This comment on yesterday's post really struck me:
do you think there's a way to do things differently, so you're not 'enabling' her self-sabotaging spending habits? I mean, we all can learn and change, no matter how old we are. Believing that it's just fine to spend an extra $100 - $250 so you have more time to get ready and put on makeup for a flight -- that's just not in tune with reality, especially in this economy.This is very true. The idea of spending $200 to have time to put on makeup-- well, it's pretty terrible. Of course, it's a bit more complicated than that. I'm worried about my mom-- she is under such stress living with my father, and I think she is really suffering from anxiety and depression. My mother has always been a very cheery person, always trying to see the bright side of things, but she's been so subdued and distracted the last few times I've spoken to her. I think depression is why she is finding it so hard to drag herself out of bed in the morning, and if she still cares about how she looks, maybe that's kind of a good sign.
But I do think my mother would be happier if she could get a grip on her finances and gain a little independence. When is financial "tough love" appropriate? Am I enabling her? What is the right balance between trying to guide her towards more financially responsible habits and trying to just be supportive to someone who is having a rough time? And is there ever a time when it's just "too late?"
That is how I feel about my mother, that it's kind of too late: she's in her mid-60s, she spent almost her entire life taking care of her children and husband, and her own mother, and now her grandchildren too. She wanted to be a housewife and have a husband pay the bills, in the traditional mold. After a life like that, it's a bit of a raw deal to expect someone to suddenly be independent and take care of herself. She's not equipped for it-- it would be like setting a highly-bred toy poodle loose in the wilderness and expecting it to survive on its own. Of course people are not poodles, and my mother, like any human being, can sometimes have surprising resilience. But right now I think she's really worn down.
It always just makes me so sad that she and my dad can't just relax and enjoy this time of their life the way I see the parents of many of my friends doing. I can't help but wonder what went wrong. Where did the money go? Did my father make less money than we thought? Did he not invest what he had well enough? Did my mother really spend too much? Did my dad overspend on his own interests too? Did paying for my sister's and my college education do them in? Did their health problems have a financial impact? Did my parents' marital incompatibility make money just one weapon in their ongoing skirmishes?
I suppose the answer to all these questions could be yes. But how is that so different from other people? I thought my parents did a lot of things right. What did other people do right that they didn't? What can I do right that they didn't?