How much "helping" is really enabling?

Discussion in 'Parent Emeritus' started by Bean, Aug 6, 2010.

  1. Bean

    Bean Member

    We've gotten to the point of providing a roof, food, shower... and that's about it, for our 19-year-old daughter.

    Recently she landed a full-time fast food job. Even before she started her first day, we kept telling her how SHE NEEDED TO GET TO HER JOB ON HER OWN. We want HER to be responsible for hopping the bus there, hopping the bus home.

    The first day, my husband ends up driving her. After all, it's her first day!!! -- Two hours of grueling orientation. My mother (enabler extraordinaire) picked her up and dropped her off somewhere else after she was done.

    Today was her first 8-hour day. It was early. So last night, after visiting her boyfriend in jail, instead of coming right home like she said she was going to do, the clock ticked by 2 hours of my husband and I waiting and waiting, wondering if she was even going to show up, or if something horrible had happened to her. Finally, near 1am she comes home. Bothers us about her black shoes she needs, that she's known about all week, but can't find 5 hours before she needs to be up and getting ready.


    So this morning my husband wakes her up to get ready and he leaves for work. I'm sleeping with one eye open, and finally get up when it seems like she should already be on the bus. I asked her twice why she was still there. She got huffy. Finally admits that she called my dad (grandpa) for a ride (another extreme enabler). I pointed out to her that the bus was coming in one minute, and she had not missed it, like she said. She whined about being tired. I insisted on her taking the bus. She stormed out, swearing at me. Didn't take her purse, a lunch - NOTHING. To her first day of work.

    I feel badly, because I feel like I always need to be the heavy, the enforcer. Always.

    I feel bad because I sometimes think she's damaged her brain so much with using that she really is kind of slow (she even notices this). But, I don't see any other way of her to be self-sufficient and to stop using people, unless she's kind of forced to rely on herself.

    But, I'm exhausted from being the one who always puts the foot down when everyone else bends to her desires. I feel like an ogre sometimes, like maybe I'm wrong, if everyone else around me isn't as "hard" as me. Even though my common sense tells me that loving her isn't enabling her, it feels more "natural" to be an enabler. To be the heavy doesn't feel as loving.
  2. dashcat

    dashcat Member

    I understand completely how you feel. In fact, with only changing the whens, wheres and a few whos, I could have written your post.

    My DEX is giving difficult child and Internet Dude rides from their hotel room (barf) to his house for dinner. His girlfriend took them apartment hunting (double barf). She called me to drive her apartment hunting and I said, gently "I'm sorry, no." She called again yesterday and said she wanted to see me. I told her that was great. Would I pick her up? Yes, but just you. Internet boy must stay put. Amazingly, she said ok. She's been calling all over the world asking for rides, asking people to cosign for the apartment .... I'm sticking to my guns. I will see her whenever she wants, but that's the only way she'll be in my car ... visits only. No rides to work.

    It is so hard to always be the bad guy. I know. You are doing the right thing and you are doing it well. The hardest part of being in this position is resigning yourself to the fact that you can't do ANYTHING about others enabling her. I wish I could duct tape my difficult children enablers to the cellar walls until she wakes up, but it's just not going to happen.

    Hang in there and stay strong.

  3. CrazyinVA

    CrazyinVA Well-Known Member Staff Member

    It's a really tough line sometimes, I know. I'd watch my kids go to work in dirty, wrinkled clothes, stay up too late and oversleep and go in late to work, or call in sick, etc. I felt like I nagged, nagged, nagged. On one hand, it was on them if they lost their job due to their own irresponsibility. On the other, I felt like *I* would be suffering if they lost their job, since they'd be home more and whining about having no money, and having a job was part of the deal with them living with me. Ultimately I felt it was their responsibility, and I did my best not to fight that battle. I figured they'd never learn to get their butts out of bed, if I kept waking them up. Let the natural consequences fall where they may. It was a real rollercoaster of a ride, that's for sure. I caved many times. I'm glad those years are behind me... both of them eventually *did* learn to be more responsible, but it took some time.

    Of course in my case, there was only me to drive them, or help them find their shoes, or remind them to wash their uniforms. There was no else to enable them when I said "no," no relatives to call (although I think they did convince friends for rides, occasionally). It definitely makes you more of the "bad guy" when others are enabling her, and you're not, so I feel for you there. I still think that, as tough as it is, the "right" answer is to let her own it. You can't control the others enabling her. You can try to talk to them, and explain your reasons for NOT helping her, and hope that they get it, but in the end, you can't do anything about their behavior, only yours. I think you're going to have to detach from it as best you can, as maddening as that is.
  4. toughlovin

    toughlovin Guest

    OK this is my take.... and believe me I know how hard it is and i have done my share of enabling... and I too am the tough guy at our house.

    So I think stopping enabling is about letting go and figuring out what is right for YOU. So you do for her what feels good and right to you, and you don't do for her the things that don't feel right to you or you feel should be her responsibility!

    This means letting others also decide what is right for them to do or not do. I do think you and husband need to be on the same page because it is just too hard on your relationship if one of you wants to do something and the other doesn't. So for your relationship you need to be at least in the same book if not exactly on the same page. So that is worth working on.

    As far as her grandparents and others, let her have her relationship with them, whatever it is. If they enable her she will take advantage of them. They will eventually get tired of that... probably won't want to get up every morning to drive her to work. If they start complaining to you, tell them you are staying out of it that you have decided you won't drive her.

    I think part of not enabling is to let go of control.... I think many of us with difficult children have spent so much time trying to make sure they do the right thing (or at least not the wrong thing) that it starts feeling controlling to them and it is hard to sit by and let them just blow it.

    So you are right to not drive her to the bus. I think if she has managed to finagle a ride from someone else (other than husband) then let her do it. It will bother you because it seems wrong and it is.... but let those people figure it out. Don't waste your energy or time on it. Don't spend your time or energy trying to convince other people not to enable her. That doesn't help anyone and indirectly is going to feel controlling to them and to her. I say this because my sons biggest problem with me is he feels I am too controlling... and now feels that way even when I am not!!!

    She may have to learn by losing this job.... which is really hard on you I know.... but as long as you are taking responsibility for her keeping the job she is not learning,

    Good luck.
  5. dashcat

    dashcat Member

    [QUOTE/]I think part of not enabling is to let go of control.... I think many of us with difficult children have spent so much time trying to make sure they do the right thing (or at least not the wrong thing) that it starts feeling controlling to them and it is hard to sit by and let them just blow it. [/QUOTE]

    This is a very wise observation.
  6. Bean

    Bean Member

    Mmm. Yes. Control. That is a good observation. I'm going to chew on that.
  7. susiestar

    susiestar Roll With It

    Toughie said it extremely well!!! It is one of the things I learned in Al-anon, let the other person make their choices and live with them. It is none of your business unless it disrupts your day or causes problems for you. Otherwise, stay out of it.

    The big exception is your children. Work with husband so that the other kids do very very little for her. It will be hard for them and they probably will need some help with it. Offer to let them use you as the bad guy. For example, difficult child asks B2 to "borrow" $20 because she knows that B2 just got birthday $$ or babysitting $$. B2 tells difficult child that "Mom says that we can't loan/give each other money. If she finds out I will owe her three times the amount and she KNOWS how much $$ I have."

    The blame is on nosy you, but B2 was able to refuse to give difficult child any $$. It was a very useful tool when I was a teen. "My dad would beat me bloody if I entered a wet tshirt contest" (NOT that anyone would have asked me, lol), or "Sorry, my parents would know if I tried to sneak out with the car. I wouldn't be allowed to drive any car until I was 18!" I even used it to keep from going to certain dances and parties where I KNEW that most people would be stoned or drunk.

    You also have to make sure that husband is not allowing difficult child to harm the others or make them feel very unsafe. husband may need to be reminded that the pcs are each just as valuable and worthy of time, attention and protection, even from difficult child. The pcs should NOT be sacrificed on the altar of gfgness.

    Other than that, do what YOU want and do your best to not control difficult child OR clean up/help her after the disaster happens.
  8. toughlovin

    toughlovin Guest

    Good point about the other kids, I totally agree and definitely agree about letting them use you as an excuse.

    In our house my easy child daughter in some ways is the toughest one at least in talk. When my son came back from the TBS she is the one that didn't believe he had changed. She is absolutely and totally disgusted by him as well as embarrassed by his reputation.

    BUT it is hard for her to stand up to him too.

    FWIW i did not figure put about giving up control all on my own. I have been seeing a therapist for quite a while on this very issue, how to let go. For me that has been a lot about giving up control. I don't know if we would have gotten to the point of kicking my son out if I hadn't been going to therapy.

    It is becoming very clear to me that kicking him out was the right thing to do.
  9. DenitaS

    DenitaS New Member

    I LOVE this thread!! It is exactly how I am feeling right now too. However, I don't think I do enough for her. I have TOTALLY detached and I am now trying to have some kind of relationship with her and figuring out where to draw the lines.
    I wonder if this is something we ever "Master". I love the statement about control. I was fortunate enough to realize a while back that I am not directly responsible for her actions. and I really do try to let her actions have natural consequences. But to master the line and stick to it! That would be FABULOUS!!!
  10. hearts and roses

    hearts and roses Mind Reader

    To put into very basic and simplistic terms, FOR ME, enabling is:

    ...when we do for others what they can do for themselves...when we try to manipulate others to do things they way we think they should...when we don't allow others to learn on their own...when we steal from others the opportunity to grow - in their own time and fashion.

    FOR ME, helping is:

    ...assisting when another asks for our help when they are already helping themselves...when we are not trying to manipulate or control their behavior, but simply being a good listener or someone to lean on occasionally (in my opinion, even the most independent people need someone to lean on occasionally)...when we can differentiate between a need and a want when another asks us to 'help' them.

    Often, 'helping' someone is really hurting them - the more we do for them, the longer it takes for them to learn and grow, which in turn, hurts them. Even a 5 year old can understand and learn why it is important to feed their fish everyday or empty a trash can or clean up their room. A 15 year old can understand and learn how to mow a lawn, get home on time, figure out how to get a ride home from a party and walk the family dog so it doesn't pee on the rug. Everytime we do something for another that they can easily do for themself, we inhibit their own personal growth, we stunt them. Being responsible to others, in my opinion, is a very important lesson to teach our kids.

    That said, on the other hand, it's okay to help someone out because we see them working for themself and we want to do something that makes them feel good. In our (CD board) particular kids' case, I think it's a delicate line. While we're trying to teach them to be more independent and concious of other's, we can't always be giving and doing for them. It's essential to their growth, to allow them to fail and fumble their way through things at a certain point.

    I'm just sort of rambling, as with easy child recently moving out, my H is having a hard time, so this topic has been on my brain! H doesn't like her place, he doesn't like her struggling financially, etc. But you know, I'm glad that her landlord's dog is driving her crazy and I'm glad that she has to figure out her finances long term rather than just week to week. I'm glad that she has to learn how to live with others and that everything isn't just there for the taking. If she wants to snack, she will have to make sure there are snacks, etc. This feels right to me. I had to do it when I was 18 - live on my own, support myself and learn how to live independently and be concious of others - live in the real world, you know?

    I think that when you're sacrificing parts of yourself for someone who is capable then you're enabling. I agree with toughlovin, definitely. You have to let go of trying to control and if push comes to shove, you need to maintain order and peace in your own home (that may mean she has to leave your home, etc). If she finds gramma to drive her or pick her up, so be it - just don't let it be you - stick to your personal boundaries.
  11. hearts and roses

    hearts and roses Mind Reader

    Just wanted to add: When I began viewing detachment as another form of showing my love for my daughters, it really helped me to detach in a loving way. When I was able to see just how clearly that helping my kids was actually hurting my kids, I was able to let go and let them figure it out for themselves. I'm not perfect about it, but changing the way I viewed things really helped me. And that was the first step for me, personally, in detaching in a loving way. To allow them the space and time to learn from their own natural consequences and figure out how to create a life for themselves was the KEY in showing my love for them...loving them so much that I was not going to push back when they tried to push me. In effect, they stopped rebelling because there was nothing left for them to rebel against, understand?

    Finding something to admire in their actions or efforts to become an independent adult - even if they go about it in a way we don't particulary agree with. Let them fumble, but admire their resourcefulness, whether it is in getting rides from gramma or calling a friend, etc.

    Of course, this worked for me because my daughters are over 18 and it took a lot of practive and venting (here and with friends!).
  12. Suz

    Suz (the future) MRS. GERE