Are you an enabler or an enablee? After the drama of last weekend, I put some thought to this. For a number of years, I was an enabler to my mother. I've posted way back in my archives, my history and fiscal education. My mother was and still is a first class money manipulator, and not in a good way. She would use money to get her way with me and others in the family. She taught my brother well too! Fortunately for me, I woke up one day and realized it was very unhealthy to live under someones fiscal thumb.
I've read some blogs were PF bloggers are helping family members. I think there is a fine line between helping someone because they need help and giving them money or bailing them out of fiscal jam time and time again. That includes parents too. My mother used to use the promise of helping me pay for college and related expenses as a way for me to come home for a visit, do what she wanted,etc. I realized one day that she just did not follow through on her promises and decided that my education could and would be footed by me. I had no problem working the second and third jobs, taking out the student loans, etc. The BS mother was playing got really old, especially when she did not deliver as promised. To say my maternal parent went a bit bonkers when I was able to pull off my own education funding is a bit of an understatement. She like the power she had over me while I was in school by "writing the checks. I took that power away, or a better phrase, would be got my own power by paying for my own schooling. Had my mother been more truthful with me about her own fiscal situation (which was not good and still two decades later is not good) we may have avoided a lot of situations and circumstances.
Flash forward a couple years, I'm earning a decent salary and my mother starts asking for some money, which I gave to her on numerous occasions. I'm not totally heartless and truthfully, she knew what buttons to push with me to get the money. Needless to say, the sums went from a couple hundred a couple times a year to a couple thousand multiple times a year with no real explanation why she needed it or where it all went. I do know now that she gave my brother loads of cash, loads, hers and then mine. When she could not pay her bills, she would ask me for the money or a "loan". After the third or forth time asking me for "just a couple thousand", I asked for the bills that supposedly needed to be repaid. I never got them. The kicker was when she told me she had a $3,500 American Express bill to pay. When I asked what she spend $3,500 (car repair, home repair, what), I was told, she got depressed and went shopping. Shopping? At this point in time, my mother was retired, had a working car, and living in a full amenities included in the rent apartment complex, and working part time in a casual office environment. I could not understand the need for shopping. I knew for a fact she had clothes to spare at her apartment. When I pressed for further details,I got a long winded phone call calling me an ungrateful child, unwilling to support her mother and spending the money on myself.
Ah HELLO! It's my money to be spent on me! IF you need the help, tell me exactly what for and I can see what I can do. The requests for cash become, in my opinion, far too frequent, and for far too much. IF my semi retired mother was going to have her electricity turned off, I would pay the power company myself, not send her a check, but send the power company a check directly. I knew at this point that she was just turning around and giving cash to my brother who spent it on drugs, beer, takeout, cigarettes, and video games. He had a couple kids and would ask my mother for money if she did not fork it over, he would not bring the kids over to visit. He used the kids as a pawn to get money from her, time and time again. I had to stop the cycle by stopping the cash. It was hard to do. I was raised with the cultural understanding that family members help each other. Helping in one thing, going just short of blackmail is another. I'd rather take my mother grocery shopping than give her $50 for groceries. At least this way I know she has food in the cupboard instead of spending the $50 on god knows what.
The situation was not much different with my cousin Sam. He knew that when push came to shove, his mother would cave in, and by default, his sister since she did not want to see her mother suffer. He was perfectly happy being the enablee, my brother is perfectly happy being the enablee (I told you the men in my family are great at this), my mother and my aunt are caught up in the cycle. My cousin and I are too, to a point. We both gave up our weekends to clean up the mess left by Sam and his ah, actions, forging my aunts signature on the lease and abandoning her furniture. We did not give Sam any money or pay his bills, or give him any support, but by helping my aunt we helped Sam.
Sometimes we become unwitting enablees as well. I know for a while I fell into the pattern of behaviour that was not good and while I was not given cash, I was given goods and services for free or very highly discounted because I was playing my own silly stupid game. I stopped when I realized that behaviour was unattractive in an adult fully capable of taking care of herself. Sometimes we become enablees without knowing it.
What's the moral of this post? Hum, maybe the next time you are asked to help out a family member or need to be helped out, think about the situation and see if it's a one of type situation or something that has a habitual pattern about it. Enabler or enbalee?