Dear Amy: My husband and I manage my mother's finances. She's 88. After my father died a decade ago, she began to donate to dozens of charities, beyond what she could afford. In some cases, there were recurring donations coming from her checking account that she didn't even remember setting up.
We had her select the charity that mattered the most to her, and shut off all other donations.
Her neighbor of 30 years, "Mary," is an aggressive fundraiser for her church. My mother was always Mary's first stop. One of the largest recurring donations from my mother's checking account was for Mary's church group.
Mary had always been very sweet, and helped my mother with small errands and did little things around the house for her. We always thanked her, and always made sure she knew how much we appreciated her help with the occasional gift or bottle of wine.
Mary called me, furious that the recurring donation had been shut off. She said that she would no longer help my mother, because we were so "ungrateful." She seemed to view the donations as payment for her helping out. We told her that our mother picked the charity of her choice, and it was not personal.
Mary told my mother that she could no longer see her, and made my mother very upset. Mom viewed her as a friend and companion, so she was heartbroken when Mary did not come over anymore.
My husband recently discovered that my mother has been giving Mary cash from her monthly allowance. Mary is once again coming over.
This situation does not sit right with me at all, but I'm not sure what I can do.
Amy says: "Mary" wasn't too shy about confronting you directly when your mother's donation was cut off. You should follow her lead and be very open and honest about Mary's choice in terms of monetizing her relationship with your mother.
If she is performing "companion" services for your elderly mother, this has real value that many people would happily pay for. You should communicate with both Mary and your mother and introduce the concept of simply paying her an hourly wage, with a maximum number of hours per week.
There are some definite red flags here concerning Mary's influence over your mother and her willingness to manipulate and pressure her, but your mother has the right to choose her own friends, and to spend her pocket money the way she wants to.
You should be gentle, understanding and willing to work something out — while continuing to keep a close and tender eye on your mother, her household and her finances.
Childless by choice
Dear Amy: I am a woman who's about to turn 38.
I know many women who knew they wanted to be moms since they were little girls. Not me. As an adult, the faint urge came at 27 when I met my husband, but we never decided to take the plunge.
I gave myself until 30, then 30 turned into 35, and here I am at 38. I've even gone to therapy to make sure I'm not missing something. My husband says he's fine with either choice.
Even though my family has been great, there is so much pressure from society that a woman must give birth to fulfill her destiny.
I have led an experientially rich life, helping others in careers with what I consider my God-given gifts. Is there something wrong with a woman who doesn't feel the need (or urge) to have children?
Amy says: Nope. There is nothing at all "wrong" with you. Being child-free is a choice, and a perfectly legitimate one to make. Unfortunately, given societal pressure to have children, it can sometimes seem like a radical choice. There are online interest groups devoted to being child-free — you might receive more support and positive reinforcement by connecting with other people who feel exactly as you do.
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