My huge and embarrassing debt is becoming less huge but is still embarrassing. So I contacted Military One Source to get some help from a counselor with the emotional piece of this process.
This is the hard part. At the beginning, I wanted the answer to my debt problem to be simple—budgets and bill paying and spending within my means. Those things are helping me, but those habits alone cannot solve everything. My money problem isn’t as simple as just money.
So I started airing out my dirty laundry with my new counselor. I am starting to notice a theme. The theme is, the fact that I have been trying to distance myself from my childhood and the way I was raised ever since I was 19 and I left home with a crappy car and $50.
I was raised in the kind of family where it was normal to assume someone else will fix the problem for you. You never have to take responsibility for your actions, including being responsible for your own children.
Take homework for example, my mother said homework was “our problem.” She never once assisted us with homework at any age. She never checked to see if homework was done. S and she never valued education.
I am the youngest of five children and I am the only high school graduate! All my siblings dropped out of high school and my parents thought that was “our problem.” Even now as I sit with my first and third grader doing homework, she says that homework is my “children’s problem” and I shouldn’t be helping them.
But this is the part that makes me crazy….fast forward to present day. My mother is now living with me. I am the only child she can live with who isn’t a train wreck or in financial ruin. Not one of my siblings can support her emotional, physically or financially. You would think now my mother would see, firsthand, the value of education.
I am the only high school graduate and the only college graduate and I am the only one of her children currently not being evicted or going through foreclosure. I can see clearly the impact that an education had on me and my ability to support myself and my family.
But still my mom thinks that the assistance I am giving my children with homework “won’t make any difference.” Really, Mom??
Now I’m finding it is incredibly hard to distance myself from my childhood because daily my mother is a constant reminder that she still doesn’t have to take any personal responsibility. Someone else will fix the problem for you.
After my father died she spent the small life insurance she had received, her house went into foreclosure and she called me to ask if she could live with me. Why didn’t she call one of her other children…..oh that’s right they problem don’t have cell phones because they can’t pay the bill.
So now I am talking to the counselor about my huge and embarrassing debt. We spend an hour talking about my family’s lack of responsibility and the poor choices they have made and continue to make. How are their bad choices my fault? Why am I being punished for the mistakes they have made in their life?
Yes, I spent the money and lived beyond my means for many years, but in my defense I was financially supporting my parents for years. The amount I am in debt is roughly the same amount, if added over the years, that I gave my parents.
So is this their fault? I really don’t know. I will take responsibility that I made the decision to help them; I made the decision to give money I really didn’t have to give. At the time I didn’t have the strength to tell them no. I certainly did not think it would end up like this.
My counselor suggests that I remind myself that having my mother living with me is the right thing to do, not necessarily for her, but for me. It’s the example I want to set for my children.
I want to demonstrate to my children the importance or giving and the value of family. But what I don’t want to teach my children is that someone else will fix their problems! I want to ensure they understand the significance of responsibility. It’s nobody else’s problem or anyone else’s fault.
What I do know for sure is that I will never burden my children this way. I will make the necessary plans to ensure I will never live with my children.
All this is, of course, is easier said than done. I hope I am getting ahead of my debt, not just the money part, the debt itself, but the reason I’m here in the first place.
Having my mom in my home every day is this constant reminder. A reminder of the person I do not want to be, a reminder of how I will not spend my senior years, but having her in my home is also a reminder that I do have a strong sense of responsibility and I can get out of this debt for good.
I have come such a long way from being the kid who had to answer the telephone because it could be a bill collector calling (this is another benefit for caller ID today). I am an educated, tax paying, military spouse, mother, employee, who has a beautiful home filled with love and laughter. I just need to continue to stay focused on paying off my debt forever, and that having my mother live with me is the right thing to do, for me!