Dear Annie: I need assistance with family-related issues. I'm in my 50s, I have several siblings, my mother died several years ago, and I financially support my father. His only income is Social Security.
In my immediate family, I am the only one to have had a career where I was financially stable and secure. My brothers/sisters all worked off and on, most of their lives; however, they all relied on our parents for financial and material support. They and their children/grandchildren all received this support; I received none, nor did I request or need any. My parents were givers, to their detriment, as they never acquired any financial stability or possessions for their future. No home, no retirement, no investments.
I had always told them that I would help take care of them if something happened to either one of them, if they needed me. A part of me always knew one of them would.
I take care of my father financially (emotionally, too) by paying his rent, some utilities and car insurance and any needs that arise. I have been doing this for years now. Herein lies my emotional turmoil: I have siblings that have come to live with my father, out of their own needs. They help a little around the house and provide some assistance but I continue to pay the bills. I feel like I am now providing them with support and they are living off of me as well. My father continues to help children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren whenever he can or if they ask. I feel I am enabling the same financially reckless behavior that I felt he/they always had lived by.
I never received or asked for anything from my parents during my adult life. Now, after enduring my own life-changing event, the only one not to benefit from their generosity is the one left holding the bag. I've rebuilt my life again, with the emotional support of others.
Am I wrong to feel taken advantage of? I feel like I worked my whole life to now pay for others' lack of doing so. Am I obligated to my promise to my father (my life was different then)? I feel torn emotionally, not just financially. I love my father and my siblings, and I do not know how to stop this cycle without emotionally hurting them or crushing myself. Is it wrong that I feel resentful? I worked and saved, nobody else did; now, because I did, I'm the only one paying. — Emotionally Torn
Dear Emotionally Torn: Resentment is not "wrong," per se, but it is toxic — a thing to purge, rather than cling to. One simple way to lessen some of the resentment you're feeling is to remember your free will in the situation: Your choice to financially support your father (and, by extension, your siblings) is just that — a choice, not an obligation.
Bankrolling the bunch is taking a heavy toll on you in more ways than one. It's not just OK but necessary to revisit the arrangement and set some terms. One of those terms might be that your siblings contribute toward rent for as long as they're living there. They are all adults: If your stream of cash dries up, they can figure out how else to fill their pails.
"Ask Me Anything: A Year of Advice From Dear Annie" is out now! Annie Lane's debut book — featuring favorite columns on love, friendship, family and etiquette — is available as a paperback and e-book. Visit http://www.creatorspublishing.com for more information. Send your questions for Annie Lane to [email protected]