Dear Abby: Mom Should Pay My Bills

A husband and father of two young children age two and under wrote he was under heavy financial strains due to student loans and was near to bankruptcy. He felt his rich mother should step in and help. Abby questioned if he’d talked to her and urged him to do so. If she said no, he should look for a second part-time job.

Abby’s answers can sometimes make me grumble, but this letter and answer made me curious. Should the rich mom whose lifestyle would not be changed “at all” help or pay the debt off? It was also indicated his wife’s parents who had little had stepped forward and done “everything within their power” to help.

There just isn’t enough information to about the real situation to bounce myself off the walls at either the mom or the son. Is it the son’s habit to go to Mom whenever he runs out of spending money? What style of life are he and his wife trying to maintain? Does he intend to pay it back or does he just want Mom’s life’s savings? Are the in-laws helpful lifesavers or aiders and abettors for their children’s dependency?

Why do Americans think they should have access to parental funds? How many of them who do get access still ignore their parents as much as possible? When it comes time for a nursing home how many of them visit their parents? Just wondering.

My situation is unique. My son has more money, way more money, than my husband and me. If parents are expected to always be interested in giving to their children as the letter implied, what about when it is reversed? Just wondering.

I believe that part of the son’s hurt though he doesn’t say so is a question about just how much his mother loves him. It would be easy to look at two children under two and vow to yourself that you will never let them down in such a sorry way. But let’s give that story thirty years to develop.

Just wondering.


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14 Responses to Dear Abby: Mom Should Pay My Bills

  1. Someone who has two kids should be willing to go work his tail off to support his family than get a handout. Sounds like he needs to grow up – this is what being a man is all about: taking responsibility for your situation and the solution to getting out of the hole you’ve dug.

    • I agree that’s what children should do. Responsibility is a hallmark of being grown up, but life throws curve balls and I do believe circumstances need to be considered. But, in the end we do all dig our own hole to figure out how to get out of. Money is a delicate subject, isn’t it?

      • Yes, money is an extremely delicate subject. I agree that life throws you curve balls – I’ve had a few myself, and I was very thankful for people who offered to help at those times. However, this guy’s family doesn’t seem to be offering to help him out. I wonder why that is… No matter the reason, he should not feel any sense of entitlement – that just because they have money, they owe it to him to help him out.
        If his problem is with student loans – those probably weren’t a surprise. And what is keeping him from going out and getting another job?
        All I see in his post is a sense of entitlement; that’s what bothers me. As a pastor we help out a lot of people – many of whom have dug their own hole. They come and ask for help, and we often give it. But, we also have people come to us from time to time with a sense of entitlement, trying to manipulate and coerce. That changes the tone completely.

      • I’m with you completely on your answer. That sense of entitlement has been popping up a lot in the last ten years or so. Before that it was only heard about referring to monarchies in far off lands. Plus, I didn’t bring it up because it can be another delicate issue but no mention was made about what the wife’s contribution was or was not in all this. In some way or another she’s a part of this. I’m sure you’ve heard a lot more about these things than I have in your work.

  2. Smaktakula says:

    This is something I’ve given a lot of thought to, particularly as it applies to my own life. As such, I’ve developed two different philosophies regarding “money from mom,” One is a general philosophy, the second, and quite different, I apply to myself alone. I know that sounds hypocritical (and God knows I can be the world’s biggest hypocrite sometimes), but as I’ll explain, I don’t think it is.

    In general, I don’t think a parent OWES their adult child anything (and for clarification, I’m not talking about children with special needs, which is a different case entirely). Likewise, I don’t believe an adult OWES his parents anything. I think families should look out for and take care of one another, but it should be by choice.

    Having said that, I owe my mother more than I can ever repay, not least because she died a few years ago. Throughout my childhood and young adulthood, she provided unflagging moral and financial support, and always unconditional love. She wasn’t wealthy, but she scrimped and saved and used what money she did have so that I could have advantages I might not otherwise have had.

    I feel that I have a responsibility to try to do the same for my children, to try to live up to her (seemingly impossibly high) example. I don’t mean that I should spoil them or raise them in any way other than to be good-hearted men. But just the same, if it takes them a few extra years to launch, I owe it to them and to the memory of my mother to try to remember what I was like as a young man, and all that I asked for.

    • Wow! That was a great and full answer. Your mom was a great example, but so are you that you responded to what she was really trying to give to you and teach you. It takes parent and child to be responsive and I think you said it well.

  3. Interesting situation. I wonder wouldn’t contraception have been a responsible plan first? Of course, I nitpick details. Yes, accidents happen, but come on. For all we know, because only the wife’s parents have stepped up to the plate, either his mother doesn’t know about the children, is cold, or wants him to man up. Another question: how old is this young couple? I have nothing but questions.

  4. I always recognize that there are times when help may be needed, and if I can give it, I will. But Peggy and I are blessed with a couple of kids who are extremely independent and wouldn’t have it any other way. And that’s how we raised them to be. They are also quite loving. I don’t believe we ever help someone by making them dependent. –Curt

  5. I agree and it’s often a fine line and difficult to see, except in hind-sight of course. You’ve got some great kids, I’m sure.

  6. Tough one. All I know is, the last time I asked my parents for money I was 18. I’d gotten myself a puppy and I couldn’t pay the vet bill. My father thought it was time I learned responsibility and, harsh as it was at the time, he was right! Still, there are times life does go seriously awry and I’d like to think, if I were a parent, I could be there then. The exception though, not the rule.

  7. A couple things come to mind when I read this. 1 – college is way more expensive proportionately than when I went back in the early 80s. My daughter’s college debt make’s my hair curl (she went to a state college not a fancy private one but our state has the lowest amount of tax dollars supporting schools and our students have the highest level of debt in the country). It bothers me a great deal that she has to start out life with this burden on her back but thankfully she chose a profession that she should be okay paying it back. If she had gone into teaching or human services she could be like that young man buried under a mountain of debt.with a salary does out of proportion to the debt.
    2- If Mama has that much money did she steer her son to go to an expensive college for the prestige of it and did he then end up with more debt than necessary?
    3 – In general I agree that parents do not owe their adult children any level of financial support and it is our job as parents to do our best to launch our kids into independence. Sometimes helping too much ends up hurting in the end cause kids don’t end up standing firmly on their own two feet. In fact, with fewer and fewer people working at places with pensions these days parents of adult kids need to be preparing themselves for retirement so they can stand on their own two feet during their elder years.

  8. You brought up some good questions and I agree with you. The letter to Abby had enough unanswered questions that it was impossible to make a definitive call on it. After writing this blog and getting the responses I did, I began to wonder if Abby’s short answer of “talk to her” is the best answer since there are so many unanswered questions.

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