When My Mother Stopped Enabling Me....

Discussion in 'General Parenting' started by BloodiedButUnbowed, Feb 27, 2018.

  1. BloodiedButUnbowed

    BloodiedButUnbowed Active Member

    I cannot help but notice quite a few threads posted by new members with adult children, agonizing over whether or not to support these adults financially.

    I thought I would share a portion of my story that I don't often discuss here, since I am usually posting about my two troubled stepsons.

    I did not fully launch until my early forties. My mother was a classic enabler. She had no boundaries or expectations and let me do as I pleased. Over the years she easily spent $20,000 covering my expenses. Her help was much appreciated but it did NOT help me grow up, not one bit.

    I moved into my first apartment at 21. I covered my rent, car payment and groceries. My mother paid all of my utilities, my car insurance and gas (for the car). My mother continued paying at least a portion of my bills until I was 41.

    At 34, after years of chasing a dream of working in the arts for a living, the economy tanked and the part-time, temporary jobs I used to cobble together an income mostly disappeared. Now, my mother started paying my rent.

    I relocated out of state hoping for a fresh start. My mother financed the move. When I had trouble finding work where I was, she paid every cent of all of my bills. Rent, car payment, food, everything. At this point my mother was a widow in her early sixties.

    Soon thereafter, I had an epiphany and realized there was no end in sight to my dependency. I was overwhelmed by guilt and shame. I was stuck in a perpetual state of childhood. It felt terrible and eventually I could not live with myself. Something had to change.

    Because of her own issues my mother never set boundaries with me. In the end I set goals for myself. I asked my mom if she would be willing to let me move in with her while I went back to school and trained for a new career. Yes, I would still be dependent, but the drain on her expenses would be much less if I lived with her. She, of course, agreed, and three years later I emerged with a masters' degree and a job. Over the next two years I started adulting in a way I never had done in the past. I am proud to say that I have been fully independent for five years now.

    This year I turn fifty. It took THAT LONG for me to finally launch.

    My mother's caretaking did not help me grow up. It kept me stuck longer. I only grew up when I, myself, came up with a plan that included action steps for me (going back to school) and an expiration date (leaving once out of school and working).

    In the end things worked out for me, but I would have grown up faster without the help she offered out of both love and codependency.

    Support and help with limits and expiration dates would have served me much better than being suspended in a long-term, open-ended state of adolescence. I felt independent in some ways but in the back of my mind I always knew that what I had back then was not truly mine. And that made me resentful which perpetuated the cycle more.

    I hope this is helpful for someone. I doubt my stepsons will ever come to my wife and me for this kind of help, due to the family dynamics in play. But if they do, our help will certainly have an expiration date and conditions attached. I have lived the alternative and I want them to launch long before their fiftieth birthdays or even their fortieth.
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  2. HMBgal

    HMBgal Active Member

    BBU. Well, you're post is timely for me. I'm raising my 41 year old daughter's two children, one of which has pretty significant problems. She has depression and problems of her own, so I bailed her out of jail and paid all of her attorney fees when she got busted for shoplifting and meth possession 15 years ago. Perfect drug for a depressive person with ADD. She stayed clean, got married to an extremely difficult man, divorced, and both of them just basically gave the kids to us. Not legally, though.

    The daughter hasn't worked for over two years now. She gets jobs (dental assistant) because she's bright, attractive, etc., but gets fired within a week because she can't be on time. Anywhere. Ever. Even misses her son's IEP meetings, etc. She let her car insurance, registration lapse, and racked up parking tickets ($150 apiece, thank you very much). No health insurance because she can't get it together to fill out the forms. Was owed lots of unemployment benefits, but never got her butt to the office or online to fill out the forms.

    Paying rent? Pfffft. I paid for a while (and in our area, $2k a month gets you a studio). She used the pittance her ex sent her for child support (1/4 of what he should be paying) for living expenses. The kids were living with us, so she partied on it. Then he stopped paying child support for reasons of his own, (perhaps because his new wife has four children). Dunno. Don't care.

    I finally said enough a few months ago. No more rent help from me. And guess what? She got evicted last week. Everything she owns is sitting out in the driveway of that apartment building, soaking wet. She's couch surfing. She can't stay with us, and she hasn't even asked. I'm surprised the kids haven't asked us why she can't stay with us. Her credit is beyond destroyed, so it's doubtful she will have a place of her own for a long, long time.

    I did pony up $2,400 to get her car insured for six months, pay for the tickets, and get her car registered. She drives my grandchildren around on occasion. And I just couldn't sleep at night knowing that her car would be impounded and the city would end up owning it. I just couldn't go that far.

    I hope my daughter will get it someday. She does for a few days and says the right things, then it's off the rails again. Makes the dumbest decisions that go against her best interests and what she needs to do every time. I'm having to let her go and live her own life her own way and minimize the impact on the kids as much as I can. But her 11 year old son is having a hard time with it as he grows into understanding things more.
  3. JRC

    JRC Active Member

    My son is too young to be truly enabled in the sense that you are both talking about. But, I can see my husband already setting him and us up for this kind of existence. I refuse to do it. I'm constantly pushing my boys (I have three. The problem child is the youngest at age 12) to get their acts together. I.e do your own laundry. Get yourself up in the morning on time. Make your own breakfast. Don't like the dinner I cooked? Make yourself a sandwich. Trying to weasel out of a commitment? Not happening. My husband is the opposite. He'll cook them pancakes on a Tuesday morning. Don't like dinner? He'll craft three separate ones. Drives our problem child to school instead of taking the van. Why? He thinks it's too hard for him. I put a stop to that. I ask him over and over--who's anxiety are you helping here? Certainly not our son. You're helping relieve your own by helicoptering around him. It's not okay and I see our future and our problem child will be in it--in our basement--unless my husband backs off.

    Thanks for the reminder--both of you--that my instincts on this are right. Sometimes I feel guilty. And that I'm a hard ass. But I don't think that's the case when I read some of these situations here.
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  4. JRC

    JRC Active Member

    And BBU, that is an amazing story. I'm so glad you found your way. <3
  5. SomewhereOutThere

    SomewhereOutThere Well-Known Member

    My son, born with drugs in his system and autistic, was always treated the same as my other kids. He wanted his own place and successfully did it on his own dime by 20. It may feel warm and fuzzy to us and them when we mother them more than we have to, especially if they have challenges, but it never helped any adult in my opinion to coddle an adult child, even if we feel sorry for them. It doesnt help to feel sorry for them or, if we do, it is better if they don't know. A parent can really handicap a child. If a 70 year old mom has her 50 year old son or daughter living in her basement it is because she allowed the child to never adult. Some parents LIKE their offspring at home forever!! No lie here. My grandmother had a bed for her son until she died and probably would have been thrilled if he had lived with her full time forever. He was a college professor of thermodynamics, hardly unable to care for himself! But he was so tied to her that he didn't marry until she died! Sad! I think he only married because, by his own admission to me, he didn't want to be alone. Any adult can be crippled.

    It in my opinion is an important part of parenting to let them cook, clean, live and learn for themselves. And leave.

    Bb,I am glad you finally adulted!!!!
    Last edited: Feb 27, 2018
  6. GoingNorth

    GoingNorth Crazy Cat Lady

    This took a lot of courage to write, and I'm very glad that you chose to share it with the rest of the parents here.

    husband's parents helped us out here and there during the Army years. After husband died, my mother helped me out here and there, usually without telling me in advance, and without me asking.

    Things like a small window AC unit appearing on my doorstep during an extermely hot spell.

    Or the infamous check for 2K$ to cover half the cost of having a new furnace installed in my house trailer, when the original furnace crapped out without warning.

    Things she couldn't afford to do at all, that I couldn't figure out how to accept gracefully.

    But in terms of parents supporting us or me? No. There were grocery bags here and there, or mom taking me out shopping for clothing items, that sort of things.

    She, and husband's family helped out here and there when we were younger, but we weren't ever "supported" by our parents once we moved out on our own.

    I think, perhaps, on husband's side at least, we might've received more support had we waited until marriage before moving in together.

    Neither side was happy about that, but my side was more, if not supportive, at least accepting, though neither side allowed us to share a room at their residences until we were legally bound.
  7. KTMom91

    KTMom91 Well-Known Member

    Miss KT's father is 58. Ever since his last girlfriend pitched him out (in 2002), he has held only one job, and that lasted about 3 months. He lives in a house his mother owns, drives a truck given to him by his mother, and all bills are paid by his mother. His mother also covered his child support to me.

    His failure to launch has caused a great deal of heartache for Miss KT (he won't drive the 45 minutes to see her when she's here visiting - she lives 800 miles from me) and her Hubby has absolutely no respect for him (on his only trip to see them, he developed a stomach ache and couldn't go to the hockey game that her Hubby has gotten tickets for, for example). His mother and I haven't spoken in about 15 years, when I told her I didn't want Miss KT to turn out like (name).

    I suspect drugs are involved, since that was an issue before we met, but I don't know for sure. What I do know is that his selfishness and narcissism and general uselessness has hurt my daughter for most of her life, ever since we separated when she was 3.
  8. Littleboylost

    Littleboylost On the road unwanted to travel

    Tired and too exausted to write the responses this post deserves. Thank tou so much for sharing this post.
  9. RN0441

    RN0441 100% better than I was but not at 100% yet

    Thanks for sharing.

    A good reminder of what not to do. Glad you turned out so well at 50 LOL!
  10. wisernow

    wisernow wisernow

    thank you for your wonderful post and honesty. Truly inspiring and helpful to me when I am too quick to run to the rescue. I have to think about this every day to keep myself on track. Hugs.
  11. BloodiedButUnbowed

    BloodiedButUnbowed Active Member

    Thanks for all the kind responses. I, too, am very glad that I learned how to adult. No matter how long it took...it was worth it. I am very aware that some people never grow up and some of you have shared those stories in this thread.

    It would be easy for some to consider me entitled, spoiled, etc., during the years when I lived off my mother's generosity, and some of that might be warranted, but my mother's own needs, insecurities, and emotional unhealthiness played just as big a part. If I had permitted it, she would have kept me with her forever. It was my own sense of pride that led me to eventually forge my own path. I had to struggle very hard and deal with a tremendous amount of guilt to separate myself from her. She wanted me to do well in life but she also didn't want me to leave her. There are a number of people like this in my wife's family too. I know it is more common than is often acknowledged....that some children are not raised to fly out of the nest, but are rather expected to willingly clip (or abandon) their wings and live like a child forever.

    I had to go LC with my mom for a couple of years to set our relationship on a healthier course, and even today we are not as close as she would prefer. For example, we text every day or two and talk on the phone once per week, and I live about 45 minutes from her. She'd prefer that I live in the same town, or one over at the furthest, and talk to her on the phone for an hour each day. As I said in an earlier post, boundaries are not something she acknowledges or understands.

    I encourage parents who are supporting their children financially - WITHOUT any stipulations and an end date in the reasonably near future - to consider their motives. My mother loves me to the ends of this earth and supported me to "help" me but did not understand how that kind of support can become very harmful if not regulated. At the same time, people do fall on hard times and it is in these times that we NEED our families, our parents. I'm not at all suggesting adult children shouldn't be helped, just that it shouldn't become habitual.
  12. tiredintexas

    tiredintexas New Member

    This is helpful....I think we need to work harder at this with my 20 year old. He is back in our house says he is "doing everything right" meaning going to school...but feels we should stay out of his business if he feels like smoking pot. That seems unreasonable in light of the fact that drugs got him kicked out of his first year of college, homeless for 2 months etc. First step is admitting he is an addict. He did for a while, and now lost sight of that and now we are the problem.
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  13. Triedntrue

    Triedntrue Active Member

    I was having trouble feeling guilty about not helping my 36 year old son anymore but you have reinforced my resolve to make him solve his own problems. I will probably have weak days but i will try. Thank you.
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  14. JRC

    JRC Active Member

    This is such an important thread. Thank you again for starting it. xo
  15. SomewhereOutThere

    SomewhereOutThere Well-Known Member

    If you pay for college and the adult lives in your home (it is not HIS home), you are allowed to set boundaries like, since the adult is not self sufficient, "if I know you smoke pot sorry, you can leave and all the money is cut off. If you want me to not be involved in your life then pay your own way and live in your own place. Otherwise, I can set any boundaries I feel are best."
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  16. Littleboylost

    Littleboylost On the road unwanted to travel

    Your son is twice my sons age. I am exhausted and I can’t even imagine what another 18 years will look like.
  17. Sam3

    Sam3 Active Member

    Thank you for sharing your story.
  18. GStorm

    GStorm Becoming Independent

    Great accomplishment. It is good to know you are on your own. I have struggled with not helping my son. At times, I want to put it all on him, but I have to be realistic and own my own behavior for helping him out in emergencies. I am 61 years old. My son has now moved to another state. I
    had co-signed a car with him, so I am still struggling with that, monitoring when he has paid it, etc. Lately my blood pressure has been going up and I have been feeling irritable & I know that it is because of the situation I am in with my son. He promises me he will call, always GETTING READY to do something, etc. The last time I talked to him I told him that I have to keep on him about the car because it is in my name & I get upset when he does not do what he is suppose to do. Will there be an improvement? Only time will tell. I know that for me, I have to start taking care of me & quit worrying about him. Time will tell. The other thing that I get so angry about is that he is clueless, (or acts clueless) about all of this. So when I speak to him, it's like: "Hi Mom, how's it going?" I need to REALLY let him know how it is going. Will things improve? I do not know. He may think I am just trying to throw guild his way. But, hey, why not?
  19. ahhjeez

    ahhjeez Member

    What an amazing post. Thank you so much for sharing. I always look forward to reading your posts as they are so insightful. My son is 19 and autistic. He requires much support at this point in his life, but he is lovely, cooperative and working on doing what he needs to do to to be self supportive in the future. We are working on setting up a network for and with him for when we are no longer here.
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  20. GStorm

    GStorm Becoming Independent

    That's great! Thank you for the compliment. It must be wonderful to have such a self-sufficient son.