Dear Margo: Of Blood and Turnips

When family and money get messy. Margo Howard’s advice

Of Blood and Turnips

Dear Margo: My mom and I aren’t overly close, but we talk about once a month. She has run out of money, having retired three years after quitting a part-time job, and says she doesn’t want to work anymore, that she has “worked long enough.” She has a small pension and Social Security, and I suggested she apply for food stamps, which she receives.

Mom has asked me to give her $100 a month, and my brother will match whatever I agree to pay her. I told her I would help out when possible, but I couldn’t agree to a monthly payment. We are a middle-income family of four. One child is a college sophomore; the other, a junior in high school soon to be in college. The money I make goes to their schooling and some of our bills.

My brother has two houses in two different states, owns several buildings and exotic cars, and has just a dog, no kids. I do not have the financial means he does. Now my brother is calling my husband at work and trying to talk to him about it. He won’t call me because the last time this issue came up, I told him I would talk directly to Mom because he tries to tell me what to do and that we “owe” it to her. What can I say to them without feeling guilty? — In a Quandary

Dear In: In tough situations where you feel you are not being heard, I recommend writing a letter. In your case, write one letter to your brother, with a copy going to your mother. You will have gone on record, the letter can be reread, no one can interrupt, and it short-circuits any efforts to talk about it.

The gist of the letter should be who can afford what. When you state that you simply don’t have the money to give your mother a set allowance per month, no one can tell you that you do. You might gently point out to your brother that, from all outward appearances, he is the better able to kick in an extra $100 a month. If he chooses not to, that’s his business. As for “owing” people, at this period in your life, the people you owe are your husband and two sons. — Margo, guiltlessly

Henny Penny All the Time

Dear Margo: “Selma” and I have been friends since college. Now we are in our 40s. She was always a drama queen in school, but I assumed it would taper off and tone down. It hasn’t. I find it increasingly wearing to have the most minor events turned into a dramatic monologue or a soap opera. Is there any approach I could take that would calm down some of these one-act plays? I mean, if her cleaning lady doesn’t show up, it is woe-is-me for 10 minutes. — Annoyed

Dear Ann: I am sorry that your friend is Moliere than thou. It sounds as though the dramatic instinct is just woven into her personality. This suggests a lack of balance, perspective and maturity, but there you are. Something has kept you girls friends for 20-plus years, though, so I would try to jolly her out of the next recitative by responding humorously. You might try, “You’re kidding, right?” or remark that her crisis of the moment is certainly on a par with Chernobyl (or the calamity of your choice). I don’t see anything wrong with letting her know you find her overreactions a little odd. — Margo, realistically

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Dear Margo is written by Margo Howard, Ann Landers’ daughter. All letters must be sent via the online form at Due to a high volume of e-mail, not all letters will be answered.


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93 Responses so far.

  1. avatar Violet says:

    I disagree that just because the brother has more money, he has to support the mom. I’m in his position. My sisters had kids. I haven’t, but work my butt off and sacrificed a lot to get where I am. Now, I’m expected to be the only sister who has to pay all of my mom’s expenses. It’s just asuumed I’m supposed to do it, even though I’ve always been the least close to her. They are both her kids, and she chose to have a family. They are equally responsible for mom.

    Forgive the rant but this is a sensitive topic.

    • avatar bamabob says:

      She chose to have a family but she didn’t choose to have a needy mother. Just because they are “equally responsible” for their mother doesn’t mean they are equally capable of providing for her financial needs. If the brother doesn’t wish to kick in, that’s his decision but if he makes $100,000 a year and the sister makes $40,000 a year with one kid in college and another starting soon, saying “you chose to have a kids, so too bad” seems a bit callous. Man up and say, “It’s my money and I don’t want to give it to mom”. This isn’t to judge you for not wanting to be the go-to person for every financial need, but it’s not as simple as splitting the outgo 50/50 when the income isn’t also evenly balanced.

    • avatar htimsr40 says:

      I do not see where LW1 is suggesting her brother HAS TO support Mom, or even SHOULD … just that he has the means to do so if he thinks it is necessary … and apparently he does because HE is suggesting that she spend HER family’s money on Mom … even going so far as to attempt an end-run around LW1 and talking to her husband directly. The better-off sibling has no business suggesting how SHE should spend HER money … that’s the bottom line.

    • avatar Messy ONE says:

      Children do not owe their parents a living. Considerate parents don’t ask their kids to provide for them just because the parents feel like they’ve “worked enough”, either.

      The LW is at a place in her life when she simply doesn’t have the cash to do anything but take care of her family – her REAL family – the one she’s raising. No on has the right to rant and rave and demand that she pony up to support a woman who never bothered to support herself in any real way.

      If the brother wants to give money to his mother, great. He does NOT have the right to demand that his sister do the same.

      • avatar Maggie Tenser says:

        The LW’s mother is not her family? I’m not saying that the LW should or shouldn’t help her mother, but love, and the love between parent and child, should impose a duty and a sense of responsibility on both. That’s part of what familial love is.

        • avatar wendykh says:

          No, her mother is now her extended family. Her children and husband are her family and main concern now.

    • avatar mmht says:

      Violet, I understand where you are coming from. Although it is not the same, out of 4 children it is my sister and I who are the ones that are just automatically considered to be the ones to take care of everything for the family. Large gifts, parties, etc., if it is not my sister and I who are suggesting things and then taking care of it (often fronting the money for the bill and more often then not never being paid back) then it doesn’t happen. It is frustrating and causing contention in the family, particularly since my parents for some reason also seem to feel that my sister and I should be the ones to take care of everything and if it doesn’t happen then we are the ones that get the blame and guilt trip.

      As for this particular situation though, you are kind of in the same position as the LW. Both of your families feel that you and the LW need to take on the responsibility for the parent and when both of you say no, they are not listening. The LW brother is using the excuse “we owe her, its 50/50” while your family is using the excuse “You make more money and don’t have children.” Both are pretty crappy excuses and both don’t justify why either of you should take on the responsibility.

    • avatar Maggie Tenser says:

      You and your sister (and the LW and her brother) seem to spend a lot of time tallying up how much is owed by each. E.G. Well YOU love her 23% more than me, so you should be the one paying! No YOU make 23% more than me, so YOU should be paying.

      It’s your mother, and she has a need, there’s no such thing as equally responsible, there’s just whether or not you believe that you have a duty and whether or not you can meet that duty.

      I watched my parents take care of my aged grandmother, while my uncles slacked off and were useless. Was it fair? No. Did we resent them? Yes. Did it have anything to do with whether we helped her? No. She was in need and we had a responsibility to her. That’s it.

      If you don’t feel that duty, that’s fine, that’s between you and your mother. But don’t make your decision on whether to help about your sister and what she ought to be doing.

      • avatar mmht says:

        The thing is Maggie, the LW’s mother is NOT in need; she just refuses to help herself. There is a difference. And I don’t know if your comment was directed at me or Violet I think I can accurately answer for both of us on this. It is not the tallying up of what we do versus what the others do it is the expectation that we MUST do it. Pertaining to my family situation, this is not a situation of need. We are talking about group X-Mas or birthday presents, or parties for milestone birthdays or anniversaries. It is those situations that we should not be the only ones doing things and being the ones to spend our money on and never being paid back. Nor should our parents hold my sister and I to a higher standard then my other sister and brother when they expect these things and we are incapable of pulling it together. It is completely unexcusable and unfair. Now, if my parents needed someone to take care of them of course my sister and I will step up whether my other sister and brother did or not.

        • avatar Artemesia says:

          I hope you have learned to say ‘We planned the Thanksgiving last year, why don’t you and Clyde do it this year; we will be glad to bring a side dish.’ Or to just ignore the hints. And it does sound like group gifts should be out of the question. In some families, group gifts are a shakedown in which some siblings get credit but do nothing. After that happens once, then stop agreeing to group gifts and notch down the expectation of ‘large gifts’ by simply not providing them. When gift giving time rolls around, get something thoughtful but modest. No TVs, cruises etc. Make the moochers actually come and have to say what they expect. (at which point you can look oddly surprised by the presumption)

          I can’t imagine feeling guilty about not meeting greedy expectations like that.

          • avatar mmht says:

            Its amazing how even as an adult parents can make you feel terrible b/c they really wanted a surprise party for their 60th birthday and thought for certain their children would do that for them. And how they can’t imagine after everything they’ve done for you, you weren’t capable of pulling pulling something even a little small together. It doesn’t really matter that sister refused to return phone calls and brother doesn’t financially contribute, its what YOU didn’t do.

            Yes its selfish but they certainly know how to play the guilt card.

          • avatar KL says:

            MMHT — I’m going to agree to Artemesia here. I agree with you it’s unfair, but so is life — so much of life is unfair. All you can do is set down boundaries with which you’re comfortable and be willing to accept the consequences, even if that is bs and unfair guilt trips. That’s just how it is — you can’t make someone treat you fairly. All you can do is limit their ability to take advantage of you or make you feel guilty. Choose your battles and sleep well at night with your decisions.

          • avatar Ellie M says:

            KL, that’s some of the best advice I’ve ever heard. Keep it coming!

    • avatar blueelm says:

      Blood out of stone. If she doesn’t have the money, she doesn’t have it. What grandmother would care so little for her grandkids, by the way? “Sorry mom, but I’d rather my kids go to college. Best of luck!”

    • avatar impska says:

      I agree. My husband I are the wealthier siblings in our families – it is often suggested that we pick up the bill for various family members in need by people who really have no actual knowledge of our finances or our budget.

      If I were in the LW’s position, I would tell my mother to get a job. She needs an extra 200 bucks a month? Go work at the grocery store as a cashier. There’s nothing to suggest that she is incapable.

      They may be equally responsible for mom, but I don’t really think either one of them has much responsibility.

    • avatar mjd4 says:

      Most people work hard for their money. Some don’t. Either way, I haven’t noticed a direct correlation between how hard someone works and how much money they have, so that argument kinda rubs me the wrong way.

      As for LW’s choosing to have a family, it may be unfair, but “I’m spending the money on my kids’ college” is a better excuse than “I’m spending the money on another Jaguar.”

      • avatar mjd4 says:

        Just to be clear, I am not saying the brother is obligated to be the one to support mom. I just don’t think he is any less obligated because he worked harder or because he had enough sense not to have children.

    • avatar Lym BO says:

      Difficult topic. I am the one with four kids , but married well. My brother barely holds a job most of the time (despite his college degree & high intelligence) and has one son whom he has visitation. He loves to buy things well out of his means. He has been like that since a kid. I am the frugal one. 🙂
      I am following my parents lead on this one. In their will, they are planning to split everything equally. 50/50 regardless of how well off with one of us is or how many kids we have. They are actually trying to figure out how to make things fair since my kids will eventually receive a quarter of my half whereas his kid will receive all of his half. They recently gave him money for a property (when he had a job). They have changed their will to reflect he will get that much less. I believe their take is he needs to be responsible for himself.

      • avatar mmht says:

        Lym, I hate to sound nasty but from what you described, I doubt your nephew/niece is going to get a dime from your parents. Your brother would have it all spent well before he dies to leave it to him/her.

  2. avatar toni says:

    It sounds like there is also some legitimate resentment that mom hasn’t been financially responsible and frankly is a mooch. Lw1 decline wo guilt! The posters are correct in that more shouldn’t be expected of the brother just because no kids – but he is the one doing the pressuring. And you can get them both to zip it by including in that letter if the subject is raised again, you will be subsidizing – ahem giving! – not another cent.

    Ps LOVE moliere than thou!!!

    • avatar mayma says:

      And when mom gets even older and less able to care for herself? “Zip it, you mooch” isn’t going to work. LW1 can decline now, I suppose, but this problem isn’t going away. The family needs a long-term plan, ideally with everyone trying to behave with some decorum and flexibility.

      • avatar mmht says:

        Mayma, for once I think we are both in agreement!

      • avatar Maggie Tenser says:

        Exactly. The thing about old age, is that it’s not something a person recovers from. Mom is not going to “get better.” Even if she doesn’t feel the drive to help now, what does the LW plan to have happen when her mother needs to move into assisted living? When she needs regular medical care?

        She should hash this out with her brother and mother when the stakes are relatively low, rather than when her mother is desperate and emotions are high.

        • avatar impska says:

          She should tell her mom to get a job and work as long as possible and put aside the 100 bucks a month for when her mother actually needs help (if she feels inclined to help her).

          OR – see how much a long term care insurance plan costs and she and her brother should put their money toward that.

      • avatar wendykh says:

        Honestly, why do they need a long term plan? it is NOT a child’s responsibility to care for the parent. The parent should do this themselves. There are care homes for the poor and that’s where my parents are going if they don’t get their shit together and make arrangements. I would never dream of burdening my children with my late in life plans!

  3. avatar ch says:

    LW#1…. imagine the guilt you will have if you do not do what you know you need to for your husband and children.

    Under no circumstances do you “owe” your mother anything. There is nothing to fill guilty about.

    You are being blackmailed into handing money over that you really can’t afford. And heaven forbid if you need that “extra” money should something come up within your own immediate family!

    Your brother is harassing your husband at work and needs to be told to stop. If you want to ensure that good relations continue, then don’t call a lawyer. I’m being serious.

    You can certainly write a letter to both your mother with a copy to your brother explicitly stating your position. DO NOT ANYWHERE on that letter indicate in any way shape or form that you are willing to send money, never mind how much.

    When a family gets into money brangling like this and does not recognize that you have your own financials to mind, it can escalate into ugliness.

    If you feel you can send your mom something, you can certainly do so out of the goodness of your heart whenever you feel you can. This can be supplementing with a small check, or pre-bought things she might need.

    How much money your brother has does not matter.

    The focus is on what you need to do for your own immediate family.

    Your mother made a choice. She has no right to ask you to “pay” for it.

    Be kind. Be firm.

    -Just paid for son through 4 years at Stanford, helping to pay for 3 in law school, and daughter starting college in 2 months.

    My kids know they don’t “owe” us anything. When they start talking that way, we tell them to “pay it forward” to their own kids.

  4. avatar wishuponafallingstar says:

    I have never understood this mindset where when the child grows up, he abandons his parents. People will support their children for a long time (case in point, this letter writer has a child in college and is supporting him/her), but they won’t support their parents in their old age. You don’t just pay it forward to the children, you pay it back to the parents too! I guarantee you that if she had had a fifth child, that child would not be out on the street or put up for adoption just because of their income level. The family would find a way to support that child. In the same way, the mother is another family member that deserves to be supported. You don’t choose your mother but you don’t choose your children either! You may choose whether or not to have the child, but even if it’s an accident, you’re responsible for that child. That’s the same thing with a parent, you’re responsible whether you like it or not, someone had to give birth to you!

    I don’t agree with the brother pressuring her to pay beyond her means, but she is also wrong in assuming that since he is richer, he should support the mom. He worked hard for his money. If he worked hard to, say, become a businessman with a six figure salary, while she went into something less lucrative with a five figure salary that’s her own fault! Not that there’s anything wrong with a less lucrative field, but the point is that she made certain financial decisions to get to where she is today. The responsibility towards one’s parents doesn’t end at age 18 when you leave for college, it ends when you (or your parents) die! Both siblings should contribute whatever they can afford to the mother– he shouldn’t be telling her how much to give, and he shouldn’t be competing/matching. It’s probably better for each sibling not to know how much the other is contributing.

    • avatar David Bolton says:

      I agree with you completely.

      $100 a month is $3.33 per day. I do not believe that LW1 cannot afford an additional $3.33 expense per day. I’m not one of those people who will tell someone that “you have to do this… because she’s YOUR MOTHER!” You’ll either do it or you won’t, and you’ll justify either course of action somehow. I have a feeling it will be the latter, if you’re looking for your “rich” brother to take on all the responsibility. But consider this—you may find yourself in a similar situation one day, and it will be a shame if you’ve set such a precedent and no one is there to help YOU. It’s also going to be ironic if your mother ends up having an estate, and you’re left out in the cold.

      LW2: Yeah, been there and dumped that. Some friends make good drama, and some make bad. Decide if you’ve seen the same episode too many times and how much more you can stomach.

      • avatar mac13 says:

        David, I am going to agree with you. Less than $4 a day? If the LW is that poor, her kids should have some financial assistance toward their college education. Give, or not give, she can make her own mind up but what she describes doesn’t sound like she “can’t afford” to do so.

      • avatar martina says:

        David, you’d be amazed what $100 a month can mean to someone with a tight income.  I have not been on a vacation in years, go out to a restaurant for dinner about once every four months, bring lunch to work, make my own coffee to go and do not go out to recreational places that cost money.  I also have a child starting college. There is no way that I would be able to give my mother $100 a month,  How much more do I have to sacrifice because my mother feels that she has worked long enough. Not that she is incapable of working but because she doesn’t want to anymore.  Now, if my mother was still working and couldn’t make ends meet, I’d find a way to help her out but, I’m not going to support a retirement she can’t afford.  My mother wouldn’t expect me to do that either. 

        I think it was poor of the brother to say that he would “match” what the sister could give.  So, if the sister can only give $25 and he can give more, he’s only going to give $25?  Thank God my family is not like that. He should offer what he can afford and she should do what she can. I have a sister who can afford to give more and does because she knows she can and I can’t. Those who make more money shouldn’t be expected to shoulder the entire burden but they also shouldn’t base their giving on what the lower income person can give. You have to wonder what precedence this mother showed her children that it sounds like her son is giong to give only if his sister will.

        • avatar David Bolton says:

          Sweetie, I lived for FIVE YEARS on $8.58/hr. Don’t lecture me about stretching a dollar. People buy what they want, when they want, and this is a scenario that’s far more common than you might believe. Obviously there are people who can barely afford to keep a roof over their head. There’s also people who can’t afford $100/mo because they have cable, internet, a coffee habit, a cigarette habit, shopping to do, and new restaurants to try. What these people mean is that they don’t have $100/mo to spend “on someone else.”

          Granted, I get that LW1 isn’t close to her mother and therefore doesn’t feel responsibility for her support. That’s fine, and like I said earlier I’m not one of these people who would try to guilt her into it because it’s her mother. However, she wants SOMEONE to take care of her—that someone being her brother, simply because he’s better off. That’s not right—and when the wheel eventually comes full-circle (as it will), I wonder if LW1 will expect her brother to take care of HER, because he’s got the money, and she doesn’t.

          Oh, and MessyOne—your view of what constitutes family (REAL family), may work for you, but many people actually consider their fathers, mothers, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and others to be REAL family as well.

          • avatar carol grzonka says:

            lw’s mom has to be in her 60’s, having collected ss for several years.  with a phone call once a month (and no visits that lw mentions), how does she KNOW that her mom is just in the way of ‘mooching’? she might be trying to put a good face on things. i know several older people who won’t admit to physically decompensating, because it’s embarassing.  my mom was in a wheelchair and very insistent that she was entirely independent.  i tend to answer the courtesy query with a smile and ‘just fine’ when all i want is a hot bath and a heating pad and a pain killer. and i had heart attack last month.  i work, but, many days i feel i’ve ‘worked  long enough’.  while i would never tell anyone what to do with their money, i can tell you that most of the time compassion is not misplaced and you need to be more aware of the circumstances before you cast doubt.  btw, medicare mostly doesn’t pay for rx, so medicaid should be considered if problems stem from medical costs. 

          • avatar carol grzonka says:

            ‘i’ve gotta say as well, if you aren’t of an age to know many elderly people, those commercials and stories of the elderly doing amazing things, really don’t express reality for too many people.  your mom also might be lonely and wanting to see if she still matters. but with a phone call once a month, how would anyone know?

          • avatar martina says:

            David, I think that you and I are interpreting the letter differently.  I don’t see it as her expecting the brother to give the Mom money but rather the brother expecting her to give the Mom money and then he’ll match it.  Basically, I see him saying “if you’re not going to give, I’m not going to give either”.  I see her as saying “if you want to help her out, your’re welcome to but don’t expect me to because I can’t”.

            I’m not lecturing as I agree that there are many people out there crying poverty and then you see them on their i-phones with unlimited messaging and internet access, drinking lattes from Starbucks at $5 a piece every morning and taking all kinds of trips and I wonder how they afford it all because I certainly can’t. But, then there are those who legitmately just make ends meet with little left.  She could or could not be one of those people and in my tendency of looking at humankind with rosecolored glasses – I’m taking her for her word.

          • avatar David Bolton says:

            Yes, you are correct about your interpretation. What I see in this is that the brother is essentially telling LW1 that their mother is not his responsibility alone—ie. he’s calling her bluff. This may or may not be the case. One thing that isn’t mentioned is where the mother lives, and her proximity to LW1 and to the brother. I don’t see anything in LW1’s letter about offering to equalize the “deal” by spending time with her mother and helping her out that way in lieu of contributing money directly.

          • avatar martina says:

            Exactly, which is what we do.  I’m closest to my mother so, I spend the time and my sister spends the money.

          • avatar Briana Baran says:

            David: I really think you should go back and read the letter again. LW1’s mother initiated The Plan for LW1 to pay $100 a month…and then said that her brother would match HER, not the other way around. LW1 never said that her brother should be the only one to support their mother, or even that he SHOULD support their mother. She mentioned his higher income in the context of the paragraph in which she also explains that he his calling her husband at work to pester him about giving his (the LW’s husband’s) MIL a monthly check. This (the brother calling his BIL) is ONLY because LW1 has told her brother that she’ll deal directly with her mother…she doesn’t need him as a middleman. Her only other statement regarding her brother is that she does not have the financial means he does. And she may simply be basing this comment on the evidence at hand: two houses in two different states, expensive cars, owns several other buildings (possibly rental properties? She doesn’t say) and has no children to put through school as compared to she and her husband, who are both working, are middle income, and have two sons to put through school. No mention that he should pay for their mother, jealousy, no false expectations. Just an observation based on what she sees.

            LW1 even stated that she would contribute when she could, just that she could not commit to a monthly amount. She never, ever, EVER said that her brother should take care of their mother. Not once. Her complaint is that he is dunning her husband for money, and that he won’t understand that they can’t make a commitment to a set amount. If anything, the BROTHER has committed to forcing his sister into a situation that is between her and their mother…without taking what she says into consideration, and is interfering by trying to convince her husband, who has no dog in this fight, even after she has told him that she will only discuss this with their mother. How does HE know HER financial situation any better than she knows his?

            LW1 never indicated that she wanted ***anyone*** to take care of her mother. Not once. Her mother made the veiled demand, and her brother is the one who is being insistent.

            I’ve been the poorest sib in the family, and the one with the best income. Neither made any difference until recently…when I finally got the family off my back for good a few years ago. I’ve always been the one who made the most effort, and who has been accused of being cheap (which is a very funny thing), proactive (this is a sin in my family, as is making plans, being responsible, and owning your actions), and who has been blamed and taken to task and held responsible for everything. It stinks to be on either end if the family just won’t get it.

      • avatar butterfly55 says:

        David, I might find myself agreeing with you on the mother if she were unable to be working but she just decided to stop, while the daughter is doing her best to raise a family.  In this case she needs to put even an extra $2. a day towards that family, $80 a month can pay a water bill.

        • avatar mmht says:

          Butterfly, I agree. There is a difference between the mother not being capable of working and needing the children to assist her then a mother refusing to work and demanding to be supported. Also David, I can tell you that I would not be capable of giving $100 a month to my mother, nor would I if she refused to work.

      • avatar Nikki Sunset says:

        I agree. I was also there and also dumped that. After 32 years I realized I was not her friend, I was her audience. After the dump I rediscovered what an interesting person I am. She so overshadowed me I had forgotten.

    • avatar Cindy Marek says:

      So people who don’t have 6-digit incomes don’t also work hard.


    • avatar Artemesia says:

      If she supports her mother, is she then to expect her children to support her? The money going to Mom in this scenerio is not going into her own retirement planning. The mother chose not to work most of her life and ‘retired’ without money. People who don’t have the money they need to live on don’t have the luxury of deciding they don’t want to work anymore.

      And wealthy children without obligations do in fact need to step up and not pressure less well off siblings. It was insulting for brother richpants to suggest he would ‘match’ what his sister is pressured to give.

    • avatar Briana Baran says:

      No. No, and no, and no. We do not owe our parents anything. My children do not owe me anything, nor do I expect them to take care of me when I am old and decrepit. My mother made not one provision for her old age. She had offers on her enormous house ten years ago for $600,000+, a house she could NOT afford to maintain, heat, cool, clean or live in on her fixed income of about $900 (heating alone in the Illinois winter runs $600/month). She wouldn’t work to supplement her income. She refused to sell the house because she was sure she’d get a better price…even though her financial adviser told her to do it…NOW. She refused to sell a certain stock she had, from which she stood to make about $200,000 pure profit, again against the advice of her adviser, because the greedy witch thought she’d get more. Two weeks later, the stock cratered. She demanded too much for the house, and lost all of her potential buyers. And then the housing market crashed…

      Now she has a reverse mortgage that she’s had to remortgage because she won’t listen to anyone, and refuses to do even basic maintenance on the house. It is crumbling around her. She has a disaster of a will, she will not sell any of her non-liquid assets (nor do I or my youngest sister have a bit of interest in them…we keep encouraging her to have them appraised and sell them), she has no money, the house is a wreck, she owes on the second mortgage, and I doubt there is even enough to pay for her own cremation. She did NOT pay for any college tuition for anyone, I wore clothes that were hand-me-downs or from Kmart while she bought hers from Neiman Marcus, Saks, and Marshall Fields, and she was an abusive, drunken, vicious woman who never mothered a soul.

      In case anyone thinks I’m “raging”, I just took my blood pressure…117/73, pulse 62. These are facts, not sources of anger anymore. However, I do not owe my mother anything. She has left herself in dire straights. She inherited a small fortune from her mother and father, and not a cent is left. Her greed cost her mightily. I truly do NOT have the money to send her $100 a month, nor do either of my sisters…and I am the one with children, and the “rich” one. We live very modestly. We are saving for our son’s college…and it is VERY hard to get financial aid now, and college is VERY costly, and our son is extremely bright and works his butt off in school because he knows we are not actually rich at all. I am returning to work because my car is on the way out, and to help offset normal costs of living.

      I have sent mom “things”. It took her four months to set up the new phone I sent her, because she “couldn’t figure it out” (The instructions were so simple it was frightening, and mom may be an idiot, but she isn’t stupid). My sister got her a cell phone, and she tossed it in a drawer (even though my sister was paying for the service). I offered to set up, long distance, the installation of a good rail on her stairs (this would cost nothing through Medicare), she said she wouldn’t answer the door. We talked about setting up, and paying for a Life Alert, for her, but she’d just toss that in the drawer with the cell phone.

      What would anyone owe this woman? Should I leave my family and move the 1300 miles to take care of her (she refuses to move here)? If so, why? She blows her money on the most expensive cigarettes she can smoke…I think she can spend her OWN money on those, thanks. I keep an eye on her at a distance, and when a crisis comes, I’ll be there. For my sister. I feel for LW1. Her brother has no business telling her what to do…and all that I hear her saying concerning him is that she wants him to butt out…if he wants to help, fine, but don’t tell her what to do based on his circumstances. Sometimes there just isn’t $3.33/day…sometimes the kids (yes, we chose to have them…don’t condemn us either. Mine certainly were not accidents or mistakes, or based in religious dogma or social pressure…and I’ve never placed any expectations on or had assumptions about my sisters because they had no children…it’s been exactly the opposite, I’m afraid) have to have that last extra bit for something for school, or a project, or for the doctor.

      Sometimes, at the end of the month, there has been nothing. Poor planning on the part of parents, an unwillingness to support themselves because they’ve “done enough”, and the notion that their children should, can and will take care of them is terrible. My MIL is 68, and she still works, and though we’ve helped her, she has also helped us, and far from just financially on both sides. I know of a lot of older people who work, and have no expectations that their children will support them financially. Your parents are not your future, nor did they necessarily leave you any legacy…and I don’t mean money.

      • avatar Lila says:

        My attitude on supporting one’s parents has a lot to do with the parental history. I would have given my Dad everything, because he gave me everything: he taught me financial responsibility, he helped me pay for college, he set me up for independence. But as these things go, those traits also mean that he was able to plan for his own post-retirement needs. My brother was nearby and helped him with home maintenance, shopping and driving, but he never asked for one penny from us.

        Contrast this with a younger friend. Her mother has (as far as I know) not worked full-time for the past 20 years. She works part-time by choice and earns just barely enough, or not quite enough, to scrape by. “Borrowing” from family, friends, and church make up the shortfalls. She used to appropriate her child’s babysitting money or birthday-gift money to pay bills. She “borrowed” her child’s car for several months and ran it into the ground (hey, can’t pay for maintenance, that stuff is expensive). Her child pays her cell phone plan. And that child worries about what will eventually happen when Mom “retires.” The child is now a gainfully employed young adult, but she’s not wealthy and by then she might have her own family to support. She really fears the future, because – well – this is her Mom, and she wouldn’t abandon her. But she foresees a pretty heavy burden coming her way.

  5. avatar E4rthmoth3r says:

    I agree the daughter should gift her mother with items rather than money. And what the brother does is his own business. My mother in law quit work at 52 “I worked my entire life” was her reasoning. She wasn’t disabled, she had no plan for how she was going to live the next 35 years or so, “I want to travel” she said. She had a small annuity, about $350 a month. To supplement, she demanded money from all 3 kids every time rent rolled around; the sisters gave some, we felt our money better spent on goods so we gave groceries when we could afford it. It’s hard to just say no to your mom, no matter how dysfunctional!

    She went back to work after a few months.

    I expect to work into my 70’s. I don’t understand how healthy people can quit work without a plan…

    • avatar wendykh says:

      I don’t get this either. Why on earth anyone is quitting working other than health reasons before 70something in these modern times baffles me. My grandmother retired 3 years ago from a fast paced corporate exec job at 74. She was pissed she didn’t hit 75.

  6. avatar LandofLove says:

    RE LW1: Nowhere in the letter does the writer indicate that her mother HAD to retire, due to poor health or being laid off, for instance. All she says is that the mother doesn’t WANT to work any longer and that the mother thinks she has worked long enough. Under those circumstances, I think the mother is out of line in expecting her children to subsidize her retirement. Perhaps the mother should find another part-time job, which would presumably leave her time to do other, more enjoyable things when she isn’t working. The LW’s first responsibility should be to her husband and her own children.

  7. avatar Cindy Marek says:

    L #1: Why in the hell do people always pick on those who are poorer?? Especially if they’re female? Her mother must have rocks in the head to not be asking HER SON — who is obviously much better financially off. Good grief, it’s bad enough that men are predatory towards women, but I HATE IT when a woman tries to victimize another. I agree with Margo, she doesn’t “owe” her mother; if anything her wealthier brother should man up and help (willingly).

    • avatar mac13 says:

      What the heck? You made this all gender based? “‘s bad enough that men are predatory towards women”. Wow. Project much? Maybe you should write a letter to Margo and she can tell you to get some counseling.

  8. avatar Cindy Marek says:

    L #2: Agree with Margo, especially trying to take a humorous route. BTW, she’ll probably only get worse with age.

    • avatar Katharine Gray says:

      And why do people assume that those who have more money than they do have to shoulder the burden for those whose life choices (which may be entirely fine..just not as lucrative) have them earning less?  The brother doesn’t *owe* the mother more or shoulder any more moral responsibility for her than does the LW.  If the mother is on social security she is at least over 60.  I’m not sure what kind of job she could get at her age in this economy when 17% of the nation is either unemployed or underemployed.   Sadly, I have seen many friends in their late 50s, 60s and 70s who have been hit hard by this economy even though they have worked, saved and planned.   They don’t have many options.  If they own a home, their equity has all but vanished so even *downsizing* doesn’t get them in a better position.  So, without knowing more, I’m not inclined to blame the mother for needing some assistance.  If she is on food stamps, its not like she is going to the country club and playing bridge, getting weekly mani-pedis, having her hair blown out 2x a week, and eating bon bons all day long. 

      If LW doesn’t want to stretch her budget to help her mother financially, that is her choice. Tell the mother and brother no by letter, text, email or phone and move on.  She only *talks* to her mother about once a month anyway (does she ever see her?) and refuses to talk to her brother so taking a stand and moving on shouldn’t pose a problem for the LW.



      • avatar Briana Baran says:

        “… She only *talks* to her mother about once a month anyway (does she ever see her?) …”

        I never SEE my mother, but I talk to her once a week. She lives 1300 miles away. We offered to fly her here, give her her own room, and her privacy, plus a limo from O”Hare airport from and to her home (it is an hour away from the airport), and make certain that she got help on the Chicago side getting to and from the plane…but she refused. We cannot afford airfare for three, a motel room (mom’s house reeks of 30+ years of cigarettes, mouse turds…yes, I’ve offered to pay for an exterminator, but she refused…and mold from leaky pipes, has not one bed but hers, and is infested with spiders, which I am severely allergic to), food (mom gave us food poisoning last time we visited…I do NOT lie) and gas because we’d have to drive.

        A lot of older people, men and women, work part-time to supplement their income, and do just fine. I know quite a few of them through my MIL. Do they live the high life? No. Neither do a lot of younger people. I am the one with the most income in my family as far as my siblings are concerned. We own a house. It took years for my sisters to understand that we are NOT rich. My youngest sister, who is always “struggling”, takes regular vacations with her husband, and went to Hawaii to be married for ten days. We’ve never been on a family vacation.

        But I do understand the LW’s point. I am a mother. I don’t expect my kids to take care of me when I’m old. That is NOT why I had them. Good grief.

  9. avatar mayma says:

    LW2: You can’t fault a friend for not changing their personality. This is who she is (and always has been). If you’ve changed (into someone who doesn’t want to hear it anymore), then that is your decision; own it. Just don’t blame her for being who she is. Better yet, talk to her or joke with her about it, as Margo said. She is your friend, after all.

    LW1: Well, they all sound a bit weird. “I’ve worked long enough, so now you have to subsidize my life” — huh? “I’ll match whatever she gives” — huh? Mom could easily scrape up another $200 per month at some part-time job, probably even working from her home.

    Now, having said that, LW1 should start preparing herself now, because mom is going to require some kind of care in the future. This isn’t a problem that is going to go away just because LW1 says no at this juncture. She and her husband need to sit down, ideally with a financial planner or elder care counselor, and get a jump on the future. Depending on brother’s maturity level, maybe he could be brought in for session two, so that a whole long-term plan is hammered out and agreed to. Less stress for everyone when there is a plan, whatever that plan is. (Personally, I’m not the type who could just let a declining relative fend for themselves, even if they did screw up their own finances. Mom can and should work now for the extra $200 she needs, but that set-up won’t last forever.)

    • avatar Messy ONE says:

      The LW and her husband need to sit down with a financial advisor and plan their OWN retirement so that they will be able to live comfortably for the rest of their lives after raising and educating their OWN kids. They do NOT need to be catering to a lazy twit who doesn’t feel like working.

      It’s interesting that if it were one of the teenaged children who decided to live with Mommy and not work, all of you would be howling to cut him/her off and make them take care of themselves. Here we have a non-elderly lady who just doesn’t feel like working and the world owes her a living? I don’t think so.

      People are living longer and longer. At retirement, my husband will have a minimum of 30 years and I will have a minimum of 40 where we need to have the resources to take care of ourselves. So no, we CAN’T afford to spend money on people who want to sit on their backsides rather than work. Neither can the LW and her husband.

      • avatar Artemesia says:

        Absolutely right. And if Mom needs care, there is Medicaid. If the daughter takes on this burden, she will have this burden. It sounds like Mom needs a wake up call that she will need to care for herself and a good start is not taking on the burden but stepping back.

      • avatar mayma says:

        :: sigh ::
        I did say that the mother can / should work to scrape up the $200 per month that she wants. I did say that.

        I also said that at some point in the future, the mother will likely not be able to care for herself; people are living longer and longer, as you say. For that likelihood, I suggest they all start planning — because, yes, I would help my mom even if she were a “lazy twit” in the past. I mean, what’s the alternative? — “you screwed up back there, so you’re on your own, lady.” (Again, she should be encouraged to work now, but that won’t be an option forever.) Given the sturm und drang over this initial request that mom has made, it is crystal clear that brother and sister need to devise a long-term plan. Many people consider their parents to be part of their OWN family.

  10. avatar Koka Miri says:

    I’m pretty amazed by the people saying that people who make more shouldn’t donate more to a family member than their sibling who makes less. I’m surprised by how many of you there are. Either this is a very wealthy readership or…not sure what the alternative is. 

    How selfish can you get? The brother worked hard for his money, and it’s his money, but can he afford it without noticing much of a difference in his style of life? Can he still save for his own future while donating $100 to $200 to his mother? We can’t know the answer to that, but if he answers “yes” to both then he should be helping his own mother out.

    It sounds like LW1 would feel the absence of that income.

    If at some point it seems like he can’t afford it, then the siblings should talk again. Maybe it would be a good idea for the sister to put $50 monthly into a savings account for the mom, instead of handing it to her.

    For a rich sibling (the brother) to say they will only match a poorer sibling’s donation to a parent is selfish. Money is worth so much less than people. The current hoarding mindset of the upper class is sickening. “Mine mine mine!” It’s like it never even occurs to them that they could lose their jobs and be broke, and need assistance themselves. But that’s also appealing to their selfishness and not a higher nature.

    I can understand why the brother thinks it’s the sister’s choice to have kids (and therefore be broke), but it was his mother’s (and father’s) choice to have him in the first place. So he should be a little more understanding of his sister’s situation, unless their mother just did a craptastic job of raising them.                 

    • avatar KL says:

      I think it’s the sense of entitlement from the less well-to-do siblings that rubs people the wrong way. I know I make more money than my 3 siblings, but I also know I worked and continue to work much harder and longer hours than they ever did or do now. They have more time to pursue hobbies, relax, enjoy their partners, etc. and less stress. They chose a different life path and that’s great, but to expect to have such decisions subsidized by the wealthier sibling is also wrong. Everyone should take responsibility for their own decisions, then people can decide what they can or want to contribute in a charitable fashion.

      I have to say I don’t have a lot of sympathy for the mother here — she could work but is choosing not to. That’s her choice, but then to push that burden onto her children (or the rest of us through food stamps, etc.) is atrocious to me. If she couldn’t find work or couldn’t work for health reasons, it would be another story. But sheer laziness — not okay. I don’t want to work either, but you know what? I also like electricity, a roof over my head, food on my table, etc. Mooching off others, whether they’re children or society, is morally reprehensible.

      • avatar D L says:

        No, the brother shouldn’t be expected to cough up more money b/c he has more disposable income than LW#1. However the fact that he’s sticking his nose into this situation suggests maybe he should.

        He’s calling the LW’s husband to “talk this out” and goes on and on about what is “owed” to mom. If this wasn’t indicated in the letter, I would agree with what I stated above. He’s going out of his way to insure that the LW pay mom something she cannot afford yet he owns 2 houses, businesses and exotic cars. I’m not going to fault him for that if he worked hard to achieve those goals. But to insist that his sister, who has more responsibilities and a tighter budget, has to provide financial assistance to a mother who (based on this letter) is not disabled or sick or in urgent need of care, is ridiculous! It would be one thing if mom was not to blame for her limited income (illness, laid off, etc) but simply by proclaiming “I’ve worked enough” is NOT a reason for her to mooch off her children. She is CHOOSING not to work to support herself yet EXPECTS her children to provide for her. I would say the same thing to a lazy adult child to who still lives with mommy and daddy and expects them to take care of him/her.

  11. avatar JC Dill says:

    LW2 has such “first world problems”. A good way to stop her drama whine is to reply (within 30 seconds of the rant starting) with something like “Oh dear, that’s too bad about your cleaning lady. But have you heard about Xxxxxxxx? Isn’t that horrible?” where Xxxxxx is a major third world crisis. Have you heard about the most recent bombing in Syria? Have you heard that despite all the publicity and outrage they still haven’t captured Kony? Have you heard about the famine in Somalia?

    This will help put her whine into perspective. She has Such First World Problems and (if she has any decency at all) will stop whining about them when you point out the very real Third World Problems that millions of people have on a daily basis. And if she doesn’t stop whining, then maybe you need to make some better friends.

  12. avatar Sita says:

    It is very sad to hear that we don’t owe our parents anything. The fact is we do owe them everything, they raised us, sent us to school and worry about us every step of the way. Unless you’ve been abused by yours we should thank them for the way we turn out. With that being said, selfish people must have had selfish parents. I grew up in Asia, no social security there. So parents depend entirely on their children in their old age. They ussually live with the oldest son and his family. In a VERY TRADITIONAL Asian family the oldest son also gets all the inheritance but he also becomes the head of the family and helps out his other siblings. In a middle class western educated family as ours everybody pitch in and the parents get to choose who they want to live with or even take turn with each of their children. My parents choose to live with their youngest, my sister in Australia. I’ve asked them if they would consider living here in the States with me but they are affraid of the cold. If they’ve chosen to come here I would’ve figured out how to do it and adjusted my lifestyle. At this point in my life I can’t contribute any money at all, but my sister never ask because she knows that our financial situation is in shambles. In the past when things were better I sent them money as much as I could afford.

    So LW#1, please do write that letter to your brother and mother and still consider helping out whenever you can. It is a good example you’re setting for your children, because everybody will get old (including your childless brother) and maybe become dependent on their children and/or relatives.

    • avatar D L says:

      The LW didn’t say that she wouldn’t help out her mom. She simply said she couldn’t do a monthly payment of $100. Big difference.

  13. avatar casino la fantastique says:

    LW2: How is the problem your drama queen friend, when you’ve been buddies for 20 years? You’re the one who expected an adult to somehow change and who kept on keepin’ on with her even five or ten years later, when she didn’t. I’m no particular fan of drama, but at some point in the many years you’ve known her, you didn’t click over to thinking “This is just the way Drama Debbie is.” …?

    • avatar G T says:

      EXACTLY. And to suddenly become snarky/flippant/funny about her “problems” when you have been fine with it all these years and probably even participated in it seems obnoxious. YOU changed, not her. She has been very consistent. Maybe she is immature and you’ve outgrown her. OR maybe you’re the only one she talks to this way because and are her go-to vent person on trivial issues because that’s how your friendship has functioned all these years. Either way it’s your issue, not hers.

      Either spend less time with her and find new like-minded friends or have mature, adult conversations/gentle comments with your friend of 20 years on how you are not in the mood for lengthy diatribes about her cleaning lady and can we please change the subject (oh, and you better have some mutually interesting subjects lined up to talk about, seeing as you are the one wanting different conversation).

  14. avatar Pinky35 says:

    LW#1, I think you should help out your mom in whatever way fits your life. So, if money isn’t an option than do whatever you feel you can. Your brother is wrong for pressuring you to give money. And don’t expect him to always foot the bill for your mom just because he has money. I also think maybe you need to remind your mom that money doesn’t grow on trees and if she is healthy and able to find a job she enjoys, perhaps that would be the best way to make ends meet. I can tell you from my own family, my mom has serious health issues, yet she continues to work and not live on the welfare of others simply because she has to make ends meet. I’ve helped her out a couple of times but she doesn’t make it a habit to ask for help.

    It’s a hard balance between taking care of your own family and then realizing you have to take care of your parents now, too. Yet, are we really morally obligated to take care of a parent who just wants to be lazy and not work? I think if the roles were reversed and we were lazy 20 somethings, our parents would kick us in the butt to go find a job and support ourselves.

  15. avatar mmht says:

    LW#1: As many have pointed out, there is a difference between the mother needing the help due to the fact that she can’t work and the mother demanding the help because she doesn’t want to work.

    In this situation, the first thing the LW needs to do is determine how much she is capable of giving her mother because eventually one day her mother is going to need assistance due to an inability to support herself. She then needs to have a face to face conversation with her brother, I don’t agree with Margo that she should write a letter because I think the brother needs to see her face and hear the tone of her voice. Be forceful, but not angry or accusatory. Her brother will just continue pestering her if he thinks he can crack her. Make it very clear that as long as your mother has the capability of working you will NOT support her. She was the one who chose to quit working when she had absolutely no back up plan and not enough money. Simple as that.

    However, you then need to discuss with him about the future when she is not capable of taking care of herself. At that point tell him this is how much you can afford to give your mother when the time comes that she needs the help. Do NOT say “You have more and with no kids you should give more.” That is rude and disrespectful to your brother. As others have pointed out just because he has more money doesn’t mean he should shoulder the responsibility of your mother. But, you say to him “This is all I am capable of giving when the time comes. If you would like to give more that is up to you, but I can not.” Make it as simple as that. If he or your mother have a problem with it that is there deal make certain you convey to them that this discussion is over with and you will no longer partake in it.

  16. avatar angelmother3 says:

    I agree with those who say LW1 does not owe her mother anything. Likewise her brother does not. He has some gall calling LW1’s husband, at work no less, to badger him into giving Mom $100/month. And I really take issue with those posters here who say LW1 ought to be able to fork over $3.33 a day. Isn’t it interesting how people can spend other people’s money? If LW1 can’t afford $100/month, I believe her. I know how tight money can be too.

    If LW1 wants to help her mother out from time to time, that’s her decision, and it should have nothing to do with what her brother does. Ditto the brother. I think a son (or daughter) who would say, “Sure, Mom, I’ll help you, but I’ll give you only what my sibling gives you,” is cold. If you can help and want to help, do so in the manner you can afford, and leave your sibling out of it. And while it is tempting to compare situations and try to figure out who can afford more than whom, I think it is a bad idea and should be avoided.

    Right after high school I got a job at our local general store. The father of one of my “friends” thought my friend should’ve gotten the job because my father supposedly made more money than he did. Never mind the fact that I had siblings and that my friend was an only child. Never mind that the father didn’t know whether or not my father was sending money to one of my grandmothers. Never mind that it was just none of his business! The man actually asked my boss to let me go and hire his daughter, and my boss was getting ready to agree when my father walked in and overheard the conversation. He told my boss that if he wanted to hire both me and my friend, that was his business, but he’d be wrong to fire me just to be nice to this other man. Why that man wanted to hurt me and take away my job I never did find out.

    We just make a whole lot of trouble when we start saying, “That person makes more money and can afford to spend more than I can.” No one has the right to spend another person’s money. If we all would just mind our own darn business and do what we think is right, and leave other people alone, the world would be an easier place to live in.

  17. avatar angelmother3 says:

    One more thing. I would be ashamed to ask my children to send me money. If I were too disabled or old to work, that might be one thing, but I would never ask them to help me just because I darn well didn’t feel like working anymore. I certainly wouldn’t ask if it meant taking away from my grandchildren. It amazes me how some people feel so entitled.

  18. avatar Nancy says:

    Two ideas here:
    1) Important facts about the mother are not clear, such as her age, how long she has worked, is the work physically taxing and her health failing? Her children should know whether retirement is necessary for the mother now. It appears perhaps the daughter thinks not but the son thinks so. Also if this mom has been supportive of her kids in the past, that should be taken into consideration. If the mom is a lazy leech, that’s one thing. If she’s a woman who worked hard in her life and was good to her kids, that’s a different thing.
    2) If the daughter would LIKE to contribute SOMETHING, why not name a figure, like $30/month, and offer to the brother that he can pay the same percentage of his disposable income? That way each would be giving according to his/her ability. (It’s the way Suze Orman suggests a couple with extremely different incomes can divide expenses.) This would be positive karma for everyone. It’s always wise to act in a way you won’t regret later when it’s too late.

  19. avatar JCF4612 says:

    LW1: Dear Bro — You seem to feel Mom’s welfare (and your contribution) is directly tied to whatever I cough up, without regard to this fact: I have kids to help support while you have exotic toys and a dog. As for calling my husband at work, knock it off. We are talking about OUR mother, not HIS. I’ve told Mom, and now I’m telling you, that I’ll help when I can but will not be committing to a monthly stipend. You do whatever you can handle. But let me tell you this, buddy-boy: College tuition costs a lot more than a lease payment on a fancy car and bag of Alpo.  

    LW2: Why not deliver a big yawn whenever DQ cranks up with the crisis du jour?      

  20. avatar G T says:

    Random questions: Does the brother’s insistence on what’s “fair” stems from their childhood? Did the sister perhaps received things from their parents that he did not? Did she get bigger better gifts, help with paying for her first car, tuition for college and he did not?

    Does she currently just do enough financially to get by (by the way she worded her work situation, I think she only works part time even though her kids are pretty much grown and hubby brings in the bulk of their income) while brother works his butt off? Does he see his sister and his mother as two peas in a pod?

    Are the material things she lists as her brother’s actually the result of his wife’s income and not his? Does he feel like his wife’s money shouldn’t be taken into account any more than the sister thinks her husband should be bothered about their mother?

    Can the brother perhaps be up to his eyeballs in debt to fund his fancy lifestyle and he actually doesn’t have as much cash as the sister thinks? He could have two underwater mortgages and two car loans to pay off for all she knows.

    Is this a pattern with the sister where she claims hardship anytime something needs to be done in the family in order to evade responsibilities? Has she borrowed a bunch of money from the mom/parents in the past and never paid it back? Did the mom initially demand $1000 a month from him and only $100 from the sister, he’s sick of being perceived as an ATM and therefore decided to tie his actions to her’s?

    Yes the brother seems like a bit of an odd duck, but I do wonder what his side of the story would sound like.

    • avatar Briana Baran says:

      G T: Well, okay. Should LW1’s husband’s income be taken into consideration in helping mom out if her brother’s possible wife’s income wouldn’t be? How do you make the leap that she only works part-time while brother works his butt off? She said she is paying some of the bills, and for her sons’ education. I worked full-time, with a lot of over-time, and it was a tough, draining job, and it paid less than half what my husband made…and I was still a significant contributor to the household income. In other words, I worked my butt off. I didn’t read anything about financial hardship from LW1, just that she and her husband cannot afford $100 a month to help her mother out.

      Did you fail to read this part of the letter: “Mom has asked me to give her $100 a month, and my brother will match whatever I agree to pay her.” That was MOM asking, not the brother, so I don’t think all of the speculation about the brother’s heavy resentment about her always “evading responsibilities” and being up to his cheeks in hock is very reasonable. There is no mention of brother having a wife either, come to think of it; just a dog. I don’t know, maybe the dog has expensive taste or issues with her SIL.

      Just my own random thoughts since we’re all having a walk on the wild side.

      • avatar G T says:

        Re-read my first line. I wrote “random QUESTIONS”, as in I wonder what the answers would be, not “my random opinion” or “random thoughts that I think are facts”. The only speculation I gave was about how many hours she works. And just because she chose to omit things doesn’t mean we can assume they don’t exist.

        Also if the brother is as well off as she claims, and the mother is as self-entitled as she claims, I can’t imagine the mother starting out by asking money bags for only a matching $100. More likely she was asking him for way higher sums, he shut her down cold and this was matching thing is the final play in this dysfunctional triangle of theirs. (see, you can tell this last paragraph is speculation by the lack of question marks at the end of the sentences, unlike my initial comment).

        • avatar Briana Baran says:

          The letter actually states that mother asked LW1 for $100 a month, and then said that her brother would match her. “Match” means just that. It is pure speculation that the brother was asked first, and that their mother asked him for a much greater amount, and that he “shut her down cold”. Why would you assume that it was impossible that mother asked her daughter first? No one has mentioned that sometimes wealthy people get that way because they never give a dime to anyone else, and are scandalously self-centered and miserly with their money except for what they need and want. I am NOT saying the brother is like this, but if we’re going to visit the land of wild speculation, maybe mother dear knows her son won’t even grudgingly yield a penny unless his sister gives first…and this is his ploy to be certain he isn’t being “cheated” or taken advantage of in some weird way. I don’t think it’s any more likely than your scenario…but I do have an extremely active imagination…so I can go on creating tales of moral decrepitude all day long…

          Your questions were a little off the reservation, and not all that “random”, taken as a whole, as there was an obvious theme. Of course, just because she didn’t write things doesn’t mean that we should just assume that they DO exist. The letter taken at face value is not ugly, or indicative that she is mean, selfish or expecting her brother to do anything but make his own decisions, and leave her to make hers, nor that she has “refused” to help her mother, or expects ***anyone*** to care for her. Good grief.

  21. avatar Ashley Carter says:


    My mother always had a great phrase for these situations “If that’s the worst part of your day, then I want to be you.”

    Works great for people complaining about all sorts of petty things. “Your doughnut was glazed instead of chocolate? If that’s the worst part of your day, I want to be you”

    It also works when restaurant servers and other customer service folks get nervous you might be mad about bad service that isn’t their fault. “If waiting 30 seconds for my coffee is the worst part of my day, I’m doing pretty alright”

  22. avatar LovePacino says:

    Regarding LW#1 — assuming dear old mom is an average, run-of-the-mill mother (and NOT a hateful, horrific parent who abused and/or neglected her kids), then why am I reading so much criticism about her in these responses? Some people are basically calling her lazy, saying she “doesn’t want to work” … we don’t even know how old she is nor the state of her health — maybe the poor lady has “worked long enough.” And in this economy, how many possible jobs could there be for a retirement-aged woman? Others are criticizing her for DARING to ask her daughter for help, assuming she feels “entitled” to help from her kids. The truth is, we don’t know HOW she asked — she may have been embarrassed to do so. Besides, if we can’t ask our parents and/or kids for help, then who CAN we ask??? And while I agree that kids do not OWE their parents their LIVES, I do hope that most of us would WANT to do whatever we could to help our parents in their final years. In truth, nowadays, tons of older parents are still helping out grown kids that have been hit hard by the economy — opening their homes to them, their spouses and even grandkids. After the age of 18, parents are not legally obligated to help their kids, but many do — out of love. Yet we don’t want to do the same for our parents for the same reason — simply because we love them? In America, it all seems to be about “me, me, me” … and yes, I am 100% American, but this part of our culture truly turns my stomach.

    • avatar Carib Island Girl says:


    • avatar Briana Baran says:

      Some of us are commenting on the knee-jerk assumption that ALL parents are being the sort of golden parents who actually supported and loved their children, who are still willing to give help as they are capable to their children (and I truly do not mean financial, or physical/material), who are in circumstances beyond their control, that they have tried to alleviate their own issues with money, that they don’t wish to be a burden…and that there is actually something to love about them. You know, the kind of parents you’re describing.

      The harsh reality is that not all parents are like that, were like that, or will ever be like that, and it is not a matter of “me, me, me” as in “I am a selfish, neurotic, cruel, uncaring spoiled brat”, but of, “In order to survive, I left these people far behind, and they’ve never helped themselves, and they were nearly the death of me…and now I OWE them support and care? I have people who actually mean something to me, thank you…I’ll take care of them first”.

      We don’t know the LW’s full story, and I didn’t see the ugliness in her that so many are accusing her of, nor do I like the brother’s calling her husband and dunning him for money for his MIL. That is sneaky. Mom must be over 60 to qualify for social security, and her income must be fairly low to get food stamps. Even if she needs help, and had an actual reason to quit working (LW1 said her mother stated that she is tired of working…not that she has a medical issue, or her job dried up, or that she is incapable..and that she had quit her job and retired three years later, probably when her pension became available)…it is fairly brassy to ask for a specific sum from a grown child on their own as supplemental income…and then state that the sibling will match her. So, we actually DO know how mom asked: “I need you to give me $100 a month, and your brother can match that”. Doesn’t sound very humble or embarrassed to me. Sounds like she had it all figured out.

      In truth, the ones who come begging, cap in hand, are often those abusive, vicious, egocentric monsters who did their best to ruin the children they never gave a damn about. Watch them shift from humble, embarrassed, eyes-downcast sweethearts to nasty, accusing, you-were-never-any-good monsters if you don’t give them exactly what they want. Let’s talk about “me, me, me”…some of us have already given until we were nearly bled out.

      • avatar wendykh says:

        I don’t care if they were wonderful or not. Plan your own damn retiremet.
        It is grossly inappropriate to expect people helping young adults out into the world as well as planning THEIR own retirements to fund yours just because they’re your kids!

        But the problem here is neither mom nor LW1. The problem is smarmy brother back channel badgering the husband. Jackhole right there.

      • avatar LovePacino says:

        I am assuming the letter writer’s mother was an “average” parent (like all of us, a flawed human being, who can make mistakes, be annoying, etc.), not a “golden parent” — BUT you seem to be a assuming she was a terrible mother, but the letter writer didn’t say that. Rather, she said she it not close to her mother, and she seems to be annoyed by her in general — sounds like incompatible personalities, but not necessarily a hateful mother. Also, you seem to think it’s downright rude and presumptuous for the mothe to ask her daughter for help — but, once again, if we can’t ask our kids or our parents for help in our times of need, then who can we ask??? Aren’t these the people we should be able to turn to? Now, if the daughter honestly cannot help out financially, that is perfectly understandable — and, these days, COMMON, with so many grown children being the ones asking their parents for help and moving back in with mom & dad (with their spouses and kids in tow). Of course the brother should not guilt or compell her to give money that she cannot afford, but I am not even considering him in this discussion — I am focusing on the overall negative comments about the mother. Sure it’s possible she sucked as a mom and succeeded in alienating her daugther, and, as such, well, you reap what you sow. BUT I am willing to bet that the VAST MAJORITY of parents on this planet fall into the “average but flawed” category, not the “[my parents] were nearly the death of me…and now I OWE them support and care?” category.

        • avatar Briana Baran says:

          I guess you missed the part in which I clearly stated that my commentary was directed toward those readers who seem to think that ALL mothers are owed care by their children. If you read my posts regarding LW1, you’ll see I made no such comment as these: “…you seem to be a assuming she was a terrible mother…” and “…you seem to think it’s downright rude and presumptuous for the mothe (sic) to ask her daughter for help…”. All I said was that she never asked her brother to bear the entire weight, or any of the weight, of her mother’s care, that she only asked that he stop interfering in her decisions, and that she did offer to help where she could.

          I never gave an opinion of the mother other than this: LW1 said her mother quit working, then retired, then said she was tired of working…and that there was no evidence that she had been forced out of her job for any reason. I did not say she was a BAD mother. My comments were directed at all of those who seem to think that all children are responsible for their parents’ welfare…even if their parents were terrible, or their current status is due to complete lack of accountability and responsibility, and/or the adult children are in no position to help their parents because they have families of their own to support and keep out of the street. I don’t believe that all parents owe their kids a roof and food once they’ve left the nest either…sometimes people are totally irresponsible and destroy their own lives, and I do not think that parents who have planned well for their later lives should be dragged into destitution by idiot, worthless, selfish children who think they can live off their parents with their brood for years while they “get back on their feet”. I’ve know far too many people who’ve taken adult children in, and ended up booting their asses right back out again because of a steady stream of entitled spending, lost jobs, and idle amusements…but no contributions to the household expenses. The grandchildren stayed…they’re victims…but out went the losers. We stayed with my in-laws for 6 months when we were flooded, very unexpectedly, by a river, out of our home. We contributed fully, cleaned house, and were about to move out when my FIL dies suddenly from a massive heart attack. We ended up staying three more months to support my MIL…even while paying rent on an apartment. If and when she needs a place, we’ll be here for her.

          My comments were about knee-jerk reactions, and the idiocy of generalization. I think there are a lot more terrible parents than you think…parents who don’t deserve anything from anyone. You don’t have to starve, burn, molest or beat your children to be a bad parent…way worse than just “flawed”. Everyone is flawed.

          Some work around it, some thrive on it.

  23. VEry informative,thumbs up!

  24. avatar mjd4 says:

    I don’t get the whole matching funds game. LW says she will help out as much as she feels she can. Brother is free to do the same. Or not. But if he is concerned about mom, and he has the means, then what exactly is the point of making sis set the rate?

  25. avatar K HG says:

    This discussion with its very different viewpoints has been helpful for me to read. It helps me understand why MY family’s disagreement was so intractable.

    In short, we had four siblings with one surviving elder. My brother lovingly (but independently) mapped out a very nice plan – regular taxi service to a nice adult daycare and so on – and then expected each of the four siblings to equally pay for what he had planned. All of us were willing to pay something, but there was considerable disparity in ability to pay. Some felt that we should pay what we could afford and others felt that we should pay equally even though it would be easy for some and quite a sacrifice for others, and some felt that they should pay only for what they considered reasonable care. There was never agreement, and lingering hard feelings, which was very sad.

    But this discussion has given me insight into why….thank you all!

  26. avatar Jennifer juniper says:

    With questions like these, I often notice that the ACTUAL question isn’t really answered. The LW didn’t ask for help with the rights and wrongs of her position. Her question is, ‘What can I say to them without feeling guilty?’. What the LW wants is a guilt-free solution. What the LW wants probably is impossible given that she intrinsically doesn’t want to give her mother money.

  27. avatar Rick S says:

    She made choices to be married,have kids, and send them to school.

    Brother made choices to be single buy cars and houses and a dog.
    Mom chose to retire on small pension and Social Security check.
    If there is a money need for any one of these the other 2 are not required to help.


  28. avatar R Scott says:

    LW1 – Are ya done? Feel better now? We get it. You’re the salt of the earth barely scraping by and your brother is a dog owning free spirit with nary a care and you resent it. Cool. Now, find a hundred bucks a month in your budget and send it to your mom. Just do it. She’s your mom.

    LW2 _ “Oh, my!  blah, blah, world is ending yadda, yadda, yadda….the pain…blah, blah, blah..the suffering and hardship….yadda, blah, blah . . . . . . . ………..ouch…………sky is falling…… is over …………..”

    “Selma! Shut up already”.

    That  was too easy.

  29. avatar CanGal says:

    Annoyed – Margo’s “You’re kidding right?” Should be followed up with – “There are a lot of people who can’t even afford food, let alone a housekeeper – count your blessings!”

  30. avatar Pmartino says:

    RE:  LW1  Regardless of past circumstances, I don’t understand why what the brother gives should hinge in any way upon what his sister gives.  If he wants to give his mother money, then do it.  Sister has already said she is in no position to give monthly, only occasionally, and this should be respected and reiterated.  With college tuition on her to-pay list, guilt should not even enter the picture. 

  31. avatar CanGal says:

    LW1 – At this point I don’t think either sibling should be giving the mother anything. Going strictly from what the letter says and no conjecture, the mother is young enough to still be working. From the letter she is about 62. the letter states she retired 3 years after quitting a part time job – not 3 years ago. The brother and sister should tell the mom she needs to get a job and they will help her out when she is no longer capable of working, by that time her kids will be done college and she will be more capable of it. If you are able to work and not in a position financially to retire, you should not expect others to take care of you.

  32. avatar Leajmom says:

    Brother agreed to MATCH the amount LW is willing to pay? What a dick. He knows how much more money he has. How about they calculate what percentage of her annual income $100 is, and then Brother can match the percentage? When he balks (and he will, it will be in the thousands for him *giggle*) have him calculate what percentage $100 is of his income, and then sister can match that. I’ll bet she can scrounge up 12 or so bucks a month!