Welcome back to Part Two of the saga of a family who was in an enabling relationship. Yesterday we met mom B., who had an adult daughter who wanted to move back home. Mom B. set reasonable conditions, yet the child did not keep her end of the bargain. Consequently, there was a lot of frustration and resentment building in the home. I asked if I could share some advice, and B. said she was all ears, as she just didn’t know what else to do.
Following was my recommendation to her.
Find a quiet time to sit down with your child in private, and make sure there are no siblings to pry, eavesdrop, or otherwise disrupt the discussion . You can start with this script, which is a conversation that I crafted from my experiences.
I know things have been tough for you. I know you moved home because you weren’t able to make ends meet, and you had hoped to get back on your feet soon, and then move back out. That has not happened. It has been a stress on the household and it has taken a toll on our relationship. I would like to help you, and I especially would like to regain our close relationship.
So, one of two things has to happen. The first choice is for you to create a budget, and I will be your accountability partner, helping you to oversee your finances and show you how to tell your money where to go so that you have a plan, work your plan, and manage wisely so that you have the wherewithal to move out on your own and be independent again, which I know you miss.
The other choice is to not create a plan and not have me be your accountability partner. If this is your choice, I will respect that. You will need to move out soon and find a full time job. I can’t continue to enable you. I can’t continue to just give you money and allow you not to be the responsible, productive person I know you are capable of being. I have been wrong in treating you as though you are not capable, and for that I am sorry.
Which choice will work for you?
(At this point you sit quietly, respectfully, lovingly and expectantly, and await the answer. Sit. Stay. Ignore the urge to bolt, or to take back everything you just said. Just. wait.)
B.’s response to this was visceral. She literally wrapped her arms around her stomach, bent over, and said in a pained voice, “Oh, my gosh! I can’t imagine having that conversation with her. It makes my stomach hurt! Oh my gosh!”
I think she envisioned it going terribly awry, with her daughter stomping off in anger, screaming “I hate you! I hate you! I hate you!”. That certainly is a possibility, since guilt is a powerful weapon that children can wield with surgical precision. However, the opposite is possible as well, that B.’s daughter would come to grips with the reality of her situation. I know. You are thinking, “Right. And pigs will fly, too.”
A few weeks passed, and when I saw B. again, she reminded me of our conversation, and happily reported that she had taken the ball and had run with it, in spite of her desire to just run and hide. She held the conversation with her daughter, and her daughter chose to move out very soon after. She found a better job, although the pay was still fairly low, but the daughter held her own, and their relationship was just about back to the closeness they had had previously. B. was most grateful for the advice, and said she was so glad she had taken steps to halt the enabling.
A few months later, I saw B. again, and she updated me on her daughter. Her daughter’s employer was so impressed with her work that they upgraded her responsibilities and pay, so that now she is making a very healthy wage. Not only is the quality of the mother/daughter relationship strong, not only is daughter living successfully and independently, but she is now paying her mom back for money she had previously borrowed.
Needless to say, mom is thrilled, as is the daughter.
Remember that you spend you child’s first eighteen years preparing them to be good, kind, thoughtful, responsible, ethical, productive problem-solving adults. When it is time for your child to take their leap forward into adulthood, help them launch with those muscles you have helped them to build!
Have you ever been involved in an enabling financial relationship? If so, how did you resolve it? Please share to help others out of that difficult place.