On Accepting Help

On the rare occasion that I wish to tweet something anonymously, I do so from my dancingthruDC handle. It's not a venue where I expect much dialogue (I have only a few hundred followers), but sometimes it feels good just to put the words out into the world--and quickly.

I tweeted, "Martyrdom is just another form of narcissism."

I was hoarse from yelling. I'd just gotten off the phone with my mother who was angry with me that I'd sent her a check for several hundred dollars, money I owed her for various things but that she hadn't asked for. Just last week my mom's boss told her that he couldn't afford to keep her there full-time and that she would need to find a new job.

This was an incredibly unexpected blow to her, not just financially but to her self-esteem. My mom began working with her boss right when he opened his company and in many ways was his partner in building it. A few years ago, she felt that he didn't appreciate her, and she actually left to take another job. But only a few months later, he begged her to come back because his business was suffering. She was the glue that held it together, mostly because she keeps his clients happy and calm. (They do tax work, so this is particularly important.)

Now here she is, nearly sixty years old and without many prospects for what to do next. I know she's scared as hell, and embarrassed to be facing this situation. But she's rejecting any sort of help that our family is offering her.

My brothers and I actually got on a conference call to discuss that we 1) want her to be happy and 2) want her to be taken care of financially, no matter what happens with her ability to find a new job. Thankfully all of us are in good financial shape, and are in a position to step up and help her out for as long as she needs it. But, she's pushing away all our attempts to be helpful and supportive. When I call her, she says, "I'm ok, don't worry, I'll be fine."

This kind of martyr talk really irritates the shit out of me. No, she is not ok. No she is not fine. And yes, I will worry about her.

I'm not sure what to do next. Part of me wants to throw my hands up and say, "not my problem." Her continual rejections of our help are hurtful, and frankly I'm tired of her pretending to be fine. I guess we just have to keep pushing her to accept that her pride is getting in the way of her own happiness. But I can't force her to learn that.


  1. I'm in a similar situation and I've actually been dealing with it in therapy. I eventually got to a point where I had to throw my hands up. There is only so much you can do before you can't do any more. Be there to support her and help her, but don't let it make you crazy.

  2. I'm in a backward situation in which I need help from my parents. It's hard for me because at 28 I feel like I should be much more financially sound than I am and I hate relying on my parents. However, I come from a family in which my grandparents helped my parents and my parents help my brother and me. And when I have kids and they need help I'll help them if I can.

    However, if she won't take your help then that's all you can do. You can't force it on her. She needs to come to terms with the fact that she needs help and she should ask for it. All you can do is support her in whatever way you can - right now it doesn't sound like she wants the financial help. So maybe just be there for her emotionally and if she asks for more then be prepared to give it to her.

  3. I have been through that with my mom! She would say things like no no I am fine go on with your life! Don't worry about me. Seriously how can we not worry!? She would never let me say that to her! Tough love is hard to do but she came around. Good Luck to you guys in this difficult situation!

  4. I would do one of two things then. Either get her groceries or food or something she can use that she can't turn away. You can write her a card that says "I want to help and I know this makes you uncomfortable but when you don't let me step in and help, it feels like you're refusing a gift from me and it hurts. Please mom, let me be there for you as you've always been there for me."

    Another option is to open a bank account with her name on it and deposit the money in there. Tell her you are doing this because you want to and keep putting the money in there. It will accumulate. Maybe she won't need to draw on it but if the situation got dire, it could be a comforting safety net. Maybe this is something the whole family could chip in on. You don't need her approval to make the deposits, and in the worst case scenario, can use it for emergencies or care or something down the road.

  5. I think it sounds like a pride issue with your mom, which seems understandable. I know it must be hard to be rebuffed when you're just trying to help, but it is perhaps just as difficult for her to accept the help offered. I'm sorry you're going through this and there doesn't seem to be any cut and dry right answers or quick fixes. Wishing you all well, I'm sure you'll figure it out soon enough :)

  6. Awwww i haven't been here in ages. Good to see you again!

    I'm sorry to hear this. It definitely sounds like a pride thing with your mom which is a shame, because if she's really in financial trouble, it will be hard for her to admit that to herself and to you and your siblings. Keep trying and I hope everything works out. Xoxo