14 April 2009

Tough love

Let me start by saying I love my husband's children as if they were my own. Truly, truly I do. There are two of them and they are two very, very different people. Neither of them lived with us as children but the older one, B, lived with us for a year after college. He got a full time job, wasn't 100% sure what he wanted to do, but he just needed a place to crash for a while, and so he was here. We didn't make him pay rent but he paid for his own stuff....car, gas, insurance, going out money, etc. Every now and again he'd ask for help with something and we usually did. He helped us out by taking care of the house if we went away for a couple of days, helped with the kids, and took care of the older two when I had to go the hospital to have #3 forced out, I mean, induced....he contributed to the household and the arrangement worked out fine. When he moved out for good, part of me was sad to see him go, although I knew that it was time.

Well, the situation with L is little different. She's kind of always held us at arm's length, and we're her last resort, it seems. She is 24 years old, lives at home with her mother, graduated from college a year ago, and works weekends at a local restaurant/casino type establishment. She says that she is sending out resumes and looking for another job to supplement the weekend gig, but nothing has come up yet. Frankly I question how motivated she is, and how much time she is putting into her job search, because if I send her email or a note on Facebook, it is generally answered within 5 minutes. I know that her mother has her doing work around the house, taking care of their animals and such. I don't think she pays rent and she is driving her mother's car, not having one of her own. Which brings me to my point.

When her mother gets fed up with her, she threatens to take the car away and kick her out, and then it's always "Dad, can I come live with you?" We've always told her that we'd do the same for her that we did for B, and she is welcome to live with us. Today we got an email that "The deadline for Mom taking the car away is coming up quick and I need help. If I don't have a car I won't be able to drive myself to work. Can you please help me get a car?"

I have a few questions. How long have we known about the deadline coming up? How long did we have to start putting out some real effort to get a car of our own?
If you live at home and have zero expenses, how is it that you have so little money in the bank? If you only work weekends, that gives you all week long to go out and try to find some other part time gig that would bring in more money. At 24, it's time to be a grown up now. When I was 24, I'd been in the military for nearly four years. At 24, my husband and his ex-wife (B & L's mom) were married, had a child and were managing their own lives without any help from their parents.

And with a college degree no less, you can do better than bussing tables. Now, in fairness, we helped B get a car...actually we gave him one of ours. We were getting ready to buy a new one, and rather than trade in the old one, we gave it to him. It was several years old and was hardly his first choice but beggars can't be choosers. And we've always said, whatever we do for B, we have to be willing to do for L. I'm willing to help but only up to a point.

Am I completely heartless and cruel because I don't really feel like this is our problem to solve? Am I the evil stepmother? I'm frustrated because I know in my heart, from past experience, whatever we do will somehow not be enough, and we'll be blamed for the whole mess. I've told him (the husband) that he needs to get together in person with L and her mother and stop this email back and forth, between him and L, him and the ex-wife, and who knows what the ex-wife is telling L at home? He said, she said, to the nth degree. The three of them need to sit down and solve the problem. Make a plan and then do it. A little less talk and a little more action.

It's time to be a grown up now. Take responsibility for your own needs, figure out what you want and how to get there, and then go do it. The problem is that B was encouraged, even pushed, to grow up and be a man, get out of the house, go live your life, as boys often are, especially boys of divorced mothers who (either consciously or not) ask them to be the man of the house after Dad moves out. L was pampered and babied and not taught any of the lessons she needed to be ready to take care of herself. She is not prepared to be an adult. I love her and I want to see her succeed, but I don't think that Mom and Dad giving her everything and taking care of everything for her is doing her any favors.

Definitely need to pray on this.


Jenn said...

Wow...I don't have a problem like this...but I would say from my own experience...that earning something is more valued, appreciated, etc., than when it is given.

When you earn it yourself, there is a sense of responsibility and pride and respect that comes with it.

Also a sense of accomplishment that comes with ownership...it is all yours and a reflection of the person you are. You're more prone to keep that new car looking new when you have to buy it and pay the insurance and maintenance yourself.

If you are given something, say that new car, free of charge...I don't think the appreciation value or the respect for that item is as deeply rooted.

I've been on both sides of the coin and I just know that is how it is for me.

As for being fair...well...it seems as if B was able to earn some of it by helping out...and I think I would want L to come to the table in much the same way or the car isn't an option. That is how I would approach it and she could take it or leave it.

You are right...her Mom and her Dad and L and you need to sit down and work out a plan and get it going! Talking is just procrastination.

sarah said...

i have said it before, but you are so not the evil stepmom. I would have loved a stepmom like you.
I know the job market is tough, but she really should and could find something different than bussing tables with a college degree.

I also agree that everyone needs to sit down and hash it out. You guys while you should do the same as you did for B, should also back her mom's decision.

Mom putting her foot down is reason enough for you guys to do the same. IF she was trying then I would say different. Maybe she is having emotional issues, maybe she is just lazy, or somewhere in between, whatever it is. I think something needs to be done, some sort of "intervention".
It is time mom, dad, and stepmom all joined forces. ((((((())))))))