My dear parents, who are in their late 70s, have run out of money. They have been brilliant parents on the whole, but unfortunately have made some very poor commercial decisions in their time. They invested in companies and schemes that went sour and then, to top it all off, their home was repossessed. Now that they are at the end of their rope, my brother and I need to bail them out.
This means renting a very modest home for them, and providing them with enough funds to live. I have my own three children to care and pay for, and I am not sure how my husband and I are going to shoulder this extra financial burden, though we both agree that we should do something. I think that as their daughter I should honour my parents and to me that means helping to secure food and shelter for them – but not paying off their debts, as my brother has suggested. A child’s obligation in these circumstances, in my opinion, is to secure housing and sustenance, not to pay off historic sums of money that are owed.
It’s a predicament that I hope my own children will never find themselves in when we are in our old age. I would hate to be a burden. Perhaps that is my pride speaking: one cannot really control one’s own fate, only make the most sensible decisions at any time with the information that we have. Just because my parents have run out of money doesn’t make them bad people – on the contrary, it just makes them supremely uncommercial.
I will not deny though that it is hard for us now. When my children ask for a subscription to a hobby club or take up a new activity, which would enrich their lives, I do not respond as enthusiastically as I did in the past, now that we bear an additional burden. I can’t buy my children all the things they want and need.
This, I admit, makes me feel angry, particularly when I see my own friends’ parents making financial contributions to their grandchildren’s welfare. Holidays, cash for university, all the things we’d all love to do if we had the resources. This rankles more than a bit, but I have to face the uncomfortable truth: my own parents, when they lived their life and made their decisions, didn’t think about dispensing gifts and legacies to their own grandchildren. That apparently did not cross their mind. But I’m awake at night worrying about such things. Will I be able to help my daughter buy a house? Or even a pram for her first baby?
But my other half is much more generous than I am. He is of the opinion that our parents cared for us when we were wailing newborns. As he points out, they wiped our bottoms, burped us, comforted us in the small hours of the night when we needed it. They made sure we were educated, dealt with school bullies, bought our school uniform, took us on memorable holidays to the beach. While they may not have lain awake at night wondering how they were going to help educate their grandkids, they did the job in front of them and for that they deserve our help and respect.
I love my own husband for his generosity of spirit. I have to keep remembering his wise sentiments despite the current situation and hope that too much bitterness doesn’t creep in.
Read last week's column: ‘I want my step-teens to go to boarding school’