The Birth Lottery and Taking Care of Mom

Katie is calling because her mother-in-law is going to be 60 this year. She doesn’t seem concerned about her future, and Katie is afraid they’ll be expected to care for her.

QUESTION: Katie in Salt Lake City is calling because her mother-in-law lost everything when her husband died, and she is going to be 60 this year. She doesn’t seem concerned about her future, and Katie is afraid they’ll be expected to care for her. Dave thinks her husband needs to have a conversation with her.

ANSWER: Her belief that budgeting makes you poor is stupid. It’s kind of a Dr. Phil moment: “How’s that working for you?” It’s not proven to be true. There’s no fruit to this. If you have a belief that if you jump off a building you can fly, and then you fly away, I guess maybe I have to think you were right. But if you jump off a building and hit the sidewalk, then your belief was stupid.

I think if you’re responsible for her care, it will be uncomfortable for her because her care—in my mind, given that she’s done nothing to better her life—the level of her care coming from me is going to be limited to extreme necessities, and that’s a very basic set of food, shelter, and that’s if I collect and manage her Social Security check.

Your husband—not you—needs to have a really strong discussion with her. When it comes up, you can buy her some groceries and you can pay an occasional light bill—and that’s only if your husband takes control of the money. She’s going to be on beans and rice, rice and beans because that’s going to be all there is. That’s not dishonoring his mother. You can honor the position of motherhood or fatherhood without accepting the misbehavior of the individual. Love the sinner and hate the sin. I’m going to love the person and hate their stupidity. They’re separate; I can separate the two. But that doesn’t mean I have to accept her ridiculous philosophies as fact. It doesn’t mean I have to put her up in the Taj Mahal and send her on a cruise every summer because she happened to be the lady who hit the lottery and birthed me.

It’s a good idea for you and your husband to have this stuff written down in your marriage and good, strong boundaries set there so that when all of this emotion hits him, it’s already been thought through, because he’s going to feel crazy.

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