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Marriage/My Mother

I struggle with the following situation:

My mother is a single, 60 year old pot-smoking woman who and lives outside the system (hasn't filed taxes in 30 years). She does house cleaning for a living. I think she assumed that when she got older and unable to continue to do that type of work that my husband and I would take care of her financially and healthwise. She does offer to be a nanny/cleaner/assistant (for pay) but to be honest my husband and I would prefer not to have her that entrenched in our lives (not because I don't love her but because she would be a financial drain on us and the whole pot thing is a problem she doesn't plan to quit). I love her very very much and it breaks my heart a bit that we are planning to move far away (not to avoid her). She says that she knows it isn't intentional but that she will not take care of herself when I leave the area and will probably be dead in a few years (she has diabetes and has lost a lot of weight but intimates she will eat bad stuff again. Oh and yes many times over the years she has mentioned suicide or leaving this world). My husband is about to take on a very good paying job and probably could pay for it (but clearly stated that wouldn't) though there are a lot of uncertainties and we want to have kids and have me stay at home with them. I went to law school and have a lot of debt (in addition to his medical school debt) and I have never saved for retirement though he has. So the thing is this - as I see it all of the things we need to save for: kids college, both of our own retirement; and all the things we have to pay for: mortgage, large student loans; we will not really have a lot of money to take care of her.

My struggle is that I grew up with this mentality and though I lost some belief in it - I feel very guilty and a bad person for loving my husband sooooo much even though this seems very selfish of him (and a lot of people seem to think this a selfish thing, not to care for your aging parents). Most days I feel peace with it but the days I don't I lightly consider leaving my husband though i don't believe that I would and to be honest he is so loving and caring in so many ways. I guess what I need to know is that he/we are not wrong in believing that she has to make her own way in life which she has not planned too well for her later days.

Please tell me what you think or point me toward some literature that I can read that will make me feel better about this whole financial reliance issue.


T. Sharp

Re: Marriage/My Mother

Hello Michele. Here’s hoping today finds you well.

Ah family… Can’t live with them, can’t live without, huh? After reading your comments, I would invite you to reconsider some of the assumptions/beliefs you have about what loving your mother means. It looks like you assume that loving your mother must mean inviting her to live with you and your husband indefinitely and that it would be selfish to do otherwise. Consider the possibility that expressing your love and gratitude towards her might very well mean, for you, that you relax your fears about her welfare and trust her to know how to take care of herself. Loving your mother might mean wishing her well and asking her to keep in touch as you move on with your own life. After all, according to you, she has made it to 60 years old without your direct care. She sounds like a lady who knows her mind and is fairly resourceful. I think the odds of her continuing to know what’s best for her are pretty high, going by what you’ve shared here.

Would your mother die if you moved? Well I’ll put it like this. She is going to die whether you move or not. Her death date will ultimately have nothing to do with your living arrangements. Even if your mother point blank states that she is going to let herself go physically if you move, her health still won’t be your responsibility. Even if you wanted to be responsible for her choices, you literally can’t.

Which leads me to this: you can let go of any guilt surrounding your feelings, or lack thereof, about this. That’s easier said than done, but it’s something to shoot for. You can let go of your guilt because in the end, your life is yours and your mother’s life is hers. This is a literal truth. You can no more control your mother than you can the weather. Of course you love your mother and of course you care about her. Even so, it is possible to love her without betraying your own inner guidance about what is best for you and your marriage. If you asked your mother to move in with you despite your husband’s wishes and your own inclinations out of guilt, she would know it on some level and you’d run the risk of poisoning your relationships. Listen to yourself! And if the day should ever come where you would love to invite your mother to stay with you from a clear and free heart, then you will.