My mother is older but by no means infirm. She would like to retire from her job but due to poor financial planning in her younger years she does not have enough to last her more than five years. Since she is only 62 she would have to take a reduced social security benefit that would not cover her expenses and she would have to work at least part-time. Mom has decided that she has a better idea – she wants to move in with either me or my brother, rent free, and give us “a little money each month” towards expenses. She has said that the money she saves will become our inheritance.
Tazi, my brother has the ideal location for Mom. He owns a three bedroom house and lives alone. He is not married and has no children. His house sits on a lake with beautiful views and is close to services like shopping centers, grocery stores, churches, and the like. I on the other hand am married with three active children. We live on a working farm and work as teachers full-time during the school year. Our home is several miles from town and twenty minutes from the nearest highway. So…can you guess who Mom has asked to live with?
My brother has refused to take Mom in, saying he can’t afford to take in a border who will not pay rent. Tazi, Mom is not a border – she is Mom! My brother has the space; he just does not want to share it. If Mom were to move in with me my children would have to all move into one bedroom (the two younger share a room already, the elder has her own because she is 10 years older than her twin sisters). I love my mom, but I cannot do this to my children or to my family unit as a whole. In our house EVERYONE pitches in on the farm and Mom would be no exception, even though she has already expressed distaste towards farming.
How do I handle this situation? I can’t force my brother to take Mom in, but I can’t have her living with me, either – there is just no room!
Dear Farming Daughter:
Your brother sounds like a very selfish man, but before I judge him I am going to assume that he has his reasons for not wanting your mother living with him. Maybe he is a swinging bachelor who thinks having his mother live with him would cramp his style; maybe he doesn’t get along with your mother as well as you think; or he may very well be having financial difficulties.
Your mother’s plan, plainly put, stinks. You need to remember that nobody can take advantage of you unless you let them, so if your mother is firm on moving in with you – and you are willing to let her move in with you – then you need to be the one to set the guidelines, not her. To start, you need to inform her that there is simply no room in your house for someone who is not willing to contribute – financially and through the working of your farm.
The second issue is space. Would you be able to cobble together an in-law apartment in your basement or put an addition above your garage? While you may have to take out a home equity loan to do so, it should be your mother’s responsibility to pay on that loan – this could be her monthly rent payment to you; in return, you are getting value added to your house. If this is not possible, would it be possible for your daughters to share a bedroom for a few years until the oldest is ready to leave for college or a life on her own? I realize this will cause some discomfort, but I don’t think your mother is going to be completely comfortable living with you, either; all involved will have to compromise.
I think to start you should suggest that your Mom come spend the weekend with you to see how she would fit into your lives as a member of your household. After living on a working farm, in a house with a teenager, being miles from the nearest highway and basic services to which she has become accustomed she may change her mind about living with you after all.
I believe the best thing for everyone to do is to sit down with an attorney who specializes in estate planning or family law and draw up a contract by which you can all live.
Ask Tazi! is ghostwritten by a human with a Bachelors of Arts in Communications. Tazi-Kat is not really a talking feline.