I’ve been toying around with the idea of starting a weekly post on this blog about touchy subjects. My only hesitation with making this permanent is the comments section. We all have different world views, come from different cultures, and believe very different things. These are called “touchy subjects” because they’re topics that people butt heads about. I’m bringing up these topics because of something I’ve talked about with others, an article I’ve read, or some sort of newsy bit that just made me think twice. I want to have a discussion with you, so please play nice in the comments and, before you post it, ask yourself whether you are attacking or contributing. Mwuah!
I read an article recently about a woman who quit her job to take care of her mother, who was recently diagnosed with metastatic brain cancer. The mother lived close by, and needed help going to treatments, figuring out the paperwork, taking care of the house, and taking care of an elderly (+80-year-old) husband.
The woman said that she was expecting compensation from her mother. Not only because she had to quit her job, and wasn’t making much of an income, but because she was performing a “job” for her mom.
She was expecting to provide some sort of long-term care for her mother, but not long after her mother’s brain surgery, the docs said mom was recovering remarkably well. Even her mother said things were getting back to normal, and she could take care of herself more. Her mother also has, what sounded like, a phenomenal support system. Her building complex friends have been cooking her food and driving her to appointments. They’ve been a fantastic crutch!
So here’s where I find it touchy: She’s been approaching her mom for money as a form of payment. And her mom gave it to her.
When is it ok to accept money from your parents? When it’s a dire need? (She had a working husband and was able to afford life, just had to make alterations). In addition to simply quitting her job, she decided to renovate their bathrooms so that mom and dad would move in and use them easier. And while it was going to be just the tub-to-shower transformation, they decided to rip everything out. And now the plans for mom and dad to move in have been pushed aside a bit since the recovery went so smoothly.
I love my mom more than anyone else on the planet. She’s always been the person I look up to, the person I strive to impress, and the person I turn to for advice on literally everything. But if she were to come down with cancer, I would change my way of life, do with less, and make some serious sacrifices should she need me. I wouldn’t expect a form of repayment. If I was able to help, I would. I know doctor’s care, medical bills, and items that make life easier are expensive. The money she would be paying me could go toward other things in life for HER. The total bathroom reno? Would be benefitting me more than her at the time. And the friends? What about them? Perhaps they don’t need repayment because they are doing things out of the bottom of their heart.
But, shouldn’t I be doing the same?
It gets more complicated when you think about the living situation and bills that still have to be paid. But I’ve got a husband who is working, who would have to make the same sacrifices as me. And, if the situation were turned for his mother, I would make similar sacrifices. Assuming the bills couldn’t be paid by that husband, and we couldn’t cut anything else, I’d have to turn to her. And perhaps this is what the woman is doing. Exhausting all other options–but she most recently said that they were renovating this bathroom, and that it cost A LOT. That’s what keeps getting to me. She showed her mom the renovation bill, and even her mom was floored by the amount. But her mom went to the bank, wrote a cashier’s check and gave her more than what the woman wanted. And the woman took it.
I’ve had this story at the back of my head for some time, and can’t shake the fact that I think this woman is being selfish. I don’t want to share the article, because I do NOT want to appear to be shaking a finger at her, condemning her choices, or causing you to think badly of her. Her life is stressful and emotional right now with the family health problems. I just want to expand my way of thinking and discuss this situation..not necessarily HERS but similar ones. I want to talk about our society. And I want to talk about the culture of caring for an elder. I want to talk, heart-to-heart, about what I see as an obstacle. There’s no right or wrong here!
But it brings up a thought for all of us… would you take money from your parents as a payment for caring for them? Would you expect payment? Or request it before you performed those services? Is it just our culture that demands payment? Or am I stuck way-back-when…. in a time when my parents cared for me when I was younger, and I should reciprocate by caring for them when they’re older?