Carolyn Hax: Mum has a trust fund – and makes her kid feel guilty about the money

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Hi Carolyn! How do I deal with my mother always hanging money over my head, when she herself is a trust fund girl?

My mother takes every opportunity to make me feel guilty for the money she spends “for me” when I didn’t ask her, yet she herself never had any income and lived on the fortune of my grandfather, which he bequeathed to him. If I even mention it lightly, she acts completely offended.

I am a young professional who sculpts in my own way and my reality tires me more and more of this dynamic. What would you do? Why can’t she see how hypocritical his behavior is?

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A.: Your reality, I suppose, causes her to ask questions she would rather not ask.

Could she do what you do if she had to? Could she chart her own course? Where would she be if all that money hadn’t fallen into her lap?

She knows she’s always had a cushion. She knows the way you explore and test is foreign to her, having never taken up this challenge. She knows you know those two things about her.

Self-doubt is an uncomfortable place to sit.

She may not want to consider the “hypocrisy of her behavior” or she may have the courage to face it anyway. Maybe this thing about giving you money and then complaining about it is his way of expressing his discomfort. Simplistically, it’s hard to dwell on your own business while harassing someone else’s.

Even if I’m completely wrong about his reasons for getting mad at you, this general rule still applies. Persistent fault finding is not a trait you tend to see in people who feel good about themselves, as they tend to be at peace.

All that “why” is an accompaniment to the “what” of these guilt trips. Guilt is not just something someone does to you, like hitting you with a brick; guilt is a transaction. You must participate. You either have to feel guilty or care about what she thinks you should.

The way to anticipate these reactions – which is far more realistic, by the way, than expecting your mother to change – is to either stop accepting her money or stop deal with their complaints. “No thank you, mom.” “Thanks Mom.” That’s it.

Make it genuine, not sarcastic, to show gratitude anyway. Admittedly, those trust fund shots you take seem gratuitous in almost any context — and if I’m right about why she’s being so weird to you, it’s a fair shot in her nerve. You may feel like a powerless “punching” person, but I think you are underestimating your power and, in this case, at least, “punching” your mother.

So: “No thank you, mom” or “Thank you, mom”. Until it sticks.

When you start to feel grounded in your decision not to get involved, you might find it interesting to get to know your mom better and understand what’s been bothering her so much. When she starts “hanging money” over your head, you can point out, gently, what you see: “You seem conflicted about this. Is that fair? Is there Is there anything you’d rather me do or want me to understand?” I mean. Wanting to know. And decide from the start not to react emotionally, no matter how she reacts. “Okay, I’ll think about it” is a barrier to overreaction.

You can disrupt this bad dynamic between you, as I said, without knowing the “why” of her behavior – but understanding invites compassion, which lights up every room she finds herself in.

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