Dear Robin: Is Mom Fleecing Dad?
Friday, September 05, 2014
My parents have been divorced for eight years and my father, who's 64, pays a lot in alimony. Last August he was laid off and my mom, 51, would not give him a break on the amount, so he is really struggling financially. She has never tried to get a job even though she has a degree in accounting and she has always drilled into me the importance of work, a career and being self-sufficient.
Since my dad was laid off I am starting to get pretty angry at her. He tried to get a modification, but couldn’t afford the legal fees (she could because of the alimony and a big inheritance from her dad!) so he gave up. On my 25th birthday last week my dad took me to dinner and explained he couldn’t get much of a gift for me because he’s broke.
Of course I don’t care – I love my dad and I don’t need presents at my age.
So here is my problem: My mother gave me a very expensive bracelet for my birthday and gave me her car (a 2009 Audi) because she is buying a new one.
I should be grateful but I am not. I am sick that she is spending money so carelessly, refuses to try to get a job and at the same time she won’t give my father a break on the alimony when he is clearly suffering.
I want to return the gifts and tell her why. My dad says he doesn’t want me to get involved because he doesn’t want my relationship with her to be impacted by their issues. What do you think?
Angry Daughter in Lake Oswego
Dear Angry Daughter,
Your letter touched my heart and I’d like to commend you for seeing how this injustice is weighing upon your father. Alimony can cripple those who are unable to afford it because of changes in their income, health and if they wish to seek retirement. It’s also crippling to those who receive it when they could support themselves, because it inures them to a life of dependence, bitterness and limited personal growth.
I believe children usually should not become involved in their parents’ struggles whether before, during or after divorce.
However, I am a woman of many contradictions, so I will hereby contradict myself and tell you why I think you should follow your gut here: Your father needs your help, because he sure as hell isn’t going to get relief from our broken family law system.
Your mother needs to open her eyes and frankly, be shamed by her daughter into changing her paradigm of parasitic playtime into one of contribution to her own upkeep.
If I were in your shoes, I would do the following:
1. Return the gifts and tell her why. Wait, better yet, accept the gifts and then sell them and give the money to your father. I’m not joking. After you have done so;
2. Treat your mom to dinner and order a bottle of wine before you start talking about this issue, because alcohol is a natural lubricant for delivering bad news. I’m assuming she is used to only the best, so come prepared with plenty of money;
3. Place before her the documents showing your gift to your father of her gifts to you (which, when you think of it, were really gifts from your dad or your grandfather since all her money comes from those two men and not her own efforts).
4. Tell her you are sick and tired of watching her do nothing but shop at Nordstrom and go to Pilates at the MAC in between her pedicure. Tell her your father, the man she chose to marry and have children with, is struggling mightily with his alimony and you believe she has a moral obligation, as well as a parental one to you, to give your father a pass on payments until he is back on his feet.
Point out her inheritance and her utter lack of efforts to support herself, because her barnacle-like mindset doesn’t jibe at all with her encouragement of you to be successful and self-supporting. Tell her it is time to live off her own money and efforts rather than a man she is no longer married to.
Put your back into it this, sweetheart, because your dad needs you. The law can’t help him and after all he has done for you this is a wonderful opportunity to repay him for the years of hard work and dedication he obviously put into raising such a fine young woman as yourself.
I’ve got to believe you take more after him than you do your mom.
Do you think it’s crazy to start a new career at the age of 37? I’ve been in sales since graduating college but I have never been that successful at it. I don’t think I have the killer sales instinct required in this business.
I really want to get a masters in public policy and eventually run for office. My wife thinks I’m nuts.
Ted in Portland
Seeing as how I’ve gone from being an attorney for 16 years to an advice blogger and future radio star, I see nothing crazy about your desire to change careers. At 37, you are still a young man and you have plenty of time to fail at several careers!
(Just kidding, you’ll be fine.) Be mindful of how your income will be impacted by your decision and plan accordingly with your wife. If she is an understanding and loving spouse like my husband, she will understand your drive to do work that is meaningful and challenging and she will work with you to make this change possible.
If she insists you stay in your dead-end career because she doesn’t want her life to change, please contact me for the name of a therapist, divorce attorney and a really nice single gal I know.
While I don’t consider your desire to embark upon a new path “crazy,” I do question your desire to enter into politics and run for office. Please be prepared to go through the wheat-thresher known as political opposition research; if you have any skeletons in your closet, don’t fool yourself into thinking they will remain hidden.
Have you considered working behind the scenes? That’s where all the power is anyway; just ask Jamie Dimon.