"My mother insists on spending"
The following message was received by laterlife.com, and although
this came too late for inclusion in December, it is an issue which
appears not just at Christmas but for someone every day of the year...
"I am inspired to contact you regarding a slightly thorny issue
upcoming birthday. If anyone out there does have helpful experience,
your organisation is likely to be it.
My mother, who is a very low-income pensioner, is, as always,
on getting me a gift. However, I am acutely conscious of her very
tight budget, and there is very little that I need or could not
provide for myself anyway.
And I won't just request something for the sake of it.
Do you have any suggestion(s) of
how I could avoid her over-extending just for me, but without it
seeming like an obvious rebuttal, or crushing her feelings by making
her feel totally inadequate?"
Several thoughts spring to mind
What a very considerate son, not wanting
to hurt your mum or let her overspend
What a loving mum still wanting to treat
her son to a birthday gift
How tricky a subject to broach without
denting her pride or leaving her feeling rejected.
There is no rule in life that says we
must watch what our parent spends, but there is a time when an
adult son or daughter begins to feel an increasing responsibility
towards a parent who might be less physically, mentally or financially
able. Looking at our ageing parents, we feel concerned and responsible
for them and want to - how shall I put it - take over for them.
Well, in a way we are taking over. Our capabilities are at a
peak as our parents' are failing. But the difficulty comes when we
do too much, too soon. The ageing parent may still be perfectly able
to manage the finances, stretched though they may be, even if they are
immobilised through arthritis. They could be perfectly capable of
cleaning their house or still enjoy their garden, even though they
have hearing problems or forgetful episodes.
This is where it gets tricky. How much do we do for mum or dad
without them feeling they are being seen as 'past it' ? One of the
debilitating things in old age is to realise that others are assuming
you are not able to cope any more. The feeling of being redundant is
tough at any age, but when we are younger there is always the hope
that something will turn up. In old age it is too late for that.
Redundancy, or being seen as increasingly helpless, can lead to
depression and an inevitable decline in spirit and subsequently in
One of the sources of pride for an old person is that they can
still give pleasure to their children occasionally. A birthday is
important, not just for the son or daughter. But it is a landmark for
a mother. The memory of giving birth is there for the rest of her life
– the super-human effort and the total, utter joy and beauty of the
moment her baby is placed in her arms for the first time, stays with
her in detail. On your birthday she will remember- every year.
You sound like such a caring son. Talk with your mother about how
she likes to celebrate important occasions. There are several things
that could be done.
See if you can offer to share your
birthday with her as a joint 'big occasion'.
Be with her either in person or on the
'phone and reminisce, or take her out to celebrate your joint day.
Enjoying a 'joint' birthday will give
you the chance to share the cost without embarrassing her.
Perhaps she will give you some clues as
to what she likes to receive as gifts. If she says she isn't much
bothered by them, that will give you a perfect lead into saying "Me
too, so let's just do something together instead."
Alternatively you could just tell her you are concerned how
limited her funds are and would much prefer a card and a chat, a
meal together, or if she is still fit and able, for her to cook your
favourite cake/biscuit/supper, you get the idea I'm sure. She will
hear that you are considerate of her circumstances, be reassured
that you still want her to acknowledge and share your birthday, but
will be given ideas of how to do it in a way that is meaningful for
both and is affordable for her.
She will feel she is still appreciated for her unique mothering
skills. No hint of rejection, no whiff of redundancy.