Ask Team Practical: Parenting Parents by Liz Moorhead My fiancé and I are building a life together. This includes buying a new house. My parents make financial planning and life decisions I do not agree with, and they are struggling with poverty. They’ve asked to live with me on occasion before, but I wasn’t in the position. Now that I would technically have the space, I feel like a scumbag, but I do not want them to live with us in our new house. We have a history of them taking advantage of generosity, rather than using it as motivation to get their act straight. I am afraid they will never move out, and I cannot be a human ATM machine. I’m so tired of thinking about this and it makes me hurt. How do I know when to cut my parents off from an endless cash flow, when they continue to make terrible decisions? Too Worn Out For A Fun Sign Off Dear TWOFAFSO, The worst part of adulthood (besides the nine-to-fives and the taxes) has got to be when you’re forced to parent your parents. And I hate to break it to ya, but that sounds like where you are. When it’s put that way, you can think of treating your parents the way you would, well—not kids. But, sort of, yeah. Kids. Plus the added respect for birthing you and/or raising you. Whether we’re talking about parents or kids, or even friends or siblings, the most loving thing to do is to help without enabling and without hurting yourself. Easier said than done, am I right? Plus, you’re newly married. And marriage comes with a slight shift in relational roles. Yeah, you’re still your parents’ kid, you still love them to death, but now the protection of your marriage has been bumped up to top priority. So, how to help, keeping all of these things in mind? Abruptly declaring, “ALRIGHT! I’ve helped you enough! You’re on your own!” can be sort of divisive. Instead, set some expectations and boundaries so there’s a bit of warning when it’s time to say, “Sorry. I can’t anymore.” Expectations being, “Here is what I want you to do,” and boundaries being, “Here’s the limit to how I will help.” Sometimes the boundaries are dependent on the expectations, of course. If you meet with a financial advisor weekly and follow their advice, I’ll help you cover your car payment, etc. Expectations should be large-scale, not the sort of thing that requires micromanaging. In fact, delegate. Send them to that financial advisor I mentioned above. You’ve probably already figured this out yourself, but you really can’t root around in the nitty gritty of it with them. No sitting down at the kitchen table with the financial records, no asking nosy questions about financial decisions, and no setting little allowances for them. It would drive them positively insane. Actually, it’d probably drive you even crazier. Beside all that, it’s just way too easy to find flaws in the way someone handles their day-to-day finances. I believe you when you say your parents are making large-scale Bad Financial Decisions, but you don’t need to see when they splurged $1.69 on coffee, or bought Charmin instead of the store brand one-ply (but can you blame them? That stuff is awful). None of that is your problem, and seeing the details will infuriate you in ways you don’t need. Help them set the appointments, fill out the applications, or whatever else sets them on the path to the good. But don’t dig down into the bad. You probably don’t want to see the full extent anyway. Boundaries are harder though, aren’t they? And this, I guess, is where we get to the meat of your question and you determine, “Should I let them live with us?” If they’re not meeting your expectations, no. This is finally your chance to flip around the old, “Not under my roof!” But aside from that, boundaries are there to protect you and your marriage. Will having your mom and dad padding around in the house harm your marriage? Then shut it down. Boundaries are also about protecting your relationship with your parents. If giving and giving while they continue to run amok is making you angry with your parents, it’s probably harming more than helping. When it does come time to say, “Sorry. I can’t help in this way,” though you may be angry, you can emphasize what I said above. “This is hurting our relationship, and I want to protect it. So I won’t be able to help you like this any more.” It’s hard, scary, and sad. But prioritizing your marriage, setting clear expectations, and building protective boundaries is good for everyone involved. ***** Team Practical, how have you handled parents who ask a lot of you? When do you say, “Enough is enough”? Photo: Emily Takes Photos. If you would like to ask Team Practical a question please don’t be shy! You can email Liz at: askteampractical [at] apracticalwedding [dot] com. If you would prefer to not be named, anonymous questions are also accepted. Though it really makes our day when you come up with a clever sign-off! Liz Moorhead Staff Writer Liz is an illustrator and writer who paints custom stationery and types up impassioned opinions about weddings, etiquette, feminism and motherhood (usually while shaking a fist and mumbling expletives around mouthfuls of cheese fries). Her spare time is spent sipping bourbon with her husband and playing Don’t Throw That in the Toilet with her sons.