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Ask Amy: Mom's stealing puts family at risk

  • Article by: AMY DICKINSON
  • September 4, 2013 - 2:01 PM

Dear Amy: I am 19 and work part-time as a produce clerk. I live with my parents and my younger brother. My dad works at a warehouse. He’s a hardworking guy.

My mom spends most of the day at home, shopping online for stuff she doesn’t need. Our apartment is cluttered with all the useless junk she’s bought with my dad’s hard-earned money.

I made plans to go on a road trip with friends before the fall semester starts. We had agreed to front some money to pay for things like gas, food, lodging, etc. I set aside a jar of money in my room specifically for the trip.

About a week before we were to leave, I noticed that all of the money in the jar was gone. I spent hours accusing and interrogating my brother. Eventually, my mom told me that she was badly in debt and needed money to pay her credit-card bill, so she went into my room when I wasn’t there and took my money.

I am beyond furious.

My mom sees nothing wrong with the fact that she stole from me. She says we are a family and must help each other.

She makes herself out to be a helpless victim, but if it weren’t for my mom’s shopping addiction, we’d be in a much better financial situation.

How do I get my mother to take responsibility for her actions and pay me back the money she stole from me?

Amy says: I’m furious on your behalf.

Your mother is correct about this — family members should help one another. However, family members do not help themselves to another family member’s money. That’s stealing, and if your mother has any doubt about this, I wonder how she would feel if you poached some of her gewgaws and sold them on eBay to make back your earnings.

You cannot force your mother to take responsibility for her actions, but you can try to force her to recognize that she has a shopping addiction. Your father and brother should be aware that she is willing to steal in order to service her addiction. She needs help (this can be a symptom of depression), but first she needs to recognize the impact of her actions.

In the meantime, as long as you are home, you (and your father and brother) should hide your valuables. Your father should do everything possible to protect the family from her spending.

Send questions via e-mail to Amy Dickinson at askamy@tribune.com.

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