Stepfamily Issues

Personal stories about stepfamilies, childhood and general family issues.

September 18, 2012

cutting loose

Beverley is a single pensioner of 66. After years of putting up with an unsatisfactory revolving door type relationship with her only child, a son aged 30, she got wise about what mothers are supposed to do after their kids grow up and took a new direction based on what she wants rather than what he wants.

"Joe's father deserted us when he was 4 years old and when the old man came back into Joe's life ten years later I never forbade Joe from having a relationship with his dad," sighs Beverley, "but I was always very careful not to allow their relationship to intrude into my life - it was a relationship between Joe and his dad, not me and his dad."

"Of course," laughs Beverley, "Joe's old man was pumping him for information about me from the start, but I warned Joe to keep his mouth shut about me and to tell his father that my business was none of his business."

"I admit I didn't like the new situation after I had spent ten years of my life raising the boy on my own," says Beverley, "but a kid needs to know his parents, and by the time Joe was fourteen he needed a dad more than he needed a mother and I did my best not to feel bitter and twisted about everything."

"I was always struggling for money - and things never got better, they just got worse as Joe got older and bigger and started eating me out of house and home," sighs Beverley. "Joe would spend time with his dad and come home with expensive things and sometimes I would get real mad inside that his old man never sent him home with something useful like clothes or a hamper of food. I never said anything though - I had pride."

"Joe's dad was trying to make up for deserting the kid for ten years by buying him things," sighs Beverley, "and I was upset that my little Joe was turning into a nasty little spoilt brat."

"Eventually Joe grew up and left home and things were good for a while," says Beverley. "I didn't ask about his dad, and Joe never mentioned his name when he visited me. He drifted in and out of my life in much the same way that he probably drifted in and out of his father's life - and that was normal and natural."

"It has only been since leaving work and becoming a pensioner that Joe has been calling me a lot - wanting to come back here to live or hassling me for money. He's not on drugs - he doesn't smoke or drink or gamble - he's just a bit of a dreamer, can't hold down a job or a girlfriend or keep money for long."

"Joe's got this theory that if the government is paying me a pension it's free money - not money I've earned - and at my age I don't need to spend as much," laughs Beverley. "And he thinks I'm rich because my old house is paid off. Well, I got news for him!"

"The last time he wanted to come back home to live with me I pointed out all the jobs that need doing around the house," laughs Beverley. "I put a paintbrush in his hand and he soon found somewhere else to live!"

"Asking me for money is too much for me to stomach." says Beverley. "Sure, I know that times are hard and jobs are not always easy to get, but that was the same situation twenty-six years ago when his dad deserted me. Joe is young, not 40 like I was, and he doesn't have a kid dragging him down like I did either. He's as free as a bird and should be making his own way in life, not sponging off me."

"I've raised him, I've done my bit, and now I want to live in peace and quiet in my old age," explains Beverley. "Joe says he understands all this this and he's always very apologetic when he calls, always sorry for hassling me, but nevertheless he still keeps on trying."

"The last time he called begging for money I got a real sick feeling in my stomach that kept me awake all night." says Beverley. "The next morning I assessed my situation and it was pretty clear what I had to do. I know he's my only child and I'm the only mom he's got, but dammit he's 30 not 3!"

"It was time to take care of myself and if cutting loose is what it takes to get him to respect me (and himself) then that's what I'll have to do."

"I called Joe the next day and reminded him that he has a father as well as a mother - a father who's a lot better off financially than I am - and that if he wanted money or somewhere to live he should be hassling his dad, not me. I'm not taking it any more."

"Joe got the shock of his life hearing such straight talk from me," says Beverley. "I suppose I have been too soft with him in the past - giving him the impression I was a bit of a doormat - but it's never too late to take a new direction in any sort of relationship."

"We had never discussed his father before this talk," explains Beverley, "and when Joe told me that he wasn't as close to his father as he was to me - and depended upon me for family - I refused to feel sorry for him. I told him that it was about time he got closer to his father rather than idealizing the man."

"Joe had gone for almost two years at one stage without contacting me or responding to my calls and letters" explains Beverley. "He was just having a good time and didn't need me I guess. Whenever he does make an effort to contact me it is always motivated by financial needs. I don't need birthday cards, Xmas cards or presents - I don't judge him by that sort of thing - but it would be nice if, for once in his life, he just called to say 'how are you?' without wanting something from me."

"In that talk we had it became pretty clear that Joe had never asked his father for anything. His dad had probably given him plenty of expensive gifts over the years, but it was always me that Joe came to when he wanted money or somewhere to sleep. It's as if Joe didn't want his father to know these things - it's as if Joe was only prepared to show the successful side of himself to his dad. I only got to see the down and out Joe."

"Joe needs to wake up to himself about what 'family' means and the fact that he's a grown man now, not a kid," explains Beverley. "I'm fed up giving. It's time his father saw the other side of Joe and took responsibility for his son's financial needs."

"I told Joe that from now on if he needs money he should ask his father for it, not me, I've quit giving," relates Beverley, "and I also told him never, ever expect to live under my roof again. It's just abhorent to me that a grown up man would want to live with his old mother, and I sure as hell don't want my retirement ruined by him. Where on earth do guys get the idea that all moms are mother hens and want to keep their kids in the nest forever?"

"He exclaimed that I was his mom and he loved me," says Beverley, "and it was like I was listening to his father all those years ago - the lies and the wheedling were the same. It was uncanny. Are all men spoilt brats?"

"Feeling sorry for his dad got me pregnant with Joe in the first place," sighs Beverley. "I never wanted kids and then I had Joe and thirty years later I'm still paying for it. I'm not going to feel sorry for Joe or anyone else any more."

"If Joe's dad were dead or dying I wouldn't be taking the direction I am," explains Beverley. "His dad is not much older than me and is physically and financially in good shape. I suppose, in a way, I'm passing the buck, but only because Joe's old man is alive and kicking and capable of shouldering the load - especially since he spoilt Joe so badly when he came back into the kid's life."

"There comes a time in any adult relationship - with family or friends - to take a stand," asserts Beverley. "If it means that Joe drifts out of my life forever then I am willing to take that risk. It's not as if I ever had any illusions that Joe would be there for me in my old age. I could give and give until I die and he wouldn't even be around to attend my funeral. By taking a stand I am at least giving him a chance to change his ways, if that's what he wants to do."

"I'm not holding my breath," laughs Beverley. "I know too many old women who pass on leaving all their worldly goods to charities - rather than to their children - to realize that the way Joe is treating me is pretty common."

"I'm not into revenge from the grave," laughs Beverley. "I will leave everything I have to Joe whatever happens. What I won't do is waste the rest of my life in an unhealthy, manipulative and sponging relationship with him. I didn't raise him to be a spoilt brat and I really hate to see him turn out this way."

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