DEAR HARRIETTE: I have been giving my mother money for my whole life. I send her small checks each month. I learned to do this from my dad when I was a teenager. He taught me that it was our responsibility as her children to take care of our mother, just as she had taken care of us when we were growing up. I haven’t discussed this with anyone. It has just been my practice.
Recently, my wife noticed my checkbook and the money I send to my mother, and she questioned me about it. She pointed out that we are a bit strapped for cash, and she didn’t understand why I was giving money to anybody else -- even my mother -- given our current financial situation. Can you help me explain this to her? It is obvious to me that this practice is not optional. She feels differently and is mad at me. -- Family Priorities, Denver
DEAR FAMILY PRIORITIES: Tell your wife what your father taught you about caring for your mother from your early childhood. Explain that it is fundamental to your core that you would include your mother in your monthly financial commitments. Apologize for not telling her before. Point out that it is such an integral part of who you are, it did not occur to you.
Acknowledge the financial challenges that your family is having, and commit to doing your best to ease the burden on everyone. But stand your ground and make it known that you will not stop supporting your mother. You may need to lower the dollar figure for a period of time if you really cannot afford it.