My mom has been a widow for the past twenty-five years. She has three daughters, including me. I helped her economically even before she was widowed, although I can no longer work because of a chronic disease…. A few days ago my husband lost his job… and now I can’t offer my mother any monetary help. My sisters are also dealing with difficult economic circumstances, and can’t help her much either.

My mom has a house and a lot of belongings… that I have encouraged her to sell to generate some income. She is seventy-eight years old, but she spends a lot…. Sometimes she goes to a casino with her friend.

The problem is that she doesn’t want to get rid of anything, and certainly not her house. Nor does she want to cut down her expenses…. She makes me feel badly, saying things like that she’ll have to go out and beg, or that she’s going to die of hunger…. I know that I should honor my parents; that is a commandment of the Lord.

Dear Friend,

We are very sorry to hear about your chronic illness and about your husband losing his job. You obviously are going through hard economic times, along with your sisters. It sounds like your mother doesn’t have much compassion for you; in fact, she is making things worse.

You began helping your mother because you had the resources and because you wanted to help her. You love her and wanted her to have an easier life. That was your choice, but it certainly was not ever your obligation. Unfortunately your mother came to take your help for granted and to even believe that you owe her just because you are her daughter. And you, wanting to honor her as the Bible says, came to believe that honor includes a financial obligation. It does not.

Now your mother is using blatant manipulation to make you feel guilty for a situation beyond your control. Shame on her! Her age does not justify her behavior or her words. She obviously has the resources to take care of herself, even if that means she has to downsize her house and her lifestyle.

Parents who believe that their children are obligated to support them are misguided. Each of us is responsible to pay for our own latter years, and we should never expect our children to support us. Obviously, if your mother were to be destitute, without home or food, you would want to take her in and to care for her to the best of your ability. But you are certainly not to be expected to pay for the lifestyle that your mother is used to.

As you state, one of the Ten Commandments is to honor your parents, so honor your mother by visiting her, checking on her by phone, and helping her with tasks that are difficult for her aged body to do. But when she starts complaining to you about money, instead of giving her advice, just cut short the communication. If you are at her home, kiss her goodbye and leave. If by phone, tell her you have to hang up. Be respectful at all times, but don’t give her a chance to try to manipulate you.

We wish you well,