The Yomiuri ShimbunDear Troubleshooter:
I’m a housewife in my 60s. I’d like some advice regarding my son, who’s approaching 50. He’s not my biological child — he’s the child of my husband, who’s in his 70s, and his ex-wife. He works at a company and lives alone in an apartment.
My husband and I have led a straitened lifestyle to pay back a debt that my husband accumulated before we married, but even so I’ve been fully committed to raising my stepson as if he were my own child.
However, about 20 years ago he began to repeatedly take money from his workplace, and each time my husband had to pay back the debt. We are now sending him almost our entire pension. When we ask him why he needs the money, all he says is, “Because I want to have fun.” He doesn’t have the slightest inclination to reflect on his own actions.
A few days ago when my husband entered the hospital I sent an email to my son letting him know what happened, but I haven’t received a reply. He only calls us when he needs our help with money.
My husband and I also have a child between us who is married and lives close by. The next time my stepson runs out of income, I’m afraid he’s going to come back to our house and start pestering his sibling for cash.
I want to cut off contact with him, but I need your advice on the best way to do it.
O, Chiba Prefecture
Dear Ms. O:
You’ve done your best and managed to put up with a painful experience for a long time. But I think enough is enough. Your wayward stepson is probably in a mental state in which he is purposely testing your love for him by blaming his misfortune on you and causing you great hardship.
I think that plucking up your courage, cutting off support for him and encouraging his independence would be a valuable thing for his life as well. He’s currently living on his own, so wouldn’t it be effective to impress upon him that you’re getting too old and he can no longer keep sponging off of you? The fact that he hasn’t contacted you about his father being hospitalized is perhaps an indication that he understands this.
Or, how about turning the tables and trying to pester your son for money? Tell him, “From now on, we want you to support us.” I also often hear about cases in which a son who’s dependent on his parents suddenly buckles down and gets serious when the parents become ill or begin to suffer from dementia.
You must also tell your other child never to give money to your stepson. You may need to go so far as to show that you’d rather sell off your house to escape your son than support him any more.
Declare that you’re finished with raising children and graduated from dealing with family issues, and put your own golden years as a couple first. Set out on a new life. How about approaching the issue with this kind of mind-set?
Megumi Hisada, writer