds mean? No, it is Parenting. Yup, you are now in the parental seat. Did you feel guilty when you told your kids No. Think about it.
I took care of my parents. Your job is to see to their safety and well-being. That's it. When your mom calls with one of her guilt trips, change the subject for no more than five minutes. Thank her for calling and get on with YOUR life.
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Reply to PattiRaeT123
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Mudrunner: it seems like you are annoyed with the responses we've given you, and that the problem isn't the money you give your folks, but the guilt trip mother lays on you all the time. Maybe you should just ask mother exactly how much she needs every month, then write her a check to cover ALL of their expenses/luxuries/needs & wants, adding in an extra couple of hundred $ for unforeseen expenses ie: broken coffee pots, and that may solve the problem. Probably not, though, since your mother seems to enjoy game playing. She wants what she wants, but refuses to accept any responsibility for asking you for it. My mother has acted this way her entire life, helpless.........it's a passive/aggressive type of behavior, where she will only INDIRECTLY ask for something, hinting instead of asking outright. I might say NO, after all, and how horrible would THAT be? Plus, she can never say she's asked me for ANYTHING, which leaves her with a clear conscience, right? I've gotten to the point where I've told her, please ask me for what you'd like and I'll be happy to get it for you. Otherwise, I'm not a mind-reader. If she doesn't ask directly, she doesn't get anything. We're all adults and should be encouraged to act accordingly. Your issue has nothing to do with 'love'......of course you love your parents & would do anything for them. It's all about respect & how you'd like to be treated. Let your mother know what YOU need from HER now.

Good luck!
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Reply to lealonnie1
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You have received lots of advice.

One comment you made was regards your parents having a mortgage. It is a financial/retirement imperative to not have a mortgage at retirement. And it is a blunder many seniors seem to make, my father included. That and other outstanding debts.

The situation with your parents is causing stress in your marriage. It is personally causing you stress dealing with the texts.

In my situation with Dad, I will not enable his behaviour, my brother does. But due to a complicated trust , tax and property situation I have had to pay $21,000 in 2018 to preserve an inheritance worth $500,000 in the trust.

In your situation, you appear to be upset my Mum’s manipulation through guilt. Your husband is nearing the end of his rope.

What can you do to change things?

You day Mum has been rewarded by her behaviour since she was a young child. Nobody gave her boundaries and she got her way. She has used her manipulation successfully with you and has no reason to stop.

Yoo need to sit down with your husband and decide between the two of you how much you will give them each month. Once you have that number in place, subtract the car payment, the insurance, their portion of the cell bill etc. You do not have to share the remaining number with your folks, but once it is spent, you just tell them there is no more money in your monthly budget.

You will get push back from Mum, but just repeat, I do not have any extra money this month.

Now you said you have no idea how much money your parents have, nor their expenses. If I were your spouse, I would very firmly put my foot down and say, no more helping them until I see a budget. I did this with my Dad and it was quite amazing to see how he spends his money. The credit card interest alone was more than my mortgage payment.

I know you have repeatedly said you love your parents and can ‘afford’ to help them, but is is placing a cost on your marriage that you cannot afford to keep paying. A parent who says no to their child’s wants does not love them less than a parent who gives a child everything they desire.

Many parents expect their kids to get a job, save up the money to buy their first car. Other families are happy to buy their kids a car. It appears your folks are in the second camp, except the roles are switched and you are expected to give them the car, and cover the insurance.

I hear you when you say the TV is Mum’s main activity, but shouldn’t that mean it is a priority when they pay their bills? In my part of the world, you are not cut off for one late payment. How many months late is it? I think it is telling that Mum did not want you to call the cable company.

How do you deal with Mum’s early morning texts? There are different ways, you will have to find the one that works for you, but the thing they have in common is changing your behaviour, so she learns that the old way is no longer working.

Turn off text alerts.
Do not respond until after work or dinner. Just because she sent it early does not mean you have to reply right away.
Block her texts.

As as far as the coffee maker incident goes, ‘gee Mum, that’s too bad, I guess you will have to drink instant until your next pension cheque.’ Or pull the old one out of the cupboard and use it.
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Reply to Tothill
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If your dad has had TIAs, he probably shouldn't be driving. It might be time to take the keys away. I sincerely doubt he will "roll over and die." That said, I totally understand where you're coming from. My mother is one of those game players. She is an only child who had everything she wanted and then had to face adulthood among people who didn't give in to her. That made it necessary for her to manipulate others and she has been doing a pretty good job of it for the last 70 years. She wants to shop and watch soaps and play bingo - can't be bothered with mundane stuff like legal matters, bills, maintaining a home, etc. But, rather than directly ask for help, she hints - or threatens. She lives in a memory care facility due to her dementia. She is not allowed to have a vehicle or to leave the facility on her own but constantly threatens to walk or hitchhike to places she wants to go to. She is a picky eater who "can't" eat a wide variety of foods and doesn't like the choices at her facility so, of course, she will starve if she isn't taken out for lunches and dinners. She needs new clothes weekly because everyone at the facility "steals" hers. I used to give in, being guilted into it every step of the way. I don't anymore. The truth is, she won't die without a vehicle, she won't hitchhike, won't starve, and she won't run around naked. Her NEEDS are met; it's her WANTS that aren't and I'm not a good fairy or a genie. Neither are you. If your parents are safe, warm and fed and have access to medical care as needed, that's more than a lot of people have and maybe they need to be reminded of that. Try turning the tables on mom. When she says her cable is being shut off, tell her yours is too - you couldn't pay the bill any longer because of other expenses and you need to tighten the belt. When she says she doesn't have a coffee maker anymore, tell her you can't afford coffee to put in yours, so you gave it away. When my mom was shown her $35 bill from a month of services from the hairdresser who cuts hair at the facility where she lives, she moaned "how am I going to pay that" (she has plenty of money). I asked her if she'd like to swap bills as I had a $500 heating oil bill in my purse. I've noticed that the elderly seem to become very self absorbed as they age, especially with dementia. Sometimes they need to know others have lives and issues too.
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MrsParker5 Jan 4, 2019
Lablover, the turn-the-tables strategy, as you've dubbed it, works well. I used it for the first time on Christmas Day with my never-satisfied mother, age 92. She was caught up short, looked surprised, and changed the subject mid-complaint. I will deploy this strategy more often.
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Ouch.

Your parents expect you and your husband to subsidise their lifestyle because you have done.

I don't say that their lifestyle is excessively luxurious, or that they even see what you give them as a subsidy. But the fact is that they are living beyond their budget; and if you are to restore to them their self-respect, and to rid yourself of this horrid whiny little gremlin constantly gnawing at you, then what is needed is a review of their budget and a good hard look at how it can be made to meet their needs.

It's possible that it *can't* be made to meet what you all agree are their legitimate expectations, if not their actual bare-bones needs, and other resources will need to be looked for. But it's also possible that there are hidden issues like credit card debt or overdraft interest eating into their monthly income.

Fact is: your parents are making you responsible for their welfare. This makes it imperative that they also share with you the full details of their income and outlays so that you can work together to get this under control. You can make that a condition of your continued support, if you like; but come what may if there are cans of worms around you need to know what's in them.
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Reply to Countrymouse
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Your folks are using you and manipulating you. Which you already know. Next time use your boundaries and say I’m so sorry...end of sentence. As long as you enable them, they will suck you dry. It isn’t your fault they didn’t save money for retirement. They can shop for a new coffee pot at a thrift store. Or get a $10 4-cup pot...they do exist. She can buy instant coffee and boil water. Your post had me making gasps as I read it and made me upset they’re so bold at using you. I would let them use ride share services. What would they do if you were not alive? Good grief! At 73 she is pitiful to be doing this.
As far as cable goes they don’t need it. We cut cable over a year ago and use an indoor antenna for local channels and stream Netflix etc. people live without cable all the time.
Im sorry you’re dealing with this but the sooner you stop and set firm boundaries the easier it will be to live with them as your parents.
Give them a monthly allowance if it makes you live with yourself and level with them and say that you and your husband live within a budget and they must too. Sit down and list their "must have" (not nice to have) categories and total them up and see where they are. Throw in an extra $20 fun money and tell them that’s it. Because unlike them, you are saving for your old age. It’s so sad that you’re having to be the parent. Set boundaries now. They won’t like it but their lot in life is their own making. Good luck!
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Reply to Harpcat
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I absolutely agree with Shell. Other than the way her mother asks, the OP is ok with providing her parents with whatever money they want.
IMO OP needs to sit down with her mother & tell her this.
Other than that, since it’s ok with OP to supplement her parents’ inability to manage their own finances, that’s all that needs to be done. Talk to mother & make it clear it’s not what she is asking for it’s “how” her mother is asking it. (Texts first thing in the morning would put me off too).

However, If the daughter’s husband is now beginning to verbalize that he feels her mother is taking advantage of daughter’s good graces (while giving THEIR money to HER mother frequently) perhaps it is time for daughter to discuss this with her husband & listen to his issues. Constantly forking over money they both work hard for to her mother because mother can’t manage her money or her carelessness with presents (coffee maker, et al) may be affecting the daughter’s husband’s future financial stability and then, if so, well, Houston, we got a problem.

Its obvious from daughter’s rebuttals to suggestions that she is perfectly fine throwing her parents money for stupid mistakes mother makes. We can go on all day stating our opinions ( those I absolutely agree with and am wondering why her mother feels it necessary to continue to guilt her daughter into supplementing mother’s needs) but the real problem I see is now daughter’s husband is scratching his head and saying “wtf”?

Me thinks husband is not happy and that daughter came here to vent her feelings and find reasons to rationalize her mother’s childlike behaviors.

I am hoping daughter can put the needs of her nuclear family (husband) first & realize how unreasonable it is for her mother to emotionally blackmail her (as some stated). This is not a normal parent/child relationship , mudrunner. It’s just not.

Work on saying “no” to mother and “yes” to acknowledging your husband’s concerns if you want to save your marriage.
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Reply to Shane1124
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Harpcat Jan 7, 2019
very astute of you and I think you hit the nail on the head!
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You are getting very consistent comments about the need for your parents to live within their income, and for you to walk away from the pity party. However it seems that what you want is advice about how to change your parents, particularly your mother, without you having to be ‘nasty’ and force things. Your mother likes the money and also the emotional excitement. Why would she change?
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Gaea18 Jan 4, 2019
Interesting and new to me term: emotional excitement.
Is this the new ND ? I live with my 91 year old parent that thrives on that and
you are the first to mention the term. More pointers please - thanks !
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Oy a veh... nothing like a big dose of manipulation mixed in with a pity party.

You are not responsible to bail them out every time they call and complain.
To me, they are acting like spoiled kids who don't want to hear "no" -but expect you to jump at their beck and call. Do they NEED full cable? Do they NEED brand-new appliances? Do they know what a budget is?

Enabling them doesn't help them or you... it just keeps the crazy cycle in motion.

A book on boundaries might be helpful for you, as well as a great book that changed my life called "The Dance of Anger" ( relationships where there is a crazy cycle of 'dancing' that are predictable responses to each other, and when you begin to change for yourself - they enact all sorts of 'change-back' tactics to get back to the crazy yet comfortable old way of relating.)

You could always say, " So sorry to hear that, mom... we are going through a tight time financially right now, too." Or, " Wow -how challenging. What are you going to do about that?" Or, " I can always look at a thrift shop for a coffee maker for you - as they seem to break so easily for you." Or, "I am glad that you are fine and are handling those challenges so well."

When accused of not loving them or caring, say, " Thank you for sharing your feelings, mom... it helps me to understand you better." ( Don't take it personally - don't enter into the 'dance' by taking the bait offered.. just thank her.)

NOT an easy process, by any means... ( !!! )but slowly... choice by choice... with lots of practice... you will be able to stand as the adult that you are while viewing the situation with a bit of detachment that is healthier for you and for them.
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Reply to RedBerryFarm
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mudrunner Jan 1, 2019
They have never accused me of not loving them or not caring about them. I think that's a significant part of the problem - they KNOW I care very much for them and would do anything I can to help, but my mother is starting to become a bit suffocating with the constant texts about how rough things are for them. Whenever I offer to see what we can do to help, she always say something like, "No, you can't do that. I don't expect you to do that. You can't afford it." Translation, though, is a little something like this, "Oh, thank you! I knew we could count on you!" I know that my dad handles the budget, but they have such a limited amount of money to budget with. I'm honestly not sure how much they get each month from their social security. I just don't know what to do anymore. They are my parents. I love them and it kills me to see them struggle, but I just can't be their savior for every single little thing that pops up. My husband and I work very, very hard (we both work 60-70 hours a week) and we have our own stuff to deal with.

In fact, my husband and I bought them a brand new 55" smart TV and sound bar for the holidays since we wanted to do something really nice for them. When they found out their cable was going to be shut off, my mother texted me and said, "Do you think you'll be able to come over soon and set up the new TV so we can enjoy it for what little time we have left with cable until we can afford to pay it?" Ugh.....

Just to add, they don't have full cable. It is the lowest package you can get. They have it bundled with their internet and phone. My mother has difficulty just standing with all of her back issues (she's had 3 surgeries), so she does watch a lot of TV. It's really all she can do these days.
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I think in your comments you have answered your own question. For example, you don't mind helping when you can. Sooo, as others have said, help when you can, say no when you can't. As far as guilt, you are bringing it on your self. Your mother is your mother and she is the way she is and that is not going to change. Change your reaction. How about some humor -- oh mom, you are so funny. you are just adorable. I love you when you say silly things. I can't right now. I love you so much. Have a beautiful day. Call you tomorrow!!!
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Reply to Jasmine2
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lindas12 Jan 4, 2019
Now that's smart! Humor is a great tool! And parents love it and it is a great diversion!
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