Q - When I was a kid my mum would take any money I had in my piggy bank – from my birthdays, odd jobs, babysitting, and my paper round. If I mentioned it she went ballistic and shouted that I owed her my life and the least I could do was ‘chip in’ with the household bills (she was a single parent and I was an only child).
This made me really mad but there was nothing I could do except try to keep some money a secret. This has left me still being secretive about money with my partner.
What’s even more strange is that I keep giving money away to others who I think deserve it more than I do. I can see the link but it’s hard to give it up. I feel bad either way. My mum still expects me to pay for things for her and she gives me a sob story if I try to avoid doing so. She never did get married and is still single and alone. It’s as if she still feels entitled to anything that’s mine – and she’s draining my life! What can I do?
A - She seems like a child who feels entitled to what others have – and who hasn’t grown out of that fantasy! She also seems to have narcissistic and self-centred traits – but I very much doubt she’d see it that way!
You’ve already made the link between the past conditioning you’ve had around money, entitlement, paying your dues, and being generous - even when it costs you too much.
The next step is to break that association and create a different one, that serves you better.
Your mother has been emotionally blackmailing you and that is abusive. She convinced you that she was more deserving than you were.
You had little choice (other than to be secretive) as a child – but you DO have more choice nowadays about what money means to you and what you will do with it.
I suggest that you also think about what you can do differently with your mother in future, and how you will let her know that.
At the very least it will be about setting a boundary with her around what (if anything) you are willing to give to her and what you aren’t.
I think you might also look at how you’ve transferred this over-generosity to other people.
No one is any more ‘deserving’ than you are. Please don’t believe otherwise. That was a lie that you came to believe years ago – it isn’t the truth.
You’ve mentioned how angry you felt at being controlled as a child in this way, and I think it would be beneficial for you to explore that.
You could do that with a therapist. Or you could become your own therapist and listen and empathise with your inner child and her struggles with feeling responsible, used, and denied what was rightly hers.
It may also help to draw these feelings on paper (as this accesses the right brain and implicit memories). Just a child-like sketch will do.
Then speak with your inner child as a loving and caring parent would. Let her know that she too has rights, and that you will be listening to what she wants from you - and you will ensure from now on that her needs come first and that you will hold the boundaries for her.
Your mother only has the power over you that you allow her to have!
Old habits become ingrained but they can be changed. She has had her own way for a very long time - so you can expect a lot of resistance from her to any change in your attitude and behaviour.
Be strong and determined and focus upon building your own future.
That’s not to say that you will become selfish and mean. Only that you will now choose a more adult stance of self-worth, self-care and a more balanced sense of responsibility and boundaries.
Maxine Harley (MSc Psychotherapy) MIND HEALER & MENTOR
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