Everyday Ethics

When is it time to cut the parental purse-strings? It seems
these days that’s happening later and later – or never, at least among some of the
people I know. Maybe it’s because our parents’ generation earned more or saved
more wisely than my own, but I seem to be part of a subset that’s (at least
partially) subsidized by loving, doting parents.

One friend I know uses her mother as her mortgage holder.
Others accept help putting their kids through private school. I myself have
been the recipient of my family’s largess too often to enumerate. It’s been an
enormous help.

But is it wrong?

Well, for one thing, in my family, love and money sometimes get confused, and I’m sure I’m not alone there. My folks have been known to show their affection and concern, though not exclusively, in the form of cold, hard cash. Perhaps that’s a funny way to express love. Or maybe it’s just an example of the selflessness of which parents are uniquely capable. Mostly, in my family, I sense it’s the latter. But it sets up a fraught dynamic, one in which I, as the recipient, must work really hard not to ‘expect’ a bailout.

I’d like to pose the question to you readers: By ‘mooching’ (or even just accepting) parental gifts, are we failing to stand on our own two feet? Does it make us morally wimpy or just really, really lucky?

For myself, I try to walk a fine line. I don’t ask my folks to ‘subsidize’ my life, and I pay my own bills, 100%. However, I’ve accepted gifts of things I couldn’t afford, or wouldn’t have bought for myself – little luxuries they seem to take pleasure in providing. Still, it makes me uneasy about the pattern it sets up. After so many years of benevolent generosity, I tend to think of the parental well as bottomless, and forever open to dip my cup into. And I know there are those who’d think less of me for this. Believe me, I strive to curb my infantile urges as much as I can. At times, it’s extremely difficult to say no to such kindness, and at times, I’ve definitely sought that kindness out, but I don’t like to think of myself as some perpetual baby bird, beak open and squawking. My parents deserve, at some point, to know they can tuck away their wallets and rest assured that they raised a kid who can take care of herself. I want them to know my love and filial duty aren’t conditional on anything, least of all money.  Still, I do love the things money can buy. And, though I don’t need it in my day-to-day life, it’s wonderful to know I have that added security of parental reinforcement if anything should go horribly wrong (and in this economy, that feels frighteningly possible).

So… when is it acceptable to accept generosity from the elder generation, and when is it not?  Weigh in below!

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