What should I do with my mother? - FamilyEducation
What should I do with my mother?
06/18/2012 at 08:16 AM

Hello everyone, I am new to this community. I was searching for a place where I might get some advice on what I should do with my current situation with my mother.

First, here is some background information.
My mother is a single mom who works extremely hard. She has escaped from an abusive relationship with my one-time stepfather and she has never quite been the same since.

Since she divorced him (I was around 7 at the time), she has had no financial responsibility. She has accrued nearly $200K in debt (for cars, schools, shopping). She "juggles" the payments for all of these debts from month to month. I had no idea how bad her financial situation was until about 2 years ago (I am 28 now) when my aunt came to try to help my mom come up with a plan to pay down her debts. After my aunt saw how much trouble my mom was in, she attempted to convince my mom to either get debt counseling or file for bankruptcy. She has done neither of these. Her situation is completely unsustainable. She has also refused to make any lifestyle changes (ie. move, give up cable, etc.)

I have just graduated from medical school, and now she seems to think that I am rich. She completely disregards that I am nearly $260,000 in debt from my education. I am about to start a new job that does pay decent (not great, just decent) and I was wanting to pay down my school loan with my income. With the new job, I am required to move to a new house. This is where a whole new set of problems has occurred:

My current house is small, 2 bedrooms, in an older very modest neighborhood. But I have loved living here and we have great neighbors and I feel very safe. So I offered for my mom to move into this house when I move out. At first she seemed excited, because this would decrease her rent that she currently pays by $450/month.

It was my intention to charge my mom the mortgage plus a couple hundred extra per month for maintenance and repairs and to pay for lawncare, since I know she would never mow the lawn. When I informed her of what the charge would be for rent, she got very mad at me and has several times indicated that I am trying to nickel-and-dime her.
Then she has gone into how she hates that she is moving to the town that I live in (because it is not a high class neighborhood, like where she currently lives) and then she gives me a list of cosmetic changes she would like me to make to the house so it is presentable. I never thought that it wasn't presentable the 5 years I lived here, and in fact I think it is a lot nicer than where she lives right now.

So I told her that if she felt that I was ripping her off, and if she was so depressed about moving here, that she should not make the move. But that if she did make the move, of course i intended for her to pay the amount of rent we are requesting. She began to accuse me and my husband of being mean and disrespectful, then she asked me to pay her back for my schooling (more on that topic in the next paragraph), then she began to say that my husband and I would never treat his parents that way (his parents are not anything like my mom), and she just said a million other things along these lines.

About my schooling, when I was in high school, my mom always told me not to worry about college, that she would pay for it. But obviously, I ended up taking out loans for my undergrad and professional schooling. She did take out "parent loans" to supplement, but the truth is that she spent all of that parent loan money on furniture and shopping and eating out. I don't feel that any of it went to my education. I didn't ever want to remind her of this, because apparently she had forgotten, but when she told me to pay her back, I felt the need to remind her of where that money went. Then of course she again said I was mean and disrespectful.

I understand that my mother raised me and spent a lot of money on me growing up. But I also feel that is her responsibility as a mother, and that she was way too extravagant. I didn't need everything that she thought we all needed and now she is in debt for it. I was a kid with no clue. Now I am trying to help her by giving her a cheaper place to live, but it is like she wants to live here for free. Like she actually thinks I am making enough money to pay for two households and my loans.

I am at a crossroads. Part of me is thinking that I should retract the offer for her to rent this house because I am afraid that she won't pay me the rent and I could never evict my mother. But part of me thinks I am obligated to help take care of her.

I also don't want her to be mad at me, or to think I am mean. But the truth is that I think she will be mad at me whether I do or don't rent it to her.

So my question is, what should I do? What are my responsibilities? Should I feel obliged to help her financially when I see that she has not taken any steps to help herself financially? I am completely confused and need some guidance.

While I commend you for trying to help, it seems like she has a lot of her own issues that need to be dealt with financially, and getting into a leasing situation with her would probably be ill advised. You could end up ruining your own family's financial stability when she refuses to hold up her end of the bargain. I would suggest offering to help her find a different place of her own where she is able to sign the lease/mortgage on her own for less money and get her some financial counseling if she'll have it. The hard part with parents is that they always view you as a child in some respects which makes treating them like a fellow adult complicated. I would set some definite boundaries to protect yourself, your husband, and possibly children (now or future) since that is your primary responsibility. Any financial assistance you can give her after that would be great, but pointless unless she changes her mentality toward money.

Your mom has an unhealthy relationship with money. It is not your business or your problem. Entering a business relationship with her would make it your problem and your business.