[Two Pronged] My parents want to lay the financial burden solely on me
Rappler's Life and Style section runs an advice column by couple Jeremy Baer and clinical psychologist Dr Margarita Holmes.
Jeremy has a master's degree in law from Oxford University. A banker of 37 years who worked in 3 continents, he has been training with Dr Holmes for the last 10 years as co-lecturer and, occasionally, as co-therapist, especially with clients whose financial concerns intrude into their daily lives
Together, they have written two books: Love Triangles: Understanding the Macho-Mistress Mentality and Imported Love: Filipino-Foreign Liaisons.
Dear Dr. Holmes and Mr. Baer,
I am 22, single, still finding my purpose in life. But my wings have been clipped by the distresses of my family. We are family of 9. My dad owns a capital-intensive business; my mom is an employee in a private company.
Recently, my dad’s business required more investment and my mom has spent all her assets for the family needs. We live on her paycheck. I can contribute only a measly amount of money for expenses.
Either parent also borrows money from my savings (earmarked for a house that the family compels me to provide). Since we are in desperate need of money, both of my parents wanted me to resign and either work abroad or work for my dad’s associate where the supposed end result would be me earning a much higher income and therefore contributing a larger amount for the expenses (and my dad’s business).
I know I have to help as expected in Filipino culture (and because I want to maintain peaceful family dynamics) BUT I do not want to resign from my current work. This is where I want to grow my career.
I have 4 other siblings who are already in (or about to join) the workforce and my mom said that she doesn’t expect them to help out at all as they have a life of their own (they are all single) and my parents can’t force them the way that they can with me.
I feel the injustice and am deep agony that I am made to feel that I have to bear this burden. They knew me as the most responsible one. They see me as the most mature out of all of us. But why is it now taken against me that I decided to be a mature person early on?!
How do I EFFECTIVELY make them understand that:
- My work can truly free me and so I want to stay in it;
- financial help should be a shared responsibility?
I have tried discussing things with them and have failed miserably,
Nearly all societies have rules and customs governing family life and the relationships between family members. These are often considered by a society to be superior to many if not all other cultures, embodying particularly wholesome virtues to be cherished and passed from generation to generation (other cultures have their own rules and customs which unsurprisingly they also consider superior).
You yourself have alluded to a number of these: filial piety, the expectation that children will contribute to the family coffers, the difference in expectations between sons and daughters.
Following these customs, you are being asked to sacrifice your career for the good of the family. While this can be construed as a wonderful opportunity (personal sacrifice for the greater good being a favorite of many religions), you rightly point out that your eight siblings are not being similarly treated to this chance for karmic reward. You appear to be caught between your personal goals and your family’s plans for you.
Family systems develop organization and rules for functioning which resist change (homeostasis) as you have found out. That is why discussions have been to no avail. However, another psychological tenet holds that you cannot change others, only yourself. Combining these two ideas, perhaps if you change, then the balance between the members of your family will adjust to accommodate this change.
Your choices range from the radical to the incremental. Radical change would mean you succumb to the wishes of your family at one extreme and you strike out for independence, ignoring their wishes, at the other. Incremental might include working abroad in a country and environment in which you could reasonably hope to make a career, have a family or whatever your ambitions might encompass. You could send some money home but simply demand that your siblings also contribute to the voracious appetite for capital that is your father’s business (one has to question the wisdom of a capital poor family pursuing this type of business).
There are many permutations – but no easy options – and you are best placed to decide what works for you.
However, the onus is on you.
All the best,
Thank you very much for your letter; and Mr Baer, thank you too for giving the cultural, and the already familiar-family dynamic that has ruled your family, perhaps since the beginning or, certainly since you were old enough to understand, even if on a subliminal level, that you are the sacrificial lamb on whose salary and savings they can rely as long as an adequate sob story is presented.
You rant and rave at the injustice of it all and yet in the end, you give in. This too is a family dynamic they count on: “all sound fury, signifying nothing” and thus, no urgency or even plan to change.
Again, this column cannot take the place of therapy (WOOHOO) and therefore I can be more directive in my approach: Radical change would mean you strike out for independence, ignoring their wishes. Experience has proven that discussing and being rational about your work and shared responsibility has fallen on deaf ears. One of the most important tenets of family therapy is: If something isn’t working well, stop. Doing more of the same thing will not change things.
Trying to open your parents’ eyes to the joy your work brings won’t work nor the necessity for financial sharing of responsibility. You are wasting your time beating your head against a brick wall.
Instead, live somewhere else so you will not have to listen to their constant importuning and/or threats. You can certainly afford the rent once you stop paying for things you don’t deserve to.
Be prepared for them not to like and to even hate you but MEH! What sort of love is it if it is based on money? Now this is not as easy as it sounds but tell me, has the way you’ve been living been a bundle of joy? At least this way you have a chance instead of the inevitable failure incremental changes have brought in the past.
Good luck, dearest Kate,
Need advice from our Two Pronged duo? Email email@example.com with subject heading TWO PRONGED. Unfortunately, the volume of correspondence precludes a personal response.